The Actor Herbert Lom, best known to cinema audiences around the world as Charles Dreyfus in the Peter Sellers version of The Pink Panther franchise, the classic Ealing Comedy The LadyKillers and the 1957 film Hell Drivers with Stanley Baker and Sean Connery has passed away at the age of 95.
During a 60 year career, Herbert Lom, the Czech born London based actor appeared in over a hundred films wrote two books and became a national cinema icon.
Born in Prague during World War One, the man who would become to millions Herbert Lom, after he shortened his name, had a burgeoning career in his home country before the Second World War started. Keen to escape the almost inevitable invasion of his country by Nazi Germany, Lom and his then girlfriend escaped to England but she was turned away at Dover whilst Lom was allowed to remain.
Numerous film credits followed and whilst The Ladykillers, alongside Alec Guinness and his future Pink Panther co-star Peter Sellers endeared him to British film goers, perhaps his most intense and diverse films were ones where he played Napoleon Bonaparte. Not content with portraying the French dictator one in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942) but also again in 1956 in the film adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
It will be the Pink Panther series of films that Herbert Lom will be best remembered for, from his first appearance in 1964 as the long-suffering boss of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau he had audiences in raptures and as the series progressed the insanity felt by Charles Dreyfus was keenly appreciated by fans and film lovers.
In a 1976 review of one of the “Panther” movies, critic Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, “I’m not sure why Mr. Sellers and Mr. Lom are such a hilarious team, though it may be because each is a fine comic actor with a special talent for portraying the sort of all-consuming, epic self-absorption that makes slapstick farce initially acceptable — instead of alarming — and finally so funny.”
Herbert Lom said of the part later, “It was a godsend when I was offered the part,” he said of the role. “But it did become a double-edged sword as people started to associate me with Dreyfus.”
An 11 year wait for fans of the hapless but somehow successful French Detective followed but Herbert Lom and Sellers were re-united finally in 1975 in the film The Return of The Pink Panther, the film again proved to be a hit and further films in the long running franchise followed.
Two books were written by the actor, the first published in 1971 looked at the life of Christopher Marlowe titled Enter A Spy and then one on the French Revolution Dr. Guillotine in 1993.
One of the greats of cinema, Herbert Lom was able to turn his incredible talent to playing almost any part thrust upon him, his good looks and hypnotic stare marked him out as one of a kind. The world of theatre and cinema will have lost a much loved son.
Herbert Lom, born Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru in Prague, Czechoslovakia, September 11th 1917. Died 27th September 27th 2012. London.
Ian D. Hall