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Herbert Lom

HerbertLom

The Phantom
Born
Kuchacevich von Schluderpacheru September 11, 1917
Active Years
1937–2004


Herbert Lom; born 11 September 1917) is a Czech film actor, who has been based in the UK since 1939. In a career lasting more than sixty years he was used in character roles, often villains early in his career, but later portrayed professional men. He is best known for his role as (former) Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movie series.


Life and CareerEdit

Lom was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich von Schluderpacheru in Prague to upper-class parents Olga (née Gottlieb) and Charles. His father was a count whose title dated from 1601. Lom's film debut was in the Czech film Žena pod křížem. His early film appearances were mainly supporting roles, with the occasional top billing.

Lom moved to England in January 1939. He made numerous appearances in British films throughout the 1940s, usually in villainous roles, although he later appeared in comedies as well. He managed to escape being typecast as a European heavy by securing a diverse range of castings, including as Napoleon Bonaparte in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942), and again in the 1956 version of War and Peace. He secured a seven-picture Hollywood contract after World War II but was unable to obtain an American visa for 'political reasons'. In a rare starring role, Lom played twin trapeze artists in Dual Alibi (1946). In 1952, he starred as the King of Siam in the original London production of The King and I and can be heard on the cast recording. Later in the decade he appeared opposite Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers (1955), and with Robert Mitchum, Jack Lemmon and Rita Hayworth in Fire Down Below (1957).

The 1960s were a successful decade for Lom, with a wide range of parts, starting with Spartacus (1960), El Cid (1961), and the role of Captain Nemo in Mysterious Island (also 1961). He received top billing again in Hammer Films' remake of The Phantom of the Opera (1962). Lom's English is noted for a precise, elegant delivery. The phantom mask in this version was full face, which made casting an actor with a reputation for such vocal talents a wise choice. "It was wonderful to play such a part, but I was disappointed with the picture", Lom says. "This version of the famous Gaston Leroux story dragged. The Phantom wasn't given enough to do, but at least I wasn't the villain, for a change. Michael Gough was the villain."

Hammer Films produced endless low-budget horror films. Lom recalled in one interview how producers expected actors to throw themselves into their work: "For one of my scenes, the Hammer people wanted me to smash my head against a stone pillar, because they said they couldn't afford one made of rubber", Lom reveals. "I refused to beat my head against stone, of course. This caused a 'big crisis', because it took them half a day to make a rubber pillar that looked like stone. And of course, it cost a few pennies more. Horror indeed!" During this period, Lom starred in his only regular TV series. In the British television drama, The Human Jungle (1963–64) as a Harley Street psychiatrist over two seasons.

In addition to The Phantom of the Opera, other low budget horror films he starred in include the notorious witchhunting film Mark of the Devil (Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält, 1970) that depicted very graphic torture scenes. Reportely, cinemas handed out sick bags to every patron at screenings of the film.

Lom is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, Inspector Clouseau's long-suffering superior in several of Blake Edwards's Pink Panther films. He also appeared in two different screen versions of the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. In the 1975 version he played Dr. Armstrong, and later appeared in the 1989 version as General McKenzie.

Lom has written two historical novels, one on the playwright Christopher Marlowe (Enter a Spy: The Double Life of Christopher Marlowe, 1971) and another on the French Revolution (Dr. Guillotin: The Eccentric Exploits of an Early Scientist, 1992). The movie rights to the latter have been purchased but no film to date has been produced.

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