Monday, March 7, 2016

'I Know Nothing!' Sergeant Schultz — Sidekick to Colonel Klink



It's a cold winter day in Germany. The year, 1942. The place, Stalag 13, a prisoner of war camp located deep within Nazi territory during the height of World War II. Colonel Robert E. Hogan and his men, all Allied prisoners of war, are actually spies, working for London and the underground, and calling Stalag 13 their home base of operation. Their warden, the monocled and unsuspecting Luftwaffe Colonel Wilhelm Klink, who might be considered one of the biggest fools in all of Germany. And never far behind Klink, Sergeant Hans Schultz, holding his rifle awkwardly in one hand and a piece of chocolate in the other. Like a faithful German Shepherd, Schultz sticks to his commanding officer like glue, and while he often rolls his eyes in Klink's direction, he will also assist him in various schemes and protect him (or at least try to) should the situation call for it.

It's difficult—and sometimes impossible—to imagine our favorite characters without their trusty sidekick. From Batman and Robin, to The Lone Ranger and Tonto, to more recent pairings, such as Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter, sidekicks serve a special purpose, and that is to emphasize every nuance of their friend or colleague and to reinforce those traits to the audience.

In Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, I open the Hogan's Heroes chapter with the casting of Colonel Hogan and Colonel Klink, one of the most outlandish duos in television history. After Bob Crane and Werner Klemperer brought their characters to life for the first time, a six-year love-hate military relationship between the two was born.

But while the two comedic colonels certainly caused each other a great deal of grief and frustration during World War II, neither Klink nor Hogan can be considered the other's sidekick. A sidekick is defined as "a close companion or colleague" and usually considered subordinate to the person he accompanies. So this honor goes to Stalag 13's very own sergeant of the guard, Hans Schultz, played almost effortlessly by John Banner.

John Banner as Sergeant Hans Schultz
on Hogan's Heroes.
Sergeant Schultz is a spectacle of World War II. A befuddled, obese, and always lazy Luftwaffe serviceman, it is hard to imagine how he ever even made it into Hitler's war machine, which prided itself on physical fitness and self-proclaimed super-men strength, in the first place. He falls asleep at his post and is more interested in stopping at the Hofbrau for a beer than listening to der Führer's latest radio broadcast. He forgets his helmet, loses his rifle, and steals Klink's food, schnapps, and Cuban cigars, and the only reason he doesn't want Corporal Louis LeBeau to escape is that he'll miss the French chef's apple strudel.

Caught between his own morality and the enforced radical ideals of the Third Reich, Schultz manages to sidestep any direct participation in Nazi crimes by choosing to look the other way, and he does this by uttering one of his trademark phrases: "I see nothing," "I hear nothing," and "I know nothing!" Some consider this an indicator of Schultz's stupidity and his somewhat neutral stance. He is, after all, lenient with the prisoners. However, John Banner disagreed, claiming that Schultz was, in fact, not neutral, but instead, loyal to himself. Nor did Banner see Schultz as stupid, arguing, "Notice he stays alive."

Decisions, decisions!
John Banner as Sergeant Schultz on Hogan's Heroes.
For reasons we do not know, Schultz is assigned to serve out his wartime duty at Stalag 13, where he is not only a guard, but remarkably, the head of all guards. And he is positioned right next to Colonel Klink, a pompous, arrogant, egotistical, self-centered Luftwaffe officer who would hide under his desk during a thunderstorm. Together, this dynamic duo became the Laurel and Hardy of Stalag 13, bumbling through the war and practically bringing the Third Reich to its knees.

Whether or not you agree with John Banner's take on Schultz as being more cunning than stupid, it is clear that on the outside at least, Schultz is a world class dummkopf. His reputation has endured through the years and even as recent as this past week. I will neither condemn nor endorse a recent political meme comparing both Schultz and Klink to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and United States Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, but its creation is a testament to the lasting cultural power these two iconic characters have from one generation to the next. Klink and Schultz were funny in 1966, and they continue to be funny, fifty years into the future.

