Remember the 60s CBS sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” which left viewers laughing their heads off as they watched the inmates of a Stalag (German prisoner-of-war camp) planning to create havoc directly in front of their Nazi commandants?
Surely, the brutality of WWII is a serious matter that shouldn’t be joked about. However, “Hogan’s Heroes” was a huge success as the quirky comedy series looked at the lighter side of World War II, portraying the Nazis as bumbling fools, making fun of their silliness.
Here, we reminisce on one of America’s favorite television sitcoms by listing 10 facts about “Hogan’s Heroes” that you probably weren’t aware of.
Check out the cast of the beloved sitcom having fun on the set of Stalag 13!
1. The show was originally set in an American jail
Albert S. Ruddy, who created “Hogan’s Heroes” with Bernard Fein, set the sitcom in an American jail in the beginning but changed it to a WWII setting when he learned that NBC was putting together “Campo 44”—a show set in an Italian WWII prison camp.
Ruddy claimed he used less than a day to rewrite the script as there were no major changes to the plot.
Why was Hogan’s Heroes such a success? It came 20 years after the war at a time when the men who fought in the war were mostly in their forties and fifties. Those men were fully aware of the horrors of WWII.
2. The comedy series received 12 Emmy nominations
“Hogan’s Heroes,” which ran for more than five years from Sept. 17, 1965, to April 4, 1971, producing 168 episodes, was rated amongst the top 10 shows during its first season.
The sitcom was also nominated for 12 Emmy Awards, where Werner Klemperer’s portrayal as clumsy and inept Colonel Klink—the commandant of the POW camp—won him the best supporting actor in 1968 and 1969.
Frankly, it's surprising that Werner Klemperer's monocle does not once pop out of his eye socket!
3. Richard Dawson originally auditioned for the role of Colonel Hogan
Richard Dawson originally tried out the role of Colonel Hogan—the wise leader of the Allied soldiers in the POW camp—but was given the role of Corporal Newkirk instead because the English-born actor couldn’t pull off an American accent.
Dawson said in an interview that he initially performed Corporal Newkirk with a Liverpool accent but was told by Mike Dann (the then-president of CBS) to say his lines in a Cockney accent, which was something more familiar to the American TV viewers.
Let's take a look at the Hogan's Heroes that might have been, had the casting gone a different way.
4. Jewish actors took on the roles of the four German characters in the comedy
Actors Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Leon Askin, and Howard Caine, who played Colonel Klink, Sergeant Schultz, General Burkhalter, and Gestapo major Hochstetter respectively, were all Jewish.
All of them except Howard Caine escaped the persecution of Nazi Germany during WWII. Caine was an American Jew from Nashville who served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during WWII.
5. Robert Clary, who played Corporal Louis LeBeau, was a Holocaust survivor
Robert Clary, the last surviving original principal cast member of the show, has actually gone through the horror of the Holocaust. As a Jewish born in Paris to a family of 14 children, he was tattooed with the identification “A5714” on his left forearm by the Nazis and deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1942.
Having been singing professionally on French radio since the age of 12, he sang for the SS soldiers at Nazi concentration camps every other Sunday alongside another inmate, who played the accordion.
Clary and three of his siblings survived the Holocaust. His parents and his other siblings all lost their lives at Auschwitz.
6. The show’s tagline was “If you liked World War II, you’ll love ‘Hogan’s Heroes!'”
“If you liked World War II, you’ll love ‘Hogan’s Heroes!’” was coined by comedian and author Stan Freberg during an interview with Bob Crane, published in The Sunday Times, on Sept. 19, 1965.
Though Crane disapproved of it, saying “No, let’s not say that, no,” it eventually became the tagline of the comedy.
Of course, one of the rare, open-top, three-axle cars ended up in Hollywood. On 'Hogan's Heroes.'
7. The convertible used by General Burkhalter was one of the three remaining
The showy Mercedes-Benz W31 that General Burkhalter rode in as he traveled to the camp was actually one of the three black-and-gray convertibles in existence after the war.
The Mercedes-Benz W31 was mainly used by the upper echelons of the Nazi party during parades and inspections. Out of the 57 Mercedes-Benz W31 that were produced, only three remained—one was converted to a fire engine, the Spanish monarchy kept another one, and the last one arrived at Hollywood.
8. Colonel Klink was a trained violinist in real life
In one funny gag, Colonel Klink played the violin so badly that Colonel Hogan couldn’t help covering his ears from the sound.
In reality, Werner Klemperer, who acted as Colonel Klink, was born to a family of musicians.
His father, Otto Klemperer, was a well-known conductor and composer, and his mother, Johanna Geisler, was a soprano. While serving with the U.S. Army Special Entertainment Division during WWII, he toured the Pacific, playing the violin to entertain servicemen.
Did you follow along through all six seasons of Hogan's Heroes? Then the time has come to match wits with one of your favorite shows.
9. The set was destroyed during the filming of “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS”
After the long-running show came to an end in 1971, the set remained standing and was utilized by the producers of the movie “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS” for its filming in 1974. The set ended up being blown up during the making of “Ilsa’s” final scene.
“Hogan’s” producers were all right with it because it saved them the cost of having the set demolished.
10. Werner Klemperer accepted the role of Colonel Klink under one condition
Having fled to the United States from Germany because of his Jewish heritage, Werner Klemperer agreed to play a German officer during the Nazi regime on one condition—Colonel Klink was a fool who never succeeded in any of his plots.
In September of 1965, television took its first visit to Stalag 13. Happy 50th Anniversary to Hogan's Heroes from MeTV!…
Watch the video below:
TODAY IN TV HISTORY: 11/16/1968 – The 100th episode of Hogan's Heroes aired. #TVHistory
Posted by Museum of Broadcast Communications on Wednesday, November 16, 2016