Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bob Crane – Radio, His Drums, and 'Hogan's Heroes'

Bob Crane as Colonel Hogan
on Hogan's Heroes.
It is important to mention Bob Crane's work as an actor, not only because he is best known for his leading role as Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes, but also because his radio, music, and acting careers overlapped frequently.

Shortly after Bob arrived in Los Angeles in August 1956 and began work at KNX on September 13th of that year, he started to explore acting opportunities, first with local theater productions in Southern California. After his five-year no-television clause with KNX expired in 1961, he sought roles on television, earning small parts that included a guest appearance on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also gained bit parts in movies, such as Man-Trap, The New Interns, and Return to Peyton Place. Donna Reed took notice of Crane's radio talents and acting capabilities, and in 1962, she offered the established LA radio personality a guest spot on The Donna Reed Show. This turned into a recurring character role as neighbor Dr. Dave Kelsey for seasons 5 through 7, and from 1962-1965, Bob juggled both his work on The Donna Reed Show and his full-time job at KNX. Then, early in 1965, he auditioned for and landed what was to become his flagship series  Hogan's Heroes.

Hogan's Heroes was picked up by CBS in the spring of 1965, and at that time, Bob made the decision to leave The Donna Reed Show. A few months later, he left KNX to devote his full attention to the new television series, which made its primetime debut on September 17, 1965. A conscientious actor, Crane worked hard at perfecting the role of Colonel Hogan, contrary to the belief that he was just "being himself" and wasn't really acting. He studied the acting traits of those he greatly admired in Hollywood, including Jack Lemmon and John Wayne, and developed a character who was not only a strong leader of his men but a comedic nuisance of his nemesis Colonel Klink. He was nominated twice for an Emmy Award (once in 1966 and again in 1967) for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. Hogan's Heroes ran for six seasons, from 1965-1971, and it left an immortal imprint on television history. A strong team of producers, directors, writers, crew members, and actors, including Crane, who many claim was a joy to work with on the set, is credited for making Hogan's Heroes the success that it was and still is to this day.

As he had done in radio, Bob Crane was able to incorporate his music and drