Pink Panther actor Burt Kwouk dies aged 85


Burt Kwouk, best known for playing Cato Fong in the Pink Panther films, has died aged 85.

A statement said the actor had sadly passed away on May 24, adding: "The family will be having a private funeral but there will be a memorial at a later date."

Burt Kwouk died aged 85
Burt Kwouk died aged 85 (Michael Crabtree/PA)

The Manchester-born star is most recognisable for his big-screen role as Inspector Clouseau's manservant in the popular Pink Panther films.

Despite being born in England in 1930, he was raised in Shanghai, China, until he was 17, when he moved to the United States, according to the British Film Institute.

His plans to study in the US were thwarted when his family's wealth was wiped out in the 1949 revolution and he came back to Britain in 1954.

On returning he pursued a career in acting, and is quoted as recalling that his girlfriend at the time "nagged me into acting".

His first role was in 1957 film Windom's Way and he then landed what is considered his big break in Inn Of The Sixth Happiness.

Burt received an OBE in the 2011 New Years Honours list
Burt received an OBE in the 2011 New Years Honours list (John Stillwell/PA)

He has three James Bond credits to his name - appearing in Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and the 1967 spoof Casino Royale.

His best-known TV work includes shows like The Avengers and Danger Man and another of his impressive film credits is Steven Spielberg's Empire Of The Sun.

It was in 1964 that he was cast as the servant Kato, the spelling of which was later changed to Cato, in the Inspector Clouseau film A Shot In The Dark.

The character became a hit with fans as their quirky friendship of servant and sometimes attacker developed.

Burt continued in the role following the death of Clouseau actor Peter Sellers in 1980.

Kwouk arriving at the premiere for Die Another Day
Arriving at the premiere for Die Another Day (Andy Butterton/PA)

During an interview in 2010 with film historian Barry Littlechild at The Cinema Museum, he spoke about working with Peter.

He said: "I know that since Peter died, which is 30 years ago, there's been a lot of knocking copy on it, books, articles, films, television programmes, radio programmes and they've all sort of dwelled on the dark side of Peter.

"I never really saw anything of the dark side. For me it was the light side of Peter Sellers I knew and enjoyed and would like to remember."

He starred in seven films in the Pink Panther franchise, appearing alongside Peter, Roger Moore and Roberto Benigni in their incarnations of the inept French detective Inspector Clouseau.

A running gag throughout the films was that marital arts specialist Cato would attack Clouseau at random, often inopportune moments, to keep him on guard.

Kwouk's Cato and Sellers' Clouseau were often caught in martial arts fights together
Burt's Cato and Peter's Clouseau were often caught in martial arts fights together (SNAP/REX)

Talking about the role of Cato to Barry, he explained: "He (director Blake Edwards) made it into a silly. Until then martial arts had always been taken very seriously and in the early '60s Judo became the fashionable thing, everyone wanted to know about Judo and it was done in a very serious way like Bruce Lee and we decided to take the Michael out of it so we did."

Later in his career, Burt would join Harry Hill's eponymous TV show and become the face of Channel 4´s gaming show Banzai!

But he memorably returned to the small screen in BBC's Last Of The Summer Wine as Chinese electrician Entwistle, from 2003 until its end in 2010.

He married Caroline Tebbs in 1961 and the couple had a son together. He was honoured with an OBE for his services to drama in the 2011 New Year's Honours list.