Hogan’s Heroes: Overview and The Heroes

We’re just about a week away from starting my episode-by-episode look at the TV series Hogan’s Heroes, a sitcom that ran from 1965 to 1971 (and has been rerun countless times in syndication, including currently on MeTV with back-to-back episodes at 10 PM ET weeknights). It’s about an espionage and sabotage unit that operates out of Stalag 13, a Luftwaffe POW camp in Germany during World War II. A third task of the heroes is to assist POW’s who have escaped from other stalags to get out of Germany and back to their units.

Stalag 13’s kommandant is Col. Wilhelm Klink, a vain and incompetent career officer in the Luftwaffe. He’s from an aristocratic Prussian family and fancies himself a great violinist and a suave and debonair ladies’ man who bemoans the fact that he is so attractive to women. He will tell everyone he meets that "there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13!" never realizing that’s because Hogan doesn’t allow it. His obese and lazy Sergeant of the Guard is Hans Schultz, who was a decorated soldier during World War I who then started the Schatzi Toy Company and was perfectly happy making toys when the Third Reich took over his factory and reinducted him into the service. Schultz will often catch glimpses of Hogan’s extracurricular activities and threaten to report them to Klink, only to be convinced by Hogan that doing so will result in nothing but trouble for him (Schultz), at which point Schultz will begin to parrot his catchphrase, "I know NOTHING!" We’ll talk more about Klink, Schultz, and the other Germans in the next installment.

Col. Robert Hogan, USAAF (played by Bob Crane) is the senior POW officer at Stalag 13. I did a detailed character sketch of Hogan a few years ago, and that will give you a lot of background on him and some information about the others. So, let’s talk about the other members of the crew.

  • Corporal Louis LeBeau (played by Robert Clary) was with the Free French Air Force when he was captured. Short in stature but fiercely patriotic, LeBeau is a gourmet chef who is often pressed into service by Klink to prepare meals for his dinner parties when he’s looking to impress some German general. LeBeau goes along, knowing that other members of the crew are rifling through the generals’ briefcases for intelligence that can be passed on to Allied headquarters in London. Schultz loves LeBeau’s cooking, which keeps him in the kitchen with LeBeau during these parties (and thus occupied while the others are busy elsewhere). LeBeau has trained the guard dogs to be friendly to the prisoners and their "visitors," and uses a tunnel built under their kennel to admit the visitors. The tunnel system will be discussed in a future segment.

  • Corporal Peter Newkirk, RAF (played by Richard Dawson) is, among other things, a conman, safe cracker, forger, pickpocket, lock picker, and card sharp, all of which come in handy at one point or another. He’s also an expert tailor and makes the German uniforms that he and the other crew members wear on some of their missions. He’s a master of disguise, and frequently dresses as an elderly woman to carry out a mission. He also does expert imitations of German officers’ voices.

  • Staff Sergeant James "Kinch" Kinchloe, USAAF (played by Ivan Dixon) is the crew’s radioman and electronics expert. Kinch operates the radio and communicates by voice and Morse code with the Underground and Allied command. He also has wired Klink’s office and set up a speaker in the coffeepot in Col. Hogan’s quarters, and has set up a switchboard through which calls from Klink’s office are diverted. Since he’s Black (Dixon was one of the first Black series regulars on TV), he doesn’t usually leave the camp disguised as a German soldier (though it has happened), but there have been times where his race was an advantage. Dixon left the series after Season 5 and was replaced by Kenneth Washington as Sgt. Richard Baker. It was never explained what happened to Kinch.

  • Technical Sergeant Andrew Carter, USAAF (played by Larry Hovis) is an explosives and demolition expert who had been a bombardier when he was captured. Carter really likes to make things blow up and has a lab in the tunnel in which he concocts explosive materials. Carter is affable and a bit naïve: he comes from a small town and worked in a drug store before he joined the Army. There are times when some of the smaller details of life need to be explained to him. Carter is the member of the crew most likely to be found in a German uniform, usually that of a general or field marshall, one time even posing as Adolf Hitler, to whom he bears a resemblance.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the German regulars. See you then!

Weekly Song Challenge, Week 24

Here we go again with Mary B’s Weekly Song Challenge! She wants ’em, I got ’em (songs, that is).

A Song with Brother or Sister in the title: Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, "Tell It All, Brother"

A Song with a Natural Disaster in the title: Fran DeLima, "The Tsunami Song" (novelty song based on "We Didn’t Start The Fire")

A Song written or produced by Mutt Lange: Britney Spears, "Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know" (written by Lange, Shania Twain, and Keith Scott, produced by Lange)

Them’s the tunes, and I am outta here…

Song of the Day: Andy Williams, “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story”

Author and screenwriter Erich Segal would be 84 today (he died in 2010). Segal’s best-known work was 1970’s Love Story, which was later turned into a movie starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal. The theme song for the movie was written by Francis Lai and was recorded as an instrumental because Paramount Pictures didn’t like the original lyrics. Carl Sigman wrote a new set of lyrics and the song was released by Andy Williams in 1971. It reached #1 on the Easy Listening chart and #9 on the Hot 100.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Harlem Nocturne”

I’ve always wanted to play saxophone. I’d heard it in jazz, blues, and rock, three kinds of music that I really liked, and thought that, of all the wind instruments, it would be the easiest and would blend well with other instruments. The big question for me was, what kind would be the best? They come in soprano, alto, tenor and baritone (there are many more, but those are the most common), but for most kinds of music, alto and tenor were probably the most flexible. A lot of the jazz players I heard, like Bud Shank, Phil Woods, and Paul Desmond, played alto, while the rock and blues players, like Eddie Shaw, A. C. Reed, and King Curtis, preferred the tenor. Fred Lipsius of Blood Sweat & Tears played the alto, while Walt Parazaider from Chicago primarily played tenor.

Anyway, that was part of the reason I never ended up picking either. I still love the sound, though, which is part of the reason I decided to run this Battle. The song is "Harlem Nocturne," written by Earle Hagen, who has written some pretty famous TV themes, including those for The Andy Griffith Show and Mod Squad. I’ve chosen versions played on the alto and the tenor. Give them both a listen.

Bud Shank: Bud played the version used as the theme song for Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.

Illinois Jacquet: Jacquet is best known for the solo on "Flying Home," generally regarded as the first R&B solo.

Those are the contestants. Here are your instructions:

  1. Listen to the two songs.
  2. Decide which song you like the best.
  3. Vote for your favorite by leaving me a comment with your choice. If you feel like telling us why, feel free.
  4. Then, visit the other participants and vote in their Battles:

I’ll count the votes and announce the winner next Tuesday, June 22, so be sure and get me your choice by then.

The lines are now open. Good luck to Bud and Illinois!