Entertainment & Arts

Graham Stark, Pink Panther actor, dies aged 91

Graham Stark and Peter Sellers
Image caption Stark was good friends with Peter Sellers and was best man at all four of his weddings

British comic actor Graham Stark, best known for his recurring roles opposite Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, has died aged 91.

The actor died in London on Tuesday after recently suffering a stroke.

Roles in Alfie and James Bond spoof Casino Royale were among his more than 100 screen credits.

It was his friendship with Sellers that secured his roles in the Pink Panther series, beginning with 1964 film A Shot in the Dark.

He played Inspector Clouseau's stone-faced assistant, Hercule Lajoy, a role he reprised in 1982's Trail of the Pink Panther. The part saw him say little more than "Oui, monsieur" to Clouseau's orders.

He later starred as Dr Auguste Balls in Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and Son of the Pink Panther (1993).

He memorably also appeared in 1976's The Pink Panther Strikes Again, playing a German hotel clerk in a scene where Clouseau is bitten by a dog.

"I thought you said your dog did not bite?" says Clouseau, to which Stark replies: "That is not my dog."

Stark, who was born in Wallasey, Merseyside, made his professional debut at the Lyceum theatre in London in a pantomime aged 13.

Image caption Graham Stark landed his own BBC sketch show in 1964

After studying at Rada he volunteered for the RAF. During the war years he entertained the troops around the world with fellow airmen and future stars Sellers, Tony Hancock and Dick Emery.

He went on to star in numerous comedy TV shows, including The Idiot Weekly, A Show Called Fred and Benny Hill, before landing his own BBC sketch series, The Graham Stark Show, in 1964.

Other films in which he appeared include Victor Victoria, Superman III and Blind Date.

He also directed two films: the 1970 short Simon Simon and the 1971 comedy The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins.

Stark was a keen photographer and had exhibited his work - mainly images of his acting colleagues and friends - around the world. His autobiography, Stark Naked, was published in 2003.

He is survived by his wife, the actress Audrey Nicholson, and three children.

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