Lom, Herbert

Lom, Herbert
(1917– )
   Herbert Lom, who portrayed Tigranes in SPARTACUS, was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Scluderpachern in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on September 11, 1917. He went to the University of Prague and then studied acting at the Prague School of Acting. Lom began appearing onstage and onscreen in his native land in 1936; in 1939 he went to England, where he won scholarships to the London Embassy School and the Westminster School and trained at the Old Vic. He worked in England until the 1950s in such films as Carol Reed’s Young Mr. Pitt (1942), in which he played Napoleon; and The Seventh Veil (1946), as a psychiatrist, opposite James Mason. He eventually switched to Hollywood, where he again played Napoleon in King Vidor’s adaptation of War and Peace (1956), with Henry Fonda.
   Lom took the role of Tigranes, a Sicilian pirate, in STANLEY KUBRICK’s Spartacus (1960). Kubrick, who took over the direction of the film from Anthony Mann, moaned that he was saddled with an inferior script by DALTON TRUMBO, which was hardly faithful to what history tells us about Spartacus, the slave who precipitated a slave revolt in ancient Rome. Author James Howard quotes Lom to the effect that his character had been invented simply as a way of explaining the plot, “which had gaping holes in it. ” Be that as it may,Tigranes suited Lom’s screen image as an ambiguous foreign character, whose suave voice could mask duplicity.
   In the film, Spartacus (KIRK DOUGLAS) arranges with the Cilician pirates to carry him and his army out of Italy, in order to avoid engaging in battle with the Roman legions led by General Crassus (Laurence Olivier) which have been sent to destroy the revolt. Tigranes, the emissary of the Cilician pirates, seals the agreement to transport Spartacus and his evergrowing family of men, women, and children out of Italy as soon as Spartacus’s army can reach the seacoast. In his dimly lit tent, Spartacus presents Tigranes with the treasure he has been able to collect as payment for the passage of his people out of Italy. NORMAN KAGAN comments that the swarthy pirate departs in a downpour; the darkness and the storm are a portent of the bleak future that awaits Spartacus and his troops.
   Indeed, Spartacus is informed that the Cilician pirates have set sail without him and his army. Crassus, it seems, has outbid Gracchus and bribed the mercenary pirates to depart ahead of schedule. His jaw set, Spartacus proclaims to his army, “The Romans hope to trap us here with our backs to the sea. We have no choice but to march toward Rome and face Crassus and end this war the only way it could have ended: by winning this battle and freeing every slave. ” But Spartacus’s army is no match for the might of Rome, and the battle ends in an ignominious defeat for Spartacus’s slaves. The treachery of Tigranes and the Cilicians is the beginning of the end for Spartacus’s revolt.
   After Spartacus, Lom went on to appear in Anthony Mann’s historical spectacle El Cid (1961), with Charlton Heston. He also played the title role in the 1962 remake of The Phantom of the Opera (1962). Lom made films in a variety of genres in the 1970s and 1980s, but he has secured a place in film history largely on the strength of his continuing role as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in Blake Edwards’s comic Pink Panther series. Dreyfus is steadily driven to madness in film after film by his ineffectual, accidentprone subordinate officer, Inspector Clouseau (PETER SELLERS). Lom first appeared in A Shot in the Dark (1964), followed by The Return of the Pink Panther (1974) and other entries in the series. The final film of the series, Son of the Pink Panther (1993) was made after Sellers’s death, and it was also Lom’s last film appearance.
   ■ Howard, James, Stanley Kubrick Companion (London: Batsford, 1999);
   ■ Kagan, Norman, The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, rev. ed. (New York: Continuum, 1989).

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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