Starting with the second film of the Pink Panther franchise, A Shot In The Dark (1964), Lom appeared in seven installments of the series. Over the course of his appearances, his character was driven more insane by the incompetence of Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau to the point where he tries to blackmail the governments of the world to kill him in 1976’s The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Despite appearing to be disintegrated by a laser at the end of that film, his character would return for several more installments through to the initial franchise’s swansong, Son Of The Pink Panther (1993).
Born the son of a Czech count, Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevic ze Schluderpacheru in Prague, Lom gravitated to the theater as a youth but fled to England in 1939 ahead of the Nazi invasion of the country at the outbreak of World War Two. In London, he was able to find work on stage and screen in a variety of roles thanks to his European accent and piercing gaze. His first two big Hollywood roles came in the films The Seventh Veil (1945) and Jules Dassin’s classic noir Night And The City (1950).
In 1953 Lom created the role of the King in the Rogers and Hammerstein music The King And I for the show’s London East end production. Two years later, was cast in the classic dark comedy The Ladykillers, his first collaboration with future Pink Panther franchise co-star Sellers.
Lom would go on to appearances in films in a variety of genres including The Fire Down Below (1957) with Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitchum, Spartacus (1960), El Cid (1962), Hammer Studios’ 1962 version of The Phantom Of the Opera, the gory horror film Mark Of The Devil (1972), the spy spoof Hopscotch (1980) with Walter Matthau and David Cronenberg’s Dead Zone (1983). He would also play Napoleon Bonapart twice, first in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942) and then again in director King Vidor’s ambitious War And Peace (1956).
In a sadly ironic note, just earlier this week I was watching The Dark Tower, an early entry on Lom’s filmography. In it, he played a mysterious hypnotist who joins a struggling circus and who immediately gets designs on the trapeze-artist girlfriend of the show’s co-owner. As the villain of the piece, Lom gave a captivating performance, far better than the weird melodramatic nature of the script deserved.