If you have never heard of the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, here’s a quick catch-up: The sitcom is about Col. Robert Hogan and members of the American military who are prisoners of war. Hogan is involved in special operations from within the prison. Col. Klink and Hans Shultz are two members of the German army who are bumbling dolts more or less who are guarding Hogan and their allies. This sitcom began in 1965, twenty years after WWII, and ended in 1971. There are also some little-known facts and behind-the-scenes stories you may not know about. Let’s take a look.
Bob Crane as Col. Robert E. Hogan
Bob Crane (July 13, 1928 – June 29, 1978) was a multitalented actor, disc jockey, and drummer. Crane fit the bill of Col. Robert Hogan as an Air Force Colonel in Hogan’s Heroes.
After Hogan’s Heroes ended in 1971, Bob Crane went on to play in several other sitcoms such as Love, American Style among others. He even had his own show called the Bob Crane Show in 1975. In 1978, Bob Crane was found dead in a hotel room in Arizona.
Werner Klemperer as Col. Wilhelm Klink
Werner Klemperer (March 22, 1920 – December 6, 2000) was a German-American actor and composer. His father was a famous composer named Otto Klemperer. Klemperer is known for playing the role of the incompetent but humorous Col. Wilhelm Klink. As Col. Klink, he was a milksop leader and a very gullible person. A quote associated with him is: “No prisoner ever escaped from Stalag 13,” but the prisoners came and went whenever they wanted to.
After Hogan’s Heroes Klemperer went on to appear on such shows as Love Boat and Law and Order among other shows. One of the final roles of Werner Klemperer was on the hit cartoon series The Simpsons back in 1993 where he appeared as a guardian angel.
John Banner as Sgt. Hans Schultz
John Banner (January 28, 1910 – January 28, 1973) was an actor who is best remembered for playing the role of Master Sergeant Hans Schultz, the portly good-hearted and affable Sergeant of the Guard at Stalag 13. As Schultz he would often take bribes from the prisoners, and when it is known that he is aware of the prisoners’ secret activities, he would exclaim “I see nothing! I hear nothing! I know nothing!”
After his success on Hogan’s Heroes, John Banner went on to appear in other works such as the short-lived show The Chicago Teddy Bears playing the role of Uncle Latzi.
Ivan Dixon as Sgt. James (Ivan) ‘Kinch’ Kinchloe
Ivan Dixon (April 6, 1931 – March 16, 2008) was a producer, director, and actor who played the role of Sgt. James Kinchloe, aka Kinch, on Hogan’s Heroes. The role that he played was groundbreaking because the show featured an African-American man in somewhat of a leadership role. The Kinch character was second-in-command of Hogans crew. He was responsible for communication.
Ivan Dixon went on to play in other films and television roles such as The Final War of Olly Winter, The A-Team, and Magnum P.I. just to name a few shows. Ivan was also a director, and won an Emmy Award for his role in The Final War of Olly Winter.
Robert Clary as Cpl. Louis LeBeau
Robert Clary is an actor from France and he is also an author. He is one of the only surviving members from Hogan’s Heroes. He actually spent time in a concentration camp in the ’40s before the concentration camp was liberated on April 11, 1945. Clary was also a musician and was well known in France as well as the United States before he became an actor. Clary played the role of Cpl. Louis LeBeau, a French Air Force corporal who would refer to the Nazis as “pigs” on the show.
Robert Clary made his last appearance as an actor in a short film named Matisse & Picasso: A Gentle Rivalry. He is still alive and kicking today.
Richard Dawson as Cpl. Peter Newkirk
Richard Dawson (November 20, 1932 – June 2, 2012) was an actor, game show host, and comedian who played the role of Cpl. Peter Newkirk. As Cpl. Newkirk he was the magician, tailor, safecracker, pickpocket, and many other things. He also did impersonations of people that included Adolph Hitler and Winston Churchill. He also wore women’s clothing in order to trick the German army.
Richard Dawson was perhaps equally well-known for being the first host of the game show Family Feud. Richard Dawson also appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In for five seasons. Dawson is also well-known for playing the role of Damon Killian in the 1987 film Running Man.
