Burt Kwouk, the veteran actor most closely associated with the role of the long-suffering Cato in The Pink Panther series opposite Peter Sellers, has died at age 85. A statement released by the actor’s family confirmed Kwouk passed away peacefully May 24. Kwouk was born in Warrington in the UK but lived in Shanghai until he was 17. His long career took in seven Pink Panther films, three James Bonds as well as appearances in Doctor Who and The Avengers.
Kwouk’s big break came in 1964 when he was cast as Inspector Clouseau’s manservant Cato in A Shot In The Dark, the second in the Pink Panther series that followed the mishaps of Sellers’ bumbling French police officer. The relationship between Clouseau and Cato — something of a hate-hate dynamic with a healthy sprinkling of kung fu designed to keep the police officer vigilant — soon became a staple of the franchise and popular with audiences. Kwouk continued in the role following Sellers’ death in 1980.
Kwouk played a number of different characters in a trio of Bond films: Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and the 1968 spoof Casino Royale, appearing — somewhat uniquely — opposite Sean Connery and David Niven as the iconic Brit superspy.
In later life, Kwouk became a regular on British TV, appearing on The Saint, The Kenny Everett Television Show and Last Of The Summer Wine. He also became the face of UK broadcaster Channel 4’s hyperactive gaming show Banzai!
The actor received an OBE for services to drama from Prince Charles in 2011. Kwouk’s passing saw a number of social media tributes, including Warcraft director Duncan Jones.
Here’s a clip of Cato vs. Clouseau: