Bob Crane turned down three sitcoms before ''gambling'' on Hogan's Heroes

"I bet a fortune that I could make a million — and won," Crane bragged.

The Everett Collection

Read to Me

Before he became a television star, Bob Crane had the ear of everyone in Hollywood. He gabbed at them at their breakfast table, in their showers and in their cars during their morning commutes. He was the hottest morning DJ on Los Angeles radio. 

Crane was pulling in a hefty salary as an A.M. emcee on KNX. Being a disc jockey earned him $75,000 a year in the early 1960s. Don't sound like much now, but that's the equivalent of about $650,000 in today's cash. 

"Millions of Southern Californians became addicted to the irreverent fun-maker," Hollywood gossip columnist Florabel Muir wrote in 1968. "Bob kidded his listeners, his sponsors, his guests, and himself in a wildly formatted show that had to be heard to be believed." In a way, he was a forerunner and pioneer of the "zoo crew" and shock jock format so common in morning radio. He'd be huge on Spotify today. Back then, television came calling.

As he was working for KNX, a CBS radio station, Crane also landed a supporting role on The Donna Reed Show. His salary for that gig was equivalent to his radio paychecks — $75,000 a year. 

Giving that up for a sitcom of his own was a "gamble." That's how every newspaper article framed it in 1965. If he quit his radio job for a television show — well, that show could last a mere 13 weeks before being canceled. That happens more often than not in TV. 

Crane was rolling the dice when he opted to headline Hogan's Heroes. Especially when you consider the concept.

But he "turned down three roles" before picking Stalag 13, according to an Associated Press article in the fall of 1965, shortly after Hogan's Heroes premiered. One of those was, like his radio show, a talk show, a late-night role akin to Tonight with Jack Paar (you know, the predecessor to Johnny Carson). Studios saw him as a potential next Jack Paar. They also offered him two plum sitcom leads — in Please Don't Eat the Daisies and My Living Doll

Please Don't Eat the Daisies was an adaptation of a hit 1960 film (which itself was based on a bestselling book), about a couple living in an old house raising four rowdy boys with the help of a housekeeper. (There was a dog, too.) My Living Doll offered far more fantastic fare — it was about a man and his beautiful android (Julie Newmar), Sixties comedy along the lines of Bewitched and My Favorite Martian.

"I had to talk for a long time to explain to the producer that I wasn't right for Please Don't Eat the Daises," Crane told the AP. "I also had to explain why I didn't want to do My Living Doll."

What made Hogan's different?

"Basically, in Hogan's, I play myself," Crane explained to Muir.

Like Hogan, Crane was a gambler. With his career, in particular. He bet $75,000 that he could make a million on Hogan's Heroes — and won.

"I've done it before — bet a fortune that I could make a million — and won," Crane bragged to Muir, "and I'll do it again if necessary."

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CharlesCampbell 16 days ago
My high school Latin teacher had spent a couple of years in a Stalag during the war. He found nothing funny or entertaining about the show.
Wiseguy 20 days ago
"Don't sound like much now, but that's the equivalent of about $650,000 in today's cash."
Should be doesn't, not don't. A real writer would know that.
TriskaidekaLeh 1 month ago
Hogan's Heroes is my all time favorite sitcom
Klink 1 month ago
Great story, best sitcom ever
Pilaf 1 month ago
This man was a depraved degenerate. EVERYONE involved with Hogan's Heroes should be deeply ashamed. THERE WERE NO "FUNNY NAZIS!"
Wiseguy Pilaf 20 days ago
Another idiot who thinks Hogan's Heroes is about Nazis. The regular characters are associated with the Luftwaffe, the German air force. The only recurring character who could possibly be called a Nazi would be Gestapo officer Major Hochstetter who was one of the funniest characters. So much for your theory.
Wiseguy Pilaf 20 days ago
If you think actors are the same as the characters they play and that Bob Crane was alone at having problems, then don't watch Hogan's Heroes. Go watch The Cosby Show. Oh, right...
Cbjr1 1 month ago
Its a ripoff
Wiseguy Cbjr1 20 days ago
If you're referring to the court case involving the supposed plagiarism of the play/movie Stalag 17 (hard to tell since you don't reference anything), although the jury agreed with the Stalag 17 producers, the judge thought the verdict was so ludicrous he issued a "bench reversal" and overturned their decision. Result for all time: not guilty.