Schultz seems to have forgotten something...
(John Banner, Werner Klemperer, and Bob Crane)
Some of television's funniest moments are from Hogan's Heroes, and many can be directly attributed to Klink and Schultz. One of my favorite scenes is from the episode "The Empty Parachute." In the effort to gain access to the briefcase hidden in Klink's safe, Hogan convinces Klink that a spy has parachuted into camp to steal the briefcase. They then bury an empty parachute in the center of the camp and allow Schultz to find it. Eager to report his important discovery to his commanding officer, Schultz gathers up the massive parachute and hustles over to Klink's office, where Klink and Major Hochstetter are trying in vain to solve the mystery of the so-called spy. Proud as can be, Schultz announces to Klink, "Herr Kommandant. I found this." Klink, as though scolding a child for interrupting an adult gathering, brushes Schultz off, barking, "Good. If nobody claims it, you can keep it. Now get out."

Another favorite moment is from the episode, "The Kommandant Dies at Dawn." Hogan uses Klink's overcoat as a means to deliver information to the underground. After Klink is arrested for suspicion of treason, Hogan and his men realize they need to get the coat back, which Klink is wearing as he is hauled off to the cooler. Meanwhile, Schultz decides he will rescue Klink. He comes up with a plan that has no chance of success. He tells Hogan and Sergeant Kinchloe: "I put a little something into the dogs' food that will make them sleep. Then, when Corporal Wolfschmidt comes on guard duty, I offer him a little schnapps. He goes into my room. That will give me the chance to plant some dynamite in front of Kommandant Klink's cell and blow it up! And then I take the Kommandant Klink and put him into my brother-in-law's car outside the fence and off he goes to Switzerland!" Later that night, as the prisoners watch Klink and Schultz stumble their way through the camp, knocking over water barrels and making all kinds of noise, Hogan quips, "Here come Stan and Ollie now."

"Halt! Who goes there?"
Klink and Schultz stop Hogan and Newkirk from an attempted escape.
(John Banner, Werner Klemperer, Bob Crane, and Richard Dawson)
I also conducted a short survey on a popular Hogan's Heroes Facebook Group and other social media outlets to gather some fan-favorite moments. Here are a few of them.

One fan wrote: "There were a couple of episodes where Schultz gets to be/plays the Kommandant. At the end of Kommandant Schultz, the manner in which Klink divests Schultz of his badges of office is priceless! Another running bit is how useless Kllnk believes Schultz is, how wiling he is tho throw Schultz under a panzerbus, until he has some connection or condition (famous toy company, friend to a General, supposed to have only days to live), and how Klink turns on a dime to praise Schultz as the son he never had."

Another fan stated: "I like the one where Schultz tries to speak French. 'Enchante Mademoise-lle' to the niece of Oscar Schnitzer, the vet!"

One other fan remembered how Klink would react to various situations and Schultz: "I think my favorite Klink moment is when something happens, and he says 'Donnerwetter!' Makes me laugh all the time!"

Hogan's Heroes costars Werner Klemperer (Klink)
and John Banner (Schultz) review a scene with
producer Edward H. Feldman (left).
Several fans said the following quotes between Klink and Schultz were some of their favorite Hogan's Heroes moments:

Klink: Now Schultz, you will share your food with me, or the next lunch you have will be covered with icicles!

Burkhalter: Just 1 moment. I see no reason why Colonel Hogan shouldn't watch a demonstration of German efficiency.
Klink: But this is classified Herr General.
Burkhalter: He isn't going anywhere with the information is he?
Klink: Of course not. No one has ever escaped from Stalag 13.
Burkhalter: So you have told me.
Klink: Yes sir.
Burkhalter: And told me. And told me.
Schultz: Yes, Herr Kommandant. I remember.
Klink: Schultz!

Schultz: I am also the German soldier of the month!
Klink: You are a big bungler who I do not trust out of my sight!



That got me thinking of Klink/Schultz quotes in general, so here are some popular ones from IMDb:

From "German Bridge Is Falling Down"
Klink: If the prisoners ask any questions about these explosions, you know nothing; you are ignorant.
Schultz: Oh, I can handle that.
Klink: I know.

Schultz [reading graffiti the prisoners painted on a building]: Hess is a mess. Himmler is a rat fink. Goering is a fat rat fink. Klink is bucking for rat fink.



From: "A Klink, a Bomb and a Short Fuse"
Klink: What are you waiting for? Cut the wire.
Hogan: That's the problem. One of these wires disconnects the fuse, the other one fires the bomb. Which one would you cut, Shultz?
Schultz: Don't ask me, this is a decision for an officer.
Hogan: All right. Which wire, Colonel Klink?
Klink: This one. [points to the white wire]
Hogan: You're sure?
Klink: Yes.
Hogan: [Cuts the black wire, the bomb stops ticking]
Klink: If you knew which wire it was, why did you ask me?
Hogan: I wasn't sure which was the right one, but I was certain you'd pick the wrong one.

