See the cast of Hogan's Heroes in their earliest screen roles
They started their careers alongside Burt Lancaster, Ginger Rogers, Dick Van Dyke and… Floyd the Barber?
Hogan's Heroes worked because of its stellar international cast. Europeans and American came together for the World War II–set sitcom. For some actors, it was the start of a long career. Richard Dawson (Newkirk) went on to smooch hands and cheeks as the iconic host of Family Feud. Ivan Dixon (Kinchloe) moved behind the camera and worked as a director on everything from The Waltons to the Marvin Gaye-soundtracked film Trouble Man.
But where how did they all begin their careers, you might ask? Find out below!
See how the "Heroes" and soldiers of Stalag 13 started their acting careers.
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1. Richard Dawson
The actor and game show host born Colin Lionel Emm began his career in England as a comic, billed as "Dickie Dawson." His routine landed him his earliest television gigs in his homeland, on 1950s series like BBC's Benny Hill Showcase. He would not turn up on American "telly" until 1963, initially in a gag role on The Jack Benny Program, in disguise as an audience member next to Jack. The future Family Feud icon's first significant role came on The Dick Van Dyke Show, which credited the guest star as "Dick Dawson." He played the title character in the episode "Racy Tracy Rattigan," a Brit who fills in for Alan Brady as host on The Alan Brady Show.
2. Bob Crane
Television audiences are more likely to have heard Bob Crane before seeing him. The Hogan star began his showbiz career as a disc jockey. That led to his uncredited first job in a hit series — he's the voice heard on the radio in the season-two Twilight Zone episode "Static" (1961). However, two years prior he almost got his big break. Hogan appeared in the pilot episode of a series called Picture Window. Max Shulman, the creator of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, was behind the sitcom, which focused on young couples in the suburbs. Here you can see Howard McNear (Floyd the Barber!) introducing Crane in the pilot.
3. John Banner
Austrian-born Johann Banner studied law in Vienna before opting for a career as a thespian. He happened to be in neighboring Switzerland when Hitler annexed Austria. Banner fled to America and quickly found work as an actor — typecast as a Nazi in pre-WWII films. His first two credited roles came in 1942, the lesser of which was Seven Miles from Alcatraz, a short action flick about escaped felons who end up rooting out a spy network. That film may have offered him more screen time, but Once Upon a Honeymoon remains more historically significant thanks to its stars, Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. Banner banters with Rogers in an amusing scene, seen here.
Image: RKO Pictures
4. Werner Klemperer
Son of renowned composer Otto Klemperer, young Klemperer emigrated with his parents to the U.S. from Germany in 1935. His began to appear on television in the early 1950s, in two installments of the anthology series Goodyear Playhouse and on Shadow of the Cloak, a spy series on the short-lived DuMont Network. Here he is in the episode "The Last Performance" (1952).
5. Ivan Dixon
Dixon grew up in Harlem the son of a grocery store owner. The family lived on the same block as National Book Award-winning author Ralph Ellison and dancer Gregory Hines. No wonder Dixon, like his neighbors, ended up in the arts. The year 1957 proved to be his breakthrough, as he landed a key role on Broadway and a part in the Rock Hudson movie Something of Value. This film about the 1950s Mau Mau uprising in Kenya cast him alongside Sidney Poitier. The following year, he was a stunt double for Poitier in The Defiant Ones.
Image: The Everett Collection
6. Robert Clary
Born Robert Max Widerman in Paris, France, Clary survived imprisonment in a concentration camp but lost most of his family to the Holocaust. Singing led to a career in show business. As an actor, he made his debut in Ten Tall Men, a 1951 war picture with Burt Lancaster set in Morocco. Look for him early in the film as Lancaster's loyal and local assistant. He fetches fruit and information for the main character.
Image: Columbia Pictures
7. Larry Hovis
Before he became known worldwide as "The Millionaire" Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island, Jim Backus landed his own sitcom called, well, The Jim Backus Show. Sometimes titled Hot Off the Wire, this syndicated series centered around reporters working in a wire service. Because it was syndicated at the dawn of the 1960s, not much material remains from this show, which is a shame, as a young Larry Hovis played a "Teenage Boy" named Bert Potter in a few episodes. No, you are most likely to have first seen Hovis as Larry on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. starting in 1964.
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Otto Klemperer was a symphony CONDUCTOR, not a composer.
Oddly, though Werner Klemperer lived in the apartment building right next to my college dormitory in New York, it wouldn’t be till twenty-odd years later that I would meet him, in Los Angeles or, more precisely, West Hollywood, CA. He was a nice man.