The Heroes Almost Ended up in an American Prison
If you are thinking that all of the actors were going to end up in an actual prison, then you are only halfway correct.
Albert S. Ruddy had an idea while he was creating the series to have the show set in an actual American prison. Some things seem like a good idea, but in reality, maybe not. Albert Ruddy found out that another show developed by NBC named Campo 44 was in development and it was to be filmed in an Italian jail. Ruddy then decided to change the script and scrapped all plans of having Hogan’s Heroes set in an American Jail and went along with the WWII setting based on Nazi Germany.
Bob Crane Wanted Real Veterans to Play the Cast
Bob Crane was a member of the United States Air Force and was a veteran himself. He wanted to give recognition to his fellow veterans by having real life veterans on the show.
Bob Crane insisted that anyone who was a veteran in the world wars that occurred before the program went on air approved of Hogan’s Heroes before signing up for the show. Bob Crane went as far as to have veterans look at the trailer of the show before deciding to sign up for the show. Bob also gave his time to support the troops and he wanted to give back to his brothers who serve in the armed forces.
Jews Played Roles that you Might Not Believe on Hogan’s Heroes
With any television series there are several twists involved with the casting or the story line as a whole. A lot of people may find this to be very strange, but the actors who played the four main German characters in Hogan’s Heroes were actually all of Jewish descent. This story gets even more interesting as it pertains to the actors.
Werner Klemperer, who played the role of Col. Wilhelm Klink, and John Banner, the actor who played the role of Hans Schultz, fled from the persecution of Nazi Germany during World War II. Actor Robert Clary and his family were actually in a concentration camp.
Richard Dawson Had an Itch to Use a Liverpool Accent
Richard Dawson was an actor who was of British descent. You may have never heard him speak in a British accent, but he would definitely know how to speak with a British accent. Dawson had an inclination to use a British accent, mainly a Liverpool accent.
Before Hogan’s Heroes went on the air, Richard Dawson wanted to get the role of Robert Hogan. Dawson did not get the role of Hogan because he could not pull off an American accent. He was then given the role of Cpl. Newkirk. Dawson tried to use the Liverpudlian accent for the Newkirk character. According to the network, no one could understand what he was saying, and so they went with a Cockney dialect and it stuck.
Sing Along with the Theme Song
Most shows from the past were known for their catchy theme songs. Some theme songs had lyrics and some did not. Some people may remember the theme songs from such shows as All in the Family, including the lyrics, and also I Dream of Jeannie, which did not have lyrics. Hogan’s Heroes has a theme song with a catchy tune, but there is a back story to the theme song.
Many people may not know that the Hogan’s Heroes’ theme song has lyrics. The lyrics are:
“Heroes, heroes, husky men of war, Sons of all the heroes, of the war before. We’re all heroes up to our ear-o’s You ask questions, We make suggestions, That’s what we’re heroes for.”
The Story Behind the Show’s Tagline
Comedy in any aspect can be used to lighten any serious mood or subject. Such is the case of Hogan’s Heroes. The show made light of the seriousness of World War II. Along with the humor that came along with the show, there had to be a humorous tagline to go along with it as well.
The tagline that was suggested for the show was created by author and comedian Stan Freberg. The tagline was “If you liked World War II, you’ll love Hogan’s Heroes!” Bob Crane expressed his displeasure of the tagline by saying “No, let’s not say that, no.”
Klink Plays the Violin in Real Life
One of the running gags on the show had Klink playing a horrible rendition of the violin. This gag was used regularly as comedy. He would play the violin until it made someone sick to their stomach.
Sometimes talent runs in a family and the progenitors get those talent genes so to speak. In actuality, Hogan’s Heroes actor Werner Klemperer was an accomplished violinist and pianist. Some people like to display their extra talents on a show to add depth to their character. He probably got this talent from his father Otto Klemperer who was an accomplished composer and a well-known 20th-century German composer.
Things Could Have Gotten Steamy on the Set of Hogan’s Heroes
Not steamy in the sense of a romantic encounter on the set or anything like that, but the use of actual steam could have probably been used in the show. The prison camp that the show was based was called Stalag 13. There were all sorts of long tunnels and also trap doors. The Germans on the show wanted their prisoners to have a nasty stay and escape was not an option.
