Pink Panther star Herbert Lom dies aged 95
VETERAN actor Herbert Lom, fondly remembered for his roles in the Pink Panther films during his half-century of movie appearances, has died at the age of 95.
The Czech-born, London-based star appeared in more than 100 films including classics such as Spartacus, El Cid and The Ladykillers.
He died peacefully in his sleep this morning, his family said.
During his career, Lom portrayed Napoleon Bonaparte on two occasions, one of which was the screen adaptation of Tolstoy's War And Peace.
But his most famous role was as fed-up and irritable Charles Dreyfus, the boss of Peter Sellers' bumbling character Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films.
He first appeared as the police chief in 1964's A Shot In The Dark and, as the films went on, became increasingly mentally unstable as a result of Clouseau's incompetence.
During his career he appeared with such stars such as Kirk Douglas, Sir Alec Guinness and Charlton Heston.
Prague-born Lom moved to the UK before the Second World War and worked as a newscaster with the BBC's overseas service until his acting career took off.
The twice-married actor's first major screen role was as Napoleon in 1942 film The Young Mr Pitt, although his swarthy good looks led to him regularly being cast as a suave villain.
His son, Alec Lom, said: "Like many actors, he never wanted to be pigeon-holed in a particular role and, after having played the role of East European gangster in many films, it was a delight to him later in his career to be cast by Pink Panther producer and director Blake Edwards in a comedy role opposite Peter Sellers, and he hugely enjoyed that move.
"He had many funny stories about the antics that he and Peter Sellers got up to on the set. It was a nightmare working with Peter because he was a terrible giggler and, between my father and Peter's laughter, they ruined dozens and dozens of takes."
In the early 1950s, Lom had huge stage success as the King of Siam in the original London production of musical hit The King And I at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, opposite Valerie Hobson. The part had been made famous by Yul Brynner on Broadway, who also starred in the film version.
Other movie work included the title role in The Phantom Of The Opera in 1962, and Lom also featured in horror hits such as The Murders In The Rue Morgue and as Van Helsing in the 1970 chiller Count Dracula, which starred Christopher Lee as the famed vampire.