Herbert Lom (b. 11 September 1917) is a Czech British international film actor. Leonard Maltin wrote of him, “At one time considered a British counterpart to Charles Boyer (whom he resembled), Lom didn't get as many starring assignments as he rated, but makes a lasting impression in character parts.”
He was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in Prague to upper-class parents.
Lom's film debut was in the Czech film Žena pod křížem (1937). His early film appearances were mainly supporting roles, with the occasional top billing.
He moved to Britain in 1939 and made many 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). In a rare starring role, Lom played twin trapeze artists in Dual Alibi (1946). He continued into the 1950s with roles opposite Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in The Ladykillers, and with Robert Mitchum, Jack Lemmon and Rita Hayworth in Fire Down Below (1957).
The 1960s was a highly successful decade for Lom, with a wide range of parts, starting with Spartacus in 1960, El Cid, and the role of Captain Nemo in Mysterious Island, both in 1961. He received top billing again in Hammer Films' 1962 production of The Phantom of the Opera. 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!"
Other low budget horror films he starred in included the notorious witchhunting film Mark of the Devil that depicted very graphic torture scenes. The film was most famous for theaters handing out sick bags to every patron.
Lom is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, Inspector Clouseau's long-suffering superior in Blake Edwards's Pink Panther films.
Lom has also 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.