The original Stalag 13 idea came complete with a steam room. The producers thought that the steam room idea was a little over the heads of people and the idea was abandoned soon afterward.
The Show Did Not Jump the Shark, It Got “The Rural Purge”
Most shows that are on television have one really bad episode throughout an entire run. That one episode can cost everything. On Happy Days there was an episode where the Fonz literally jumped over a shark while being pulled by a boat. Happy Days became sad days and the series started to falter off of “jumping the shark” hence the name.
Hogan’s Heroes was definitely around before Happy Days, and so this show did not even have the term “jumping the shark.” The show encountered what is called the “rural purge.” This is where rural based television shows such as Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies came along and captured the audience’s interest more than your average war-based television series.
Klemperer Only Played the Role of Klink Under One Condition
Before Werner Klemperer signed on to play the role of Col. Klink, he had some exposure to the actual Nazi climate that was occurring from his homeland of Germany. Those images were more than likely very painful to conjure up and left some shattering memories of his homeland, especially being of Jewish heritage at that time in that hostile environment.
From the beginning of the show, Werner Klemperer gave an ultimatum to the producers as it related to the Col. Klink character. Klemperer agreed to play the role of Klink if and only if Klink never succeeded in his schemes. So long as the show ran, Klink never, ever succeeded in any of his schemes.
Richard Dawson Went Into Hiding
There comes a time in a celebrity’s life that one must simply go into hiding. Sometimes the pressure may be overwhelming. They are constantly in the spotlight, even when they are minding their own business. The paparazzi could come out at any time and start snapping those photos for a photo op. Someone could point you out in public and all of a sudden you have fans surrounding you wanting an autograph.
This is probably what happened to Richard Dawson. Dawson remained in his Beverly Hills home for a majority of the time. His fame from Family Feud is probably what did it since Family Feud is still in existence today. He was the original game show host. I’m sure no one can say “survey says!” like Richard did.
The Ladies of Hogan’s Heroes
Actresses were outnumbered by actors on Hogan’s Heroes. Nita Talbot was one of the female cast members. She played Marya, a “White Russian” spy. For her performance on the 1967-1968 season of the show, Talbot received an Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Another of the show’s actresses was Arlene Martel. Martel, who also made appearances on Bewitched, Twilight Zone, and Gunsmoke, portrayed a lovely French Underground contact (and love interest of Hogan) on Hogan’s Heroes. He rescued her from the Gestapo twice on the show. Both women are pictured above with Bob Crane.
Hogan’s Heroes Was Popular in Germany
This show put a spin on the seriousness of Nazi Germany in World War II with a comedic twist. The twist seemed to fare well with the folks over in Germany. The whole stigma surrounding the country might have been broken when this show appeared in Germany, perhaps due to the comedic aspect of the show.
When Hogan’s Heroes went into syndication in Germany, it was received as a very positive thing. The title went through a change among the German audience. Instead of being called Hogan’s Heroes, they dubbed it Ein Käfig voller Helden, which translated means “A Cage Full of Heroes.”
I Never Knew There Was a Hogan’s Heroes Comic Book
Most comic book characters end up appearing on television due to the comic book aspect. Shows such as Batman, not the recent Batman movies but the silly and campy Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward from the ’60s started with the comic book. There was somewhat of a reverse with Hogan’s Heroes.
The show was so popular that it spawned a comic book. The Hogan’s Heroes comic book came out during the golden age of comic books. There were nine comic books based on the Hogan’s Heroes show that came out between 1969 and 1973. A person can find these comic books mainly on Ebay. The ones in mint condition sell for around $15 to $20.
Larry Hovis As Sgt. Andrew Carter
Hovis played the role of Andrew Carter, a United States Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant. He was responsible for bomb-making and renowned for his chemistry skills and the intricate explosive devices he crafted. While he was brilliant, he was also a bumbling idiot who often forgot what he was mixing together, which caused a fair number of accidental explosions.
Hovis continued to act until 2002, when he appeared in his final role as a doctor in Lone Star State of Mind. From 1971 to 1972 he appeared in a few dozen episodes of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”. Hovis passed away in 2003.
