Wednesday 18 July 2012

Britain is still a county for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old film actor called Burt Kwouk

Burt Kwouk is 81 today and is best known in his career in films as 'Cato', the man-servant and karate expert, hired by Inspector Clouseau to keep him 'on his toes' by attacking him without warning, no matter what the circumstances.

What you possibly didn't know about Burt, that he :

* was born in Warrington, Lancashire but spent most of his childhood in Shanghai until he was 17 and then must have moved to the USA where he graduated from Bowdoin College in 1953.

* played the leader of a prison revolt in one of his first film roles in 'The Inn of the Sixth Happiness' which I saw at the cinema when I was 11 in 1958 and in which he helps Ingrid Bergman, playing Gladys Aylward, heroically lead Chinese orphans to safety.

* was next seen by me in the Blake Edwards film, 'A Shot in the Dark' in 1964 when I was 17, I think in 'The Gaumont' cinema in Lewisham. with, my then girlfiend, Heather, where we went after saturday work in the C & A shop in Lewisham.

*  appeared in three James Bond films : in 'Goldfinger' (1964) as a Chinese counterpart of Bond (left),  in the spoof 'Casino Royale' (1967), a general and in 'You Only Live Twice' (1967), the part of a Japanese operative of the villain Blofeld.

* in 1968 he appeared in 'The Shoes of the Fishermen' opposite Lawrence Olivier and Anthony Quinn.

*  played the honourable but misguided Major Yamauchi in the 1980's Second World War tv drama 'Tenko'.

* from 2002 to the show's end in 2010, had a regular role in the long-running series 'Last of the Summer Wine' as Entwistle..

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And here is my personal version of the battel between Cato and Inspector Clouseaus in the 'Battle of the Force Beams' :

When my son was still living at home and working in London some 10 yeas ago, he would return home at 7.30 at night. He had 2 cardboard space tubes, which jangled when shaken. They were a commercial spin-off from the force beams which the Jedi Knights had in the film 'Star Wars'.

We fell into the habit of me surprising him when he came into the house by hitting him with a space tube in imitation of Cato surprising Clouseau.

This was the procedure :

1. I would turn off the down stairs lights when I heard his car approach. I had left his space tube on the floor of the porch as an invitation to duel.

2. I then hid from view, so as to surprise him the dark.

3. Meanwhile my wife watched t.v. in the dark, in the front room.

4. My hiding places were various : in the cupboard under the stairs, behind long curtains, under beds, in the garage.

5. He would come looking for me with his tube : "Dad, I know you're there. Out you come."

6. One evening, unbeknown to me, he returned home with friend to the darkened house with me hiding under the stairs. I think the friend was surprised and amused.

7. On another occasion, he picked up a broomstick and gave me a bang on my forehead, which produced an egg-like lump.
Fortunately, it had gone down by the time I went to work the next day.

So, I have a personal reason to thank Burt Kwouk who inspired those japes with my son and has given me fond memories.

P.S. One space tube sustained some damage in one of the encounters and had to be bandaged with pink, sticking plaster.




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