Herbert Lom, the Czech-born film and television actor who will forever be remembered for his villainous roles in “The Ladykillers” and “The Pink Panther” film series, died at his home in London on Thursday, the New York Times reported. He was 95.
While considered a more reliable character actor during his time in Hollywood, Lom’s career spanned six decades and included roles as Napoleon Bonaparte in "War and Peace" in 1956 alongside Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn, and the King of Siam in the first London production of the stage musical "The King and I" in 1953.
Just two years later, Lom made his mark as one of the gang of incompetent crooks in Alexander Mackendrick’s 1955 Brit crime comedy classic “The Ladykillers.”
Lom’s biggest success as a Hollywood screen actor came as Dreyfus in the “Pink Panther” films, playing the increasingly manic straight man to Peter Sellers’ bumbling detective Clouseau. While Kevin Klein reprised the role for the recently rebooted version of the “Pink Panther” films, genuine fans of the franchise will always remember Lom as the definitive Dreyfus.
In an interview with the Independent newspaper in 2004, cited by the "Today Show," Lom recalled that it was him who invented Dreyfus's nervous twitch that became his trademark gesture.
"I started winking out of nervousness, and couldn't stop," he said. "It wasn't in the script but (director) Blake Edwards loved it. But it became a problem. I made those films for 20 years, and after 10 years they ran out of good scripts.
"They used to say to me, 'Herbert, wink here, wink.' And I said, 'I'm not going to wink. You write a good scene and I won't have to wink.'"
Lom also wrote two novels, "Enter A Spy" published in 1971, and "Dr. Guillotine" in 1993.