Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sadly, "attack dog" Cato is no more

One of my favorite characters from the classic Pink Panther movies, Cato, is no more.  Burt Kwouk, the actor who portrayed him, has died.  From his obituary:

As well as answering the telephone and dealing with the inspector’s daily needs, Cato’s chief role was to keep Clouseau vigilant by attacking him whenever he least expected it. Their encounters became a running joke throughout the Pink Panther series and the scenes involving their preposterous karate-style sparring – interspersed with loud screams – generally resulted in the destruction of Clouseau’s flat and Cato himself being knocked out, usually because of one of Clouseau’s underhand tricks.

. . .

Although Kwouk appeared in three James Bond films (including the spoof Casino Royale in 1967) and had a successful subsequent career on British television, his fondest professional memories were of his time in the Pink Panther films, and his friendship with Sellers endured until the actor’s death in 1980. “I learnt a lot from Peter,” he later recalled. “Particularly how to be 'second banana’ – by which I mean like a straight man to him.”

He was sanguine about Clouseau’s affectionate references to Cato as his “little yellow friend”. “They can call me anything they like,” he once said, “as long as I get paid and my name is spelt correctly.”

. . .

In 1964, having appeared as a baddie in Goldfinger, Kwouk was offered the part of Kato (later changed to Cato) in A Shot in the Dark. After reading the script Kwouk turned the part down. “I couldn’t see the point,” he recalled, “the character didn’t have a lot of screen time, didn’t say very much, and kept getting knocked down.” His agent eventually persuaded him that he needed the money and Kwouk accepted the role.

“Peter Sellers made me,” he said later, “there’s no doubt about it. He raised me to higher level and was a very generous actor, he kept finding ways for Cato get a bigger laugh.” Despite Sellers’s eccentricities Kwouk maintained that they had a good working relationship. “Peter was odd,” he admitted, “but few geniuses are not odd. I learned a lot about comedy acting just by watching his eyes before a take.” Cato proved so popular that he was written into all but one of the subsequent films. “I loved playing the part,” Kwouk recalled, “but it was mayhem, half the time I was petrified I was actually going to get hurt by one of Peter’s wild lunges.”

There's more at the link.

How can I resist so obvious a temptation?  Here are all the great Inspector Clouseau vs. Cato moments from the classic movies.

Classics indeed!  Thanks for the laughter, Mr. Kwouk.  Rest in a Clouseau-free peace!



Anonymous said...

Those were very funny, thanks for linking to them. I liked the stopping of hostilities once the phone rang, just made the moment even funnier.

RIP sir, comic magic.

Bob said...

I remember laughing till tears came at the first time I saw the inspector and Cato go at it. I was at the movie with my sister and her husband, they thought I was having a heart attack. good stuff, and fun movies.

Nowadays, the inspector would be played by some super cool black dude and Cato would be a bumbling white nerd whose girlfriend - played by some blonde bimbo - would leave him for the super cool inspector.

How times - and things- have changed.

richard mcenroe said...

Clouseau-! *tic*

Bryn said...

I grew up with the Pink Panther films being regular Christmas & Easter treats.... Other Burt Kwouk works as I grew older included "Tenko" and "Shoes of the Fisherman".
So another memorable actor from my childhood leaves us... RIP Mr.Kwouk.

wheels said...

I've got the Pink Panther DVD set. I'll have to watch them again. I'd forgotten about Cato ... what I remember was the "minkey" conversation.