What happened to the cast of Hogan’s Heroes?

Detail from the gravestone of Bob Crane and Sigrid Valdis (photo by Alan Light - CC-BY)

Hogan’s Heroes was a sitcom that aired from 1965 to 1971. It was set in a WW2 German POW camp, where the American POW Colonel Hogan led a group of Allied prisoners in an ongoing series of escapades against the Germans. Colonel Klink, the camp commandant, together with Sergeant Schultz, tried to maintain order but were constantly undermined and outwitted.

Bob Crane played Robert Hogan, a US Army Air Corps Colonel and natural leader of the band of Allied prisoners. He had worked as a DJ before moving into acting (he also drummed for the Hogan’s Heroes theme music). After the show’s demise he gained a smattering of roles on TV, plus the title role in the 1973 movie Superdad. He also purchased, directed, and starred in the play Beginner’s Luck. He tried his own show, The Bob Crane Show, which rated poorly and was soon cancelled.

Bob Crane was murdered. His body was discovered bludgeoned to death on June 29, 1978 at the age of 49. Crane’s friend of some years, John Henry Carpenter, was tried for the murder but acquitted. Crane’s murder remains unsolved. Bob Crane was buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Ivan Dixon played Ivan “Kinch” Kinchloe, second-in-command to Colonel Hogan and a communications specialist. After Hogan’s Heroes, Dixon occasionally acted but mostly directed TV shows. He also directed the 1973 film The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which was controversial for its depiction of black anger (Dixon himself was black). He owned and operated radio station KONI-FM in Maui. Dixon died in 2008 at age 76 from kidney failure.

Dixon left Hogan’s Heroes before the series ended, and was replaced for the final season by Kenneth Washington (another black man) who played Sgt Richard Baker, also a communications officer. Washington played a technician in the 1973 movie Westworld, and appeared in a handful of TV shows in the early 1980s. He is presumably still living, and would be aged 65 (as at February 2012).

Technical Sergeant Carter was the explosives expert, played by Larry Hovis, who appeared concurrently in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. After the cancellation of Hogan’s Heroes, Hovis appeared in and produced game shows, acted in the touring musical Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and taught drama at Texas State University, San Marcos. He died in 2003 of esophageal cancer, at age 67.

Robert Clary played the french chef Le Beau, and was rarely seen on the show without his scarf. Clary had real-life POW experience. During World War II, he had been interred for three years in four different Nazi concentration camps. He was liberated, but twelve members of his immediate family were killed at Auschwitz. After Hogan’s Heroes, he starred in a variety of films with WWII themes, and also in the sitcoms Days of our Lives and The Young and the Restless (as Pierre Roulland).

As of February 2012, Clary is alive, aged 85. Robert Clary’s official website sells autographed books and CDs, and showcases his impressive paintings.

Richard Dawson played the scoundrel Peter Newkirk. He had a varied acting career after Hogan’s Heroes, including as game show host, where he gained a reputation for kissing all of the ladies. Dawson died in 2012 from esophageal cancer.

Colonel Klink, the vain and incompetent Nazi commandant, was played by Werner Klemperer. Klemperer was born in Germany and moved to the US in 1935, where he studied acting. During World War II he toured the Pacific providing entertainment to troops stationed abroad. He met his wife, actress Louise Troy, when she appeared as a guest on Hogan’s Heroes (they divorced in 1975).

After Hogan’s Heroes, Klemperer acted in musicals and operas, being nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in Cabaret. He occasionally made guest appearences on TV, including as his old character Colonel Klink in The Simpsons. Klemperer died in 2000 of cancer, at age 80. His ashes were scattered at sea.

Klink’s sexy secretary, Hilda was played by Sigrid Valdis, who married Bob Crane (on the Hogan’s Heroes set) in 1970. She did not act again after Crane’s murder, although 20 years later she appeared in Shaken, Not Stirred, her son’s radio comedy show. For a while she maintained a Bob Crane tribute website. Valdis died in 2007 from lung cancer, at 72. She was buried with Bob Crane at Westwood Memorial Park.

Klink’s underling was the clumsy and overweight Sgt Schulz, played by John Banner. His catchphrase on the show was “I know nothing!”, said while turning a blind eye to any behavior by the allied POWs that could get him into trouble. Banner was born in Vienna, and emigrated to the United States after Hitler annexed Austria. He had been acting in Switzerland at the time, but his family members in Vienna were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

After the show, Banner appeared in an episode of The Partridge Family, and starred as a gangster in The Chicago Teddy Bears, before retiring to France. He died in 1973, on his 63rd birthday, from an abdominal hemorrhage. He is buried at a cemetery in Mauer, Vienna.

(Updated July 2012)

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