Biography

Born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru, Herbert Lom enjoyed a successful acting career in his native Czechoslovakia, principally in theater. He made his screen debut in Zena Pod Krizem (1937) and made one more movie in Czechoslovakia before emigrating to England in 1938. He acted at The Old Vic in London, among other companies, before turning to British films, where his good looks, cultured accent and mannerisms, and intense eyes got him cast in such unusual roles as Napoleon Bonaparte (in The Young Mr. Pitt) in between slightly more anonymous parts. Lom's real breakthrough role was in Compton Bennett's 1946 psychological drama The Seventh Veil, as Dr. Larsen, the psychiatrist treating neuroses of the pianist portrayed by Ann Todd. Lom might have become a kind of Eastern (or Middle) European successor to Charles Boyer, but he was too good an actor to limit himself to romantic parts; instead, he was more like a Czech Jean Gabin. Lom often played highly motivated villains in the 1950s and '60s, most notably in Jules Dassin's Night and the City (1950), in which he brought surprising humanity to the role of a brutal, vengeful gangster, and Sidney Gilliat's State Secret (1950). He reprised the role of Napoleon in King Vidor's sprawling 1956 production of War and Peace, and was a memorably humane, well-spoken Captain Nemo in the Ray Harryhausen production of Mysterious Island (1961); he also played the title role in a 1962 production of The Phantom of the Opera, but Lom's best movie during this period -- despite having some of his shortest screen time -- was Anthony Mann's El Cid, in which he played the Muslim leader Ben Yussuf. He counter-balanced this work with a newly revealed flair for comedy, utilized in the Pink Panther movies, starting with A Shot in the Dark, where his long-suffering bureau chief Dreyfus was forever dreading Inspector Clouseau's latest blunder. He was also Simon Legree in the 1965 German musical production of Uncle Tom's Cabin (as Onkel Tom's Hütte). During the late '60s and '70s, he began appearing in horror films of various types, following a path similar to that blazed by his British-born contemporary Michael Gough. He has kept his hand in gentler and more complex roles, however, including that of the sardonically humorous Soviet bureau chief in Ronald Neame's Hopscotch (1980), and a sympathetic physician in David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone (1983). In 2012, Lom passed away in his sleep at the age of 95. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi