Burt Kwouk, Pink Panther star, dies aged 85

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Burt KwoukImage source, PA

Burt Kwouk, who was best known for playing Inspector Clouseau's manservant Cato in the Pink Panther films, has died aged 85.

He appeared in seven Pink Panther films opposite Peter Sellers as Clouseau's servant who regularly attacked his employer to keep him alert.

He also starred in BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine from 2002 to 2010.

The actor, who was born in Manchester but raised in Shanghai, was awarded an OBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List.

A statement issued by his agent said: "Beloved actor Burt Kwouk has sadly passed peacefully away. The family will be having a private funeral but there will be a memorial at a later date."

Image source, Rex Features
Image caption,
Cato constantly jumped out at Inspector Clouseau causing mayhem

On the big screen Kwouk also appeared in three James Bond films including Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

Kwouk had a long TV career, appearing in numerous TV shows including The Avengers and Doctor Who. He also played Major Yamauchi in the 1980s wartime television drama Tenko.

He joined long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine as electrician Entwistle - a part that was written with him in mind.

The actor appeared in Harry Hill's comedy series in the 1990s and also gained a cult following when he presented Channel 4's interactive gambling show Banzai from 2001-2004.

Image caption,
Burt Kwouk appeared alongisde Brian Murphy (L) and Russ Abbot (R) in Last of the Summer Wine

Many fans have been paying tribute on social media and sharing their favourite clips of Kwouk as Cato.

Film director Duncan Jones tweeted: "Just heard the wonderful Burt Kwouk has passed away. Lovely man. Was willing to work with film students like myself."

Al Murray also tweeted how he "was very lucky to have worked with Burt Kwouk on the Harry Hill show way back when".

'Allo 'Allo! actress Vicky Michelle tweeted a picture of herself with Burt Kwouk and said she knew him well through their charity work with the Heritage Foundation.

"Fab actor, lovely fun and gentle man," she said.

Image caption,
Burt Kwouk played Major Yamauchi in Tenko a popular drama which was set in a women's prison camp in World War II

Kwouk started acting when he returned to England in 1954 after his family's wealth was wiped out in the 1949 revolution.

His big break came 10 years later when director Blake Edwards offered him the part of Cato Fong, opposite Peter Sellers's Inspector Clouseau.

His double act with Sellers was hugely popular with fans and he continued in the role of Cato after Sellers died in 1980, appearing opposite Roger Moore and Roberto Benigni when they took on the role of the bumbling French detective.

Kwouk said he never expected the part to continue for such a long time, starring in his first Pink Panther film in 1964 and the last in 1992.

"They were always a lot of fun because after a while I got to know Cato quite well and I liked Cato because he never argued with me and he never borrowed money from me. I liked playing Cato quite a lot," he told the BBC in 2011.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Burt Kwouk received an OBE for services to drama in 2011

Talking about his career after being awarded an OBE for services to drama, the actor said working on the James Bond movies was a special experience.

"Bond movies are always great fun because everything about them is big, expansive, huge - the sets are big, the amounts of money that is spent is huge as well, and the whole thing has a big atmosphere about it. And actors like doing that kind of thing."

But if he had to pick a favourite role, the star said it would be the first time he "had a featured role in a good movie".

"You always remember your first of anything - your first house, your first car, your first child, your first woman - you always remember those things and this was a picture made in 1958.

"It was The Inn of the Sixth Happiness which starred a great lady called Ingrid Bergman, I remember that very fondly."

He is survived by his wife Caroline Tebbs, who he married in 1961 and a son.

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