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Hogan's Heroes

By Robert Burns Neveldine/Tom Keough

Hogan's Heroes was a hit from the beginning of its televised run, from the fall of 1965 through the spring of 1971.  Two years after 1963's The Great Escape thrilled movie audiences with a tale of Allied soldiers working cooperatively to flee a World War II-era prisoner-of-war camp, CBS found a hit situation comedy in the loosely similar Hogan's Heroes.

Initially dismissed by critics as being in poor taste, the half-hour show starred Bob Crane (previously known for a supporting role on The Donna Reed Show) as Colonel Robert Hogan, leader of a resourceful band of French, British and American guests of the German Luftwaffe. Rather than sit out the war with his fellow captives, Hogan essentially used the POW camp, Stalag 13, as a base for sabotaging Nazi operations whenever possible, helping important prisoners escape, supporting the Resistance, gathering intelligence for the Allies, and generally screwing up enemy battlefield plans. The work was always dangerous, but Hogan's crew had a number of advantages: a network of underground tunnels beneath the camp (some leading to a nearby town), a flair for disguises, the complementary talents of Hogan's key staff, and the reliable idiocy of camp Commandant Klink (Werner Klemperer) and willful ignorance of lead officer Sergeant Schultz (John Banner).

Season one of Hogan's Heroes found all of these elements securely in place and the series balancing farce with suspense. Typical storylines include "Hold the Tiger," in which the boys smuggle a new German Tiger Tank into the camp, disassemble it to construct a blueprint, and then reassemble it under Klink's nose. "The Prisoner's Prisoner" finds Hogan kidnapping a Nazi general, sneaking him into Stalag 13, and tricking him—a la Mission: Impossible--to reveal troop plans. In "The Prince from the Phone Company," one of Hogan's most-trusted confederates, radio operator Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon), disguises himself as an African prince trying to secure money from the Third Reich. Half the fun of these shows is watching Hogan thinking quickly on his feet whenever things start to go wrong, or when one of Klink's more intelligent superiors becomes suspicious that not everything at Stalag 13 is as under control as it seems. Besides Dixon, the other players making up Hogan's elite squad include Richard Dawson as the slightly disreputable Newkirk (with a talent for thievery), Larry Hovis as chemistry whiz Carter, and Robert Clary as the charming LeBeau.

All of the denizens of Stalag 13 are present and accounted for: the smirking Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane), commanding officer of the POWs; his German counterpart, the ineffectual, easily flattered (and distracted) Colonel Wilhelm Klink (Werner Klemperer, son of the famous conductor); the bumbling, easily bribed Sergeant of the Guard Hans "I see nussink!" Schultz (John Banner); and Hogan's multinational, multi-ethnic group of heroes: Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon), American radio expert; Sergeant Andrew Carter (Larry Hovis), a dimwitted American nevertheless good with munitions; Corporal Peter Newkirk (Richard Dawson), a British pickpocket and vaudeville performer; and Corporal Louis LeBeau (Robert Clary), a French cook and tailor. (In the pilot, we even get a glimpse of a short-lived Russian character, Sam, whose tailoring duties were taken over by LeBeau.) Filling the remaining American, German, and British roles are a number of character actors, such as Leon Askin, Howard Caine, Bernard Fox, and Sigrid Valdis (erstwhile wife of Crane, and one of Klink's two voluptuous secretaries).

All the set props familiar to baby boomers--the tunnel entrance under the cot, the coffee-pot tap into Klink's office, the hidden periscopes and prisoner-friendly dogs--decorate a consistent narrative from episode to episode: the heroes must pull off an operation that places them in danger, return in time for roll call, and allow Hogan one final, wisecracking conference with Klink. High points of these six shows include the abortive replacement of Hogan by pompous Colonel Crittendon (Fox) and Hovis's hilarious impersonation of Hitler. Although as thoroughly American as a Mae West, Hogan's Heroes embodies the countercultural spirit of its times, and wittily humanizes friends and foes alike.

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Hogan's Heroes is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One, Season Two

 

Share Your Memories In Our Forums!

Check out our Hogan's Heroes forum! Do you have a favorite episode of the show? What do you remember about the series? Do you have any questions about it or its stars? Now you can post comments and questions directly to our TV forums! Click here to see what other Hogan's Heroes viewers have said or to post your own comments about the show!

Your Memories Shared!

One of my favorite episodes was when Carter impersonated Hitler. For the most part Carter was portrayed as a dim wit. But then during the course of the show he would be given such demanding missions like the Hitler episode, which would always leave you wondering. Was Carter as big a dim wit as he acted or was that just a front as well? Either way it makes Carter one of the most interesting characters of this show.

--Corybug

Note: This is just a random sample of the Hogan's Heroes messages in our TV forums! Click here to see what others have said or to post your own comments!

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 17, 1965 - July 4, 1971

Cast: Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Ivan Dixon, Larry Hovis, Robert Clary, Richard Dawson

Network: CBS

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Image courtesy of CBS


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Use of this site is subject to our Terms of Service.
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