Nationality: Czech. Born: Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in Prague, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), 11 September 1917. Education: Attended University of Prague; studied acting at the Prague School of Acting; scholarships to the London Embassy School, the Sadlers Wells School, and the Westminster School. Family: Married Dina Scheu, 1948, two sons. Career: 1937—film debut; 1939—moved to England, studied acting, also one of the "voices of freedom" for the BBC European service; late 1950s—began working in Hollywood; 1978—published novel Enter a Spy ; 1984—in TV mini-series Lace ; also a painter and composer.
Films as Actor:
Žena pod křižem ( Woman under the Cross )
Mein Kampf My Crimes (Norman Lee)
The Young Mr. Pitt (Reed) (as Napoleon); Secret Mission (French) (as medical officer); Tomorrow We Live ( At Dawn We Die ) (King)
The Dark Tower (Harlow) (as Torg)
Hotel Reserve (Hanbury, Comfort, and Greene) (as Monsieur Andre Roux)
The Seventh Veil (Bennett) (as Dr. Larson); Night Boat to Dublin (Huntington) (as Keitel)
Appointment with Crime (Harlow) (as Gregory Lang)
Dual Alibi (Travers) (as Jules and George de Lisle); Snow-bound (Macdonald) (as Keramikos)
Good Time Girl (Macdonald) (as Max); Portrait from Life ( The Girl in the Painting ) (Fisher) (as Hendleman); The Brass Monkey ( Lucky Mascot ) (Freeland) (as Peter Hobart)
The Lost People (Knowles); Golden Salamander (Neame) (as Ranki)
Night and the City (Dassin) (as Kristo); State Secret ( The Great Manhunt ) (Gilliat) (as Karl Theodor); The Black Rose (Hathaway) (as Anthemus); Cage of Gold (Dearden) (as Rahman)
Hell Is Sold Out (Anderson) (as Dominic Danges); Two on the Tiles ( School for Brides ) (Guillermin) (as Ford); Mr. Denning Drives North (Kimmins) (as Mados); Whispering Smith Hits London ( Whispering Smith versus Scotland Yard ) (Searle) (as Ford)
The Ringer (Hamilton) (as Maurice Meister); The Net ( Project M7 ) (Asquith) (as Alex Leon); The Man Who Watched Trains Go By ( Paris Express ) (French) (as Julius de Koster Jr.)
Rough Shoot ( Shoot First ) (Parrish) (as Peter Sandorski); The Love Lottery (Crichton) (as Amico); Star of India (Lubin) (as Narbonne)
Beautiful Stranger ( Twist of Fate ) (Miller) (as Emil Landosh)
The Ladykillers (Mackendrick) (as Louis)
War and Peace (King Vidor) (as Napoleon)
Fire Down Below (Parrish) (as harbor master); Hell Drivers (Endfield) (as Gino); Action of the Tiger (Young) (as Trifon); I Accuse! (Ferrer) (as Major DuPaty de Clam)
Chase a Crooked Shadow (Anderson) (as Vargas); The Roots of Heaven (Huston) (as Orsini); Intent to Kill (Cardiff) (as Juan Menda)
No Trees in the Street (Thompson) (as Wilkie); The Big Fisherman (Borzage) (as Herod Antipas); Passport to Shame ( Room 43 ) (Rakoff) (as Nick); Flame over India ( Northwest Frontier ) (Thompson) (as Van Leyden); Third Man on the Mountain ( Banner in the Sky ) (Annakin) (as Emil Saxon)
I Aim at the Stars (Thompson) (as Anton Reger); Spartacus (Kubrick) (as Tigranes)
Mr. Topaze ( I Like Money ) (Sellers) (as Castel Benac); El Cid (Anthony Mann) (as Ben Yussuf); Mysterious Island (Endfield) (as Captain Nemo); The Frightened City (Lemont) (as Waldo Zhernikov)
The Phantom of the Opera (Fisher) (title role); The Treasure of Silver Lake (Reinl) (as Brinkley); Tiara Tahiti (Kotcheff) (as Chong Sing)
The Horse without a Head (Chaffey)