"Schultz, with my bare hands...!"
Colonel Klink gives Sergeant Schultz a hard time in an episode from Hogan's Heroes.


From "One Army at a Time"
[Hochstetter wakes Klink up in the middle of the night]
Klink: Heil Hitler!
Schultz: No, no, it is Major Hochstetter.
Klink: Heil Hochstetter!

From "The Missing Klink"
Klink: Like all of us, the general has his good points as well as his faults.
Schultz: Yes.
Klink: What do you think my faults are?
Schultz: [after failure to keep a straight face] I wasn't talking about you, Herr Kommandant.
Klink: You know, Schultz, the trouble is you're afraid to say anything you think. Filled with fear, frightened to express any kind of opinion.
Schultz: Oh, no, Herr Kommandant. I talk about you all the time, when you are not around.

The original cast of Hogan's Heroes, season one.
Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Cynthia Lynn, Bob Crane
Larry Hovis, Roert Clary, Ivan Dixon, and Richard Dawson
(left to right).
Although it is seen as controversial for some viewers, Hogan's Heroes is classic television gold. The casting, writing, directing, and acting are stellar across the board, and the characters stand the test of time. The beauty of Hogan's Heroes is that its characters can be as simple or as complex as each individual viewer wishes. Schultz can be merely a simpleton in the eyes of some, a neutral in the eyes of others, or a clumsy oaf in the eyes of his kommandant. Personally, I see a measure of innocence in Schultz, a common attribute of sidekicks—usually the ones with a big heart. To John Banner, who was Jewish, Schultz stood for something quite profound. He said: "I see Schultz as the representation of some kind of good in any generation." Perhaps that is why Hogan's Heroes and Schultz remain just as popular today as they did fifty years ago. Good endures and overcomes, no matter where you are or how bad things might get. And that's something to hold on to.



This post is part of the Classic Film and TV Blog "Sidekicks Blogathon." For the full schedule, click here.

6 comments:

  1. "I see nothing–NOTHING!" has to one of the most memorable catchphrases of the 1960s. However, John Banner did a fabulous job of making Sergeant Schultz a three-dimensional character, not just a cardboard funny guy. I don't think I'd call Schultz cunning, but he is smart enough to stay alive. I so strongly associate John Banner with this role that when I saw him play a very different kind of German in the excellent World War II thriller 36 HOURS, it was downright jarring. This was a delightful, informative, and affectionate tribute to Sergeant Schultz.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Terrific! What I find particularly interesting about Schultz is how often, when he's being passed off as an officer, he shows a real forcefulness. (Even though it might be aided by a little alcoholic stimulant!) Carter's the same way - put him in the uniform of a German general, and he's a different man. I guess it's true that clothes do make the man.

    I'll agree with John Banner that there's a cunning, perhaps I'd say cleverness, to Schultz. Maybe he's not the brightest bulb on the tree, but he's going to be a survivor, that's for certain. What a wonderful character, and the way Banner portrays him is equally wonderful. And Rick is right - when you see him in a serious role, it can be very jarring. And effective.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great profile of an interesting character and one who is definitely a pop culture god with a catchphrase that transcends the show. Hogan's Heroes was more of a male-appeal sitcom so it's never been on my must-watch list, though the ensemble cast is amazingly diverse and super-talented. Perhaps it's time for a re-watch! This post certainly makes the case for it in a big way!! Wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like how you described John Banner's performance as "almost effortless". It is so true. As an actor he inhabited the character to perfection. When I was a kid I adored Sgt. Schulz and today I appreciate and enjoy him more than ever.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I laugh every time Schultz hands his rifle to one of the POWs so he can look at something on his clipboard or deal with some other innocuous business. It's funny every time. I also recall an episode in which Schultz reveals he worked at a toy factory before the war, and I thought that was a perfect background for the character.

    I wish we had a "final" episode for this series. I think Hogan would have found a way to take care of Schultz when the Allies arrived.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Schultz makes a terrific sidekick. Thanks for the reminder about this awesome series.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment and feedback! All comments are moderated and will be posted shortly upon approval.

Thank you for understanding. Have a nice day!

For more about Bob Crane, visit http://www.vote4bobcrane.org

For more about Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, which was published on September 17, 2015, visit http://www.vote4bobcrane.org/book.html