Kenneth Washington As Sgt. Richard Baker
Kenneth Washington played the role of Sergeant Richard Baker. He joined the cast after Dixon made his exit from the show at the end of the fifth season. He was another African-American radio expert who led the underground communications center. Much like Kinchloe, he was well-liked and trusted by Col. Hogan. Washington is one of only two living cast members remaining in 2016, along with Robert Clary.
Much like his co-stars, Washington continued to stick to his TV roles in the years following the show’s finale. He appeared in several episodes of “Police Story” from 1974-1977 and made guest appearances on various shows and TV movies including “A Different World” in 1989. That would mark his last acting gig.
General Burkhalter’s Mercedes Was One Of Only Three In Existence
General Burkhalter rolled around camp is a very flashy Mercedes-Benz W31. Only 57 of the black and gray convertibles were ever produced. Fifty-four of those were destroyed after the war. One was owned by the Spanish monarchy, and the other was turned into a fire engine.
The Mercedes-Benz W31s were mainly used by the senior members of the Nazi party for events such as parades and inspections. They were far too expensive for general use.
A Hogan’s Heroes Album Was Released And Featured WWII Songs Sung By The Cast
Many fans may not be aware that an album was released which features WWII songs being sung by Clary, Dawson, Carter, and Kinchloe. The foursome sang some of the most popular songs from the 1940s. In the liner notes they wrote: “Would you believe World War II was funny?”
Another fun musical fact: in 1990 an American punk rock band called Hogan’s Heroes released their second album, also called “Hogan’s Heroes.”
Bob Crane Married Klink’s Secretary
Bob Crane married his second wife after meeting her on the set of the TV series. He married Patricia Olson, whose stage name was Sigrid Valdis and who played Colonel Klink’s secretary Hilda from seasons two through six.
The two were married on October 16, 1970, on the show’s set. After Crane was murdered in 1978, Valdis moved away from Los Angeles. In 1998, she joined their son’s syndicated weekly sketch comedy radio show, titled Shaken, Not Stirred. She passed away in 2007.
The Hogan’s Heroes Set Blew Up
The popular TV series was filmed at the Desilu Productions’ RKO Forty Acres backlot. After filming had completed on the series, the 1974 exploitation film Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS took its place and the set was destroyed by an explosion.
“Hogan’s” producers didn’t mind the explosion, as it saved them the cost of demolishing the set. Today, the site is home to a gym, a furniture store, and corporate offices for Beats by Dre headphones.
To avoid any continuity issues the show’s creators decided from the start that there would always be snow on the ground and roofs, and frost on the windows. That meant the actors had to film with scarves and winter coats, even when it was 90 degrees outside!
Most of the show’s scenes were filmed during the hottest summer months. It paid off, as the result was that episodes could be shown in any order
Bob Crane’s Jacket Has An Interesting Story
Bob Crane wore a very famous leather jacket on the set of “Hogan’s Heroes.” It was the same coat worn by Frank Sinatra during the filming of Von Ryan’s Express. That same coat almost made an appearance in 2002 when it was worn by actor Greg Kinnear in the movie Auto Focus.
The brown leather bomber jacket was put up for sale at a Christie’s Pop Culture auction in 2009. Years later, the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio, acquired Crane’s iconic jacket. It can be viewed there today.
Character Backgrounds Make All The Difference
Here’s are some interesting tidbits about two of the show’s main characters. Before he joined the war, Sergeant Schultz was in the toy business. He apparently served as the president of a successful manufacturing company called Schatze Toy.
Colonel Klink led a pretty boring non-war job existence, serving his time as a bookkeeper. He was also a parking lot attendant for a time. You just never know what people were doing before called to war.
The Wedding Ring That Remained Hidden
Actor Larry Hovis must have been madly in love with his wife. Throughout the entire TV series, he refused to ever take off his wedding ring. To avoid showing that his character (Sergeant Carter) was married in real life, he decided to wear gloves and otherwise cover up his ring finger for most of his performances.
Hovis was married to Ann Corrigan from 1955 until her death in 1995. He passed away in 2003.