And the contraction of 'it is' is spelled it's.
justjeff 1 month ago
Many folks don't know that Bob Crane was also a talented drummer.
TheDavBow3 justjeff 1 month ago
Saw him drum on The Red Skelton Hour. Yes, talented.
Wiseguy justjeff 20 days ago
Bob Crane can be seen/heard playing the drums in the final episode of Hogan's Heroes filmed, "Look at the Pretty Snowflakes."
TheDavBow3 1 month ago
I liked him in The Disney movie, Super Dad.
I loved that movie. Haven’t seen it for years.
The water skiing scene is funny! Never heard a grown man scream like that 😂
Pacificsun 1 month ago
I don't think were too many actors who could've played Hogan. I wonder how long they looked around. For one thing he had to be the straight man to everyone else's funny laughs. He was the glue that held that show together. Schultz was pure comedy. Klink played it dangerously close to the top. And the Hogan Team (if you watch it carefully) were playing it both ways. Meaning that each of those actors had a few serious dramatic scenes. Brief but poignant, reminding us that the war was serious! Hogan (Bob Crane) tied it all together, almost a sense of realism in the middle of pure escapism.

I saw Crane last Sunday in an episode of DVD and almost didn't recognize that it was him, until I watched him for a couple of minutes. Nothing like Hogan, and yet hysterically funny for the bit he had to do. He was so talented, and gone far too quickly.
n7mk 1 month ago
Hey Crane. What are you going to do now that you made a million on Hogan's Heros? I'm going to Scottsdale to get killed.
Videoranger n7mk 1 month ago
Better a dead somebody than a live nobody. When you pass on will we know you left
harlow1313 Videoranger 1 month ago
"Better a dead somebody than a live nobody."

Well, I'm going to have to disagree with that one.
Wiseguy n7mk 20 days ago
It's spelled heroes.
Andybandit 1 month ago
Good choice for picking Hogan's Heroes. I think he was good in the show.
MarkJamesMeli 1 month ago
I'd say the biggest gamble of all was would you have a career after your television series went off the air. Unfortunately, as great as Crane was in Hogan's Heroes, it didn't lead to much in the future. We all loved him in that show and at the time most were comfortable seeing him portray "Hogan." The show stayed popular in to syndication runs, meaning that from the very late 1960s well in to the 70s, folks could see Bob Crane as Colonel Hogan at least five days a week in most markets, probably more in others. As funny and good looking as Crane was, it only lead to certain things going his way, but not television. Crane made the most out of his being regulated to dinner theatre actor status, but it must have been a hard pill to swallow. But that's the gamble. Think of any hit TV show of any era - and how many of them had actors that immediately went on the another hit TV show? You can count them on one hand. What happened to the cast of Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Get Smart, Hawaii 5-0, the Waltons, Seinfeld, Taxi, etc.?
n7mk MarkJamesMeli 1 month ago
Hard to find another gig when you're dead.
Taxi had some
Big name alumni.
Videoranger n7mk 1 month ago
It was a while before he was killed. Disney had issues with his reputation when he worked for them.
The reality is, most of the actors we're enjoying now, at the top of their popularity (now) in those shows were .... at the time, competing with a flood of others doing the same thing. Like you mentioned in those examples. It would've been impossible for that many to continue being in most popular shows. Only a few did, the most versatile. Even Lucille Ball found it tougher and tougher to be as in her subsequent shows, as was the original Lucy Ricardo. It all had to do with timing, ensemble casting, novelty, and audience receptivity.

All I'm saying is that these very most popular stars didn't intentionally fall from grace, or become any less than their potential ever was. Just that the market changed around them! One-of-a-kind roles/situations put them at the top. And it was very difficult to replicate over and over.

In fact we wouldn't have wanted it that way. Or these truly classic comedies never would've stood out (and the test of time) as much as they have today!!
TheMage MarkJamesMeli 1 month ago
How exactly are you defining success? It seems a little limited to me. Like if a person doesn’t immediately find another top-rated sitcom that they are failures.
We don’t know the goals of the actors. After a tv show goes off the air many actors want a break. Others want to do something else. Actors have decided to quit acting after a series ends. Some don’t want to get tied down to a series again, especially after finishing one. Others do want to get back on the horse. Some go off to perform on stage. And yet others move behind the scenes.
There are also the actors who have successful acting careers you may not know about.
Look at Robbie Rist. He was on 5 episodes of The Brady Bunch before it was canceled. Before jumping the shark, shows were cousin olivered. (Okay, I made that up.)
But then you look at his resume, he has 156 IMDB credits. He mostly moved into voice-over work and is still working today.
They did give Bob Crane his own variety hour, though it only lasted 14 episodes. He still had a bunch of credits to his name too. But we also need to remember he had a flawed personality, and still died with a net worth of $250K if what I read is correct. (Adjusted for inflation that’s over $1M.)
cperrynaples 1 month ago
One gamble Bob lost: His friendship with a video tech guy led him to making amateur porns and he was killed alledgedly at the hands of that guy! Check out Auto Focus with Greg Kinear as Crane!
He's still pretty nifty in Hogan's Heroes don't you think? (Although he can be quite annoying other places.)
That movie, based on those theories, left a lot of holes. Just think of how many people could get very, very mad over Crane's "hobby." I'm thinking dads, fathers, husbands, mothers, cops - and they want to blame it ALL on one dude??
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