KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (9)

By: Serdar Paktin
January 31, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.

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CATO

My first thought, when asked to name my favourite sidekick, was Bruce Lee. But upon reflection, I decided that Bruce Lee never, ever played a sidekick. My second thought is that I don’t like obviousness or absolutism in storytelling; for a story to be compelling and the characters to be intriguing, I need twists, uncertainty, and unpredictability. This line of thinking led me to decide that my favourite sidekick is Cato Fong from the Pink Panther movies.

Cato (Burt Kwouk) was not a traditional sidekick — that is, loyal, almost blindly obedient, perhaps secretly in love with the hero. Instead, he launched unpredictable attacks on his employer, Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers). He brought a fantastic surprise effect to the story every single time he appeared. For the viewer of these movies, the Cato character is pure joy.

Do Cato and Clouseau even like one another? For instance, in Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), Clouseau is presumed to be dead. Instead of mourning, Cato turns Clouseau’s apartment into a brothel; the passcode for entry is “Inspector Clouseau.” Yet in Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), the first film in the series made after Peter Sellers’s death, Cato turns Clouseau’s house into a wax museum lovingly devoted to exhibiting the disguises Clouseau had used.

Cato and Clouseau’s relationship is a symbiotic one, and also a puzzlement. In addition to the love/hate question, one wonders: Which of the two is better at martial arts? Is one of them a genius, and the other stupid? We’ll never know for sure. The only thing that’s certain is that their dedication to playing the game — Cato attacking Clouseau when he least expects it — is absolute.

PS: I’m not American, so I only recently discovered that the creators of Inspector Clouseau devised Kwouk’s character as an homage to the Green Hornet’s sidekick — the Green Hornet was a radio character in the 1930s, then a TV and cinema character in the 1940s and ’50s — when they introduced him in the second Pink Panther movie, A Shot in the Dark (1964). When a Green Hornet TV show debuted in 1966, Bruce Lee was cast as Kato. Clouseau’s sidekick’s name was originally spelled with a K, but because of Bruce Lee’s popularity on the Green Hornet show the spelling was altered when Cato reappeared in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975). Bruce Lee did play a sidekick! Which brings this story full circle.

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KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

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Enthusiasms