Day For Night Shooting
Apparently, there were not a lot of night owls in this crowd. The show’s directors used something called a “Day for Night” filter on their cameras. That filter allows for day shoots to look like night. That type of filter made it easy to shoot whatever type of scene was required at any time of the day.
It was also cost-effective to shoot this way, since daytime filming is generally more convenient for the cast and crew.
An Actor Dropped Out When He Found Out The Show Was A Comedy
The pilot for the show included a Russian character played by Leonid Kinskey, who is best known for playing Sascha in the 1942 film Casablanca. He decided to drop out of the series when he realized it was a comedy that starred Nazi characters.
He “was uncomfortable playing let’s-pretend with people in Nazi garb,” according to AV Club. This wasn’t the end of Kinskey’s acting career, though, as he went on to appear on other television shows such as Mayberry R.F.D. He died in 1998.
Two Actors Appeared In All 168 Episodes
Only two Hogan’s Heroes actors appeared in all 168 episodes. Bob Crane, who played American Colonel Robert Hogan, and Werner Klemperer, who portrayed German Colonel Wilhelm Klink, were the only regulars who managed to show up in every episode of the popular series.
They were not surprisingly also the show’s biggest stars and lynchpins for most of its plotlines. Their absence from any episodes would surely have been noticed immediately by fans!
The Wrong Weapon Was Carried By German Soldiers
The devil is in the details. If you look closely you will notice that the rifle carried by Sargeant Hands Schultz and most of his German guards at Luft Stalag 13, was the U.S. military issued Krag Jorgensen.
In reality, German soldiers carried the Mauser K98. It was likely substituted because the Krag Jorgensen rifle was easy to find in U.S. surplus stores, whereas the Mauser would have been a tougher find.
How Did They Make The Snow?
As discussed earlier, the set of Hogan’s Heroes was made to look like it was always winter — there was snow on the ground and building roofs, and frost on the windows. The set designers created the illusion of snow two ways.
The snow during the first several seasons was made out of salt. By the time the fourth season rolled around the show’s producers found a more permanent solution, using white paint to give the illusion of snow. By the sixth season, most of the snow seen on the set was made out of paint.
Bob Crane On The Drums
The multi-talented Bob Crane provided the drums on the theme song for Hogan’s Heroes. He was a talented drummer who even showed off his formidable skills on the third episode which was titled “Flight of the Valkyrie”, and in the season six episode titled “Look at the Pretty Snowflakes.”
Crane loved playing the drums and brought his kit wherever he went, including to the Hogan’s Heroes set and during promotional tours.
Full Names Only
Two characters on Hogan’s Heroes were always referred to by their full names. Those characters were Sergeant Richard Baker, played by actor Kenneth Washington, and Sergeant James ‘Kinch’ Kinchloe, who was portrayed by Ivan Dixon.
The rest of the characters were referred to by either of their names (first or last) throughout the series. Washington went on to play Officer Miller on the cop show Adam-12, and Dixon continued to the TV film The Final War of Olly Winter.
All LeBeau’s Different Jobs
While it was eventually revealed that Corporal Louis LeBeau was a chef prior to his time at the prison, he made a lot of claims about his past work. He claimed to be a chemist, then a dance instructor, dress designer, and even an art student.
LeBeau claimed fake jobs to trick the German soldiers. He also revealed that his father owned a paint store and worked in a railroad yard.
The Show Shared A Connection With M*A*S*H
As Hogan’s Heroes became popular around the world (especially Germany) during syndication, it had to be translated into each country’s language. Many of the same voice actors who dubbed the popular war-time TV show M*A*S*H were used to dub Hogan’s Heroes.
Here’s a challenge for serious fans of the shows: watch both of them in German and see if you can figure out which voices carried over for both M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes.
The Hogan’s Heroes Book
Author Brenda Scott Royce release a tell-all book about the TV series in 2013, titled Hogan’s Heroes: Behind the Scenes at Stalag 13. The book’s jacket reads: “if your fondest TV memories involve the POWs of Stalag 13 cleverly outwitting their captors, Schultz stammering ‘I know nothing!’ and Hochstetter threatening to send everyone to the Russian front, then this is the book for you.”
Fortunately for fans, the tell-all is available for purchase online.