Herbert Lom, the Czech-born film and television actor best known to modern audiences for playing the long-suffering Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the successful Pink Panther movies for United Artists, has passed away less than three weeks after celebrating his 95th birthday.
Born Herbert Karel Angelo KuchaceviÄ ze Schluderpacheru on September 11, 1917 in Prague to parents of Austrian nobility, Lom started out acting in mostly supporting roles (with an occasional lead) in the Czech cinema, but was forced to flee to England in 1939 due to the country’s invasion by the Nazis. After training at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art he began appearing in British comedies and dramas throughout the following decade and made his American film debut in Jules Dassin’s 1950 film noir classic Night and the City. Five years later he first appeared alongside future on-screen adversary Peter Sellers in the great Ealing Studios comedy The Ladykillers (awkwardly remade by the Coen Brothers in 2004). After the smashing success of the first Pink Panther movie, UA gave the green-light for a sequel – a practice that was hardly as common in the film industry as it is today – and in 1964 Lom made his debut as the harried Inspector Dreyfus in the Blake Edwards-directed A Shot in the Dark. The actor’s gift for red-faced bluster made the inspector an invaluable addition to the series. He would go on to play the role in each subsequent sequel ending with 1993’s Son of the Pink Panther, which had Italian comic actor Roberto Benigni taking over the role of perennial pain in Dreyfus’ backside since Sellers had died in 1980 and which would also be Lom’s final feature film.