A Shot in the Dark (Edwards) (as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus)
Return from the Ashes (Thompson) (as Dr. Charles Bovard)
Our Man in Marrakesh ( Bang! Bang! You're Dead ) (Sharp) (as Mr. Casimir); Gambit (Neame) (as Shabhandar); Die Nibelungen ( Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy ) (Reinl) (as Koenig Etzel)
Die Nibelungen II (Reinl) (as Koenig Etzel); Assignment to Kill ( The Assignments ) (Reynolds) (as Matt Wilson); The Karate Killers (Shear) (as Randolph)
The Face of Eve ( Eve ) (Summers) (as Diego); Villa Rides! (Kulik) (as General Huerta); 99 Women ( Island of Despair ) (Franco) (as the governor); Uncle Tom's Cabin (as Simon Legree)
Doppelganger ( Journey to the Far Side of the Sun ) (Parrish) (as Dr Hassler); Mister Jericho (Hayers—for TV)
Count Dracula (Franco) (as Van Helsing); Dorian Gray ( The Secret of Dorian Gray ) (Dallamano) (as Lord Henry Wotten); Mark of the Devil ( Burn Witch Burn ; Hexen bis aufs Blutgeqvält ) (Armstrong) (as Count Cumberland)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (Hessler) (as Marot)
Asylum ( House of Crazies ) (Baker) (as Byron)
Dark Places (Sharp) (as Prescott); And Now the Screaming Starts (Baker) (as Henry Fengriffen)
The Return of the Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Dreyfus); And Then There Were None ( Ten Little Indians ) (Collinson) (as Dr. Armstrong)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Edwards) (as Dreyfus)
Charleston (Fondato) (as Inspector Watkins)
Revenge of the Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Dreyfus)
The Lady Vanishes (Page) (as Dr. Hartz); The Man with Bogart's Face ( Sam Marlow, Private Eye ) (Day) (as Mr. Zebra)
Hopscotch (Neame) (as Mikhail Yaskov)
The Trail of the Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Dreyfus)
Memed, My Hawk ( The Lion and the Hawk ) (Ustinov) (as Ali Safa Bey); The Dead Zone (Cronenberg) (as Dr. Sam Weizak); Curse of the Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Dreyfus)
King Solomon's Mines (Thompson) (as Col. Bockner)
Whoops Apocalypse (Bussmann) (as Gen. Mosquera); Scoop (Gavin Miller—for TV) (as Mr. Baldwin)
Dragonard ( Master of Dragonard Hill ) (Kikoine); Skeleton Coast ( Coast of Skeletons ) (Cardos) (as Elia); Going Bananas ( My African Adventure ) (Davidson) (as Mackintosh); The Crystal Eye (Tornatore)
River of Death (Carver) (as Col. Ricardo Diaz); Ten Little Indians ( Death on Safari ) (Birkinshaw) (as Gen. Romensky); Masque of the Red Death (Birkinshaw) (as Ludwig)
The Pope Must Die ( The Pope Must Diet ) (Richardson) (as Vittorio Corelli); La Setta ( The Devil's Daughter ; The Sect ) (Soavi) (as Gran Vecchio)
Son of the Pink Panther (Edwards) (as Inspector Dreyfus)
Marco Polo ( Marco Polo: Return to Xanadu ) (Erschbamer)
By LOM: books—
Enter a Spy (novel), 1978.
Dr. Guillotine: The Eccentric Exploits of an Early Scientist (novel), 1993.
By LOM: articles—
Interview, in Films and Filming (London), March 1979.
Interview, in Films (London), April 1983.
Letter, in Screen International (London), 13 December 1986.
Interview, in Time Out (London), 19 June 1991.
On LOM: articles—
Picturegoer (London), 28 September 1946, 26 July 1947, 1 May 1948, and 3 June 1950.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 18 September 1980.
Screen International (London), 4 May 1984.
