Tuesday, 24 May 2016

RIP Burt Kwouk

Very very sad to hear that the legendary Burt Kwouk has died today aged 85

Kwouk will forever be remembered for his iconic role as the karate-practicing manservant Cato in the hilarious Pink Panther films starring alongside Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, but his career was very long and extremely varied thanks in no small part to being constantly in demand as an actor of Oriental appearance.

Though he was born in Warrington in 1930, Kwouk's family moved to Shanghai where the young Kwouk stayed until he was 17. He went to the US to study at Bowdoin College, graduating in 1953 and returning to his family in the UK the following year. He claimed he was nagged into acting by a girlfriend and made his big screen debut in 1957's Windom's Way, following up a year later with a crucial role in The Inn of Sixth Happiness.

The '60s followed and proved to be a highly productive time for Kwouk, who became a stalwart of ITC drama with roles in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Champions and The Saint and the like and three appearances in James Bond films; Goldfinger, Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice alongside his debut in the Pink Panther film A Shot In The Dark.

His partnership with Peter Sellers continued in the '70s, but the decade also saw him play a completely different kind of role, that of Major Yamuachi in WWII Japanese POW camp drama Tenko, alongside roles in films like Deep End and Rollerball, and TV shows such as It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Shoestring, The Tomorrow People, Monkey Magic and Minder. In the '80s and '90s, Kwouk became something of a cult favourite appearing in Doctor Who, Lovejoy, Carry On Columbus, I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle, Leon The Pig Farmer and The Harry Hill Show as well as Hollywood fare like Empire of the Sun and Air America. In most recent years Kwouk appeared as Entwistle, a regular lead character in the final incarnation of the BBC's long running gentle Yorkshire Dales set sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.


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