It is Cult Faction’s sad duty to report that Burt Kwouk has passed away aged 85 years old.
A statement from the Warrington-born actor’s agent to the BBC revealed the news. No further details were given as to cause of death.
“Beloved actor Burt Kwouk has sadly passed peacefully away May 24,” the statement read. “The family will be having a private funeral but there will be a memorial at a later date.”
Kwouk was born in Warrington, Lancashire, but was brought up in Shanghai until he was 17 years old, when his Chinese parents returned to England. He went to the United States to study and in 1953 graduated from Bowdoin College. The Kwouk family fortune had been lost in the 1949 revolution and in 1954 he came back to Britain, where a girlfriend “nagged [him] into acting”
One of Kwouk’s earliest film roles was in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) where he played the leader of a prison revolt who later aids the main character in heroically leading orphans to safety.
He appeared in numerous films and television programmes. He was best known for playing Cato Fong, Inspector Clouseau’s manservant in The Pink Panther movies. The running gag was that Cato was ordered to attack Clouseau when he least expected it to keep him alert, usually resulting in Clouseau’s flat being wrecked. Amid the chaos, the phone would ring and Cato would calmly answer it with “Inspector/Chief Inspector Clouseau’s residence,” before dutifully handing the phone to his employer and being thumped by Clouseau.
He was a stalwart of several ITC television TV series, such as Danger Man, The Saint and Man of the World, when an oriental character was required. He featured as one of the leads in the short-lived series The Sentimental Agent (1963).
Kwouk appeared in three James Bond films. In Goldfinger (1964) he played Mr. Ling, a Chinese expert in nuclear fission; in the spoof Casino Royale (1967) he played a general and in You Only Live Twice (1967) Kwouk played the part of a Japanese operative of Blofeld credited as Spectre 3 In The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), he appeared with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. Kwouk also appeared as the honourable but misguided Major Yamauchi in the World War II television drama Tenko (1981–84).
Kwouk featured in many UK television productions that called for a man of Oriental appearance. As a result, he became a familiar face in the United Kingdom and appeared as himself in the Harry Hill Show as well as several of Hill’s live tours.
In 2000, he appeared in an episode of the syndicated western TV series Queen of Swords as Master Kiyomasa, an aged Japanese warrior-priest. Sung-Hi Lee played his female pupil, Kami.
From 2001 to 2004 he provided voice-overs on the spoof Japanese betting show Banzai and subsequently appeared in adverts for the betting company, Bet365.
From 2002 to the series’ end in 2010, he had a regular role in the long-running series Last of the Summer Wine, as Entwistle. His later work also includes voice acting in the audio theatre and video game genres. He provided the voice of the CGI character Shen, a Chinese water dragon, for the groundbreaking BBC TV fantasy drama series Spirit Warriors (2010).
Other appearances included Hancock’s Half Hour, Upstairs and Downstairs, The Terror of the Tongs, The River Flows East, The Sentimental Agent, Curse of the Fly, The Avengers, The Champions, The Saint, Callan, The Misfit, Jason King, Rollerball, The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It, The Water Margin, The Tomorrow People, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Minder, Shoestring, Doctor Who, Hart to Hart, T-Bag Bounces Back, I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, Space Precinct, Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior, The Bill and Silent Witness.
A reference to his appearances in several films with Peter Sellers is found in the opening scene of The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980) where Sellers says to him “your face is familiar.”
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2011 Queen’s New Years Honours List for his services to drama.