* * *
Although he has tackled such exotic roles as Napoleon (twice; in The Young Mr. Pitt and War and Peace ), Captain Nemo (in The Mysterious Island ), Herod Antipas (in The Big Fisherman ), the Phantom of the Opera, Simon Legree, and Oscar Wilde's Lord Henry Wotten, Herbert Lom is liable to be best remembered for his continuing role as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, the French police commissioner driven to murderous madness by his blithely inept junior, Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) in the Blake Edwards Pink Panther series, introduced in A Shot in the Dark and reaching a climax of insanity in The Pink Panther Strikes Again . After so many screen roles as villains, Lom obviously relished the chance to unbend—as he had done earlier, also alongside Sellers, in The Ladykillers . Lom's presence in the Pink Panther series became as indispensable to their comic value as that of Sellers himself—and all that lifts the three Panther sequels produced after Sellers's death from the comic doldrums. The last, to date, was Son of the Pink Panther , starring Italian comic Roberto Begnini as the bumbling scion of Drefyus's nemesis.
Making a strong impression, after some minor roles, as the concerned and suave psychoanalyst in The Seventh Veil —a role he later reprised in the television series The Human Jungle —Lom established a screen image as an intelligent, foreign, ambiguous character whose suave purring could mask either benevolence or larceny. Between services in historical epics such as War and Peace , The Black Robe , El Cid , and Spartacus , Lom became a fixture of British crime movies—equally well cast as a Pole, an Italian, a Greek, a Maltese, a Frenchman, a German, or a Hungarian—and provided interesting villainy to a run of fine-to-outstanding movies ( Appointment with Crime , Good Time Girl , Intent to Kill , Passport to Shame ) set in a rainy, jazz-driven, smoky-club-clotted Soho that constitutes London's answer to Chandler country.
As Kristo, the suave Greek who runs all the wrestling in London, he is a sinister but tender presence in Jules Dassin's Night and the City , mourning his father by ordering Richard Widmark's murder, and bringing far more to the screen than is actually in the role, while he had fun in a rare lead in The Frightened City , as a corrupt accountant named Waldo Zhernikov who tries to enforce a protection racket on the clubs with the aid of Alfred Marks and Sean Connery as London hardmen. His overdone Italian martyr in the otherwise perfectly cast Hell Drivers , a gritty tale of British truckers not to be confused with the 1932 Wallace Beery movie of the same name, was a rare slip (the film was directed by Cy Endfield after fleeing the Hollywood blacklist and also featured Sean Connery). Ironically, it was a comedy, The Ladykillers , that was the culmination of this run of criminal/gangster roles, proving that Lom, who turns up in a white tie/black shirt combo with a violin case under his arm as if it were a machine gun, could play sly comedy as well as suave menace.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lom's roles made excursions into spying ( Our Man in Marrakesh , The Karate Killers , Assignment to Kill , Hopscotch , The Man with Bogart's Face ), mini-epic ( Flame over India , Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy —the low-rent remake of Fritz Lang's Nibelungen , Peter and Paul ), science fiction (a future spy with a camera eyeball in Journey to the Far Side of the Sun ), Nazi villainy ( The Lady Vanishes ) and Euro-Western ( Villa Rides! ) dotted in among cosmopolitan assignments such as Gambit , opposite Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine, a clever gimmick movie in which Lom plays two versions of the richest man in the world.
When Cary Grant turned down the role, Hammer Films selected Lom for its classy remake of the classic The Phantom of the Opera , directed by Terence Fisher. Though the film has gained in esteem over the years, it was neither a critical nor commercial success when it came out, and Lom made no more films for Hammer, drifting instead into horror movies for other studios and directors. He made a stolid Dr. Van Helsing in Jesus Franco's feeble attempt to finally film Bram Stoker's Count Dracula "as written," a grim witchfinder in the notorious Mark of the Devil , which was rated "V for Violence" and for which "vomits bags" were issued at the box office. Occasional class acts did ensue, however, notably And Now the Screaming Starts , where he was the cause of a family curse, Asylum (as a mad psychic sending his consciousness out to kill as wax mannequins), and a survivor of the holocaust, now a psychiatrist, who gets a firsthand demonstration of Christopher Walken's sixth sense in Cronenberg's The Dead Zone .
—Kim Newman, updated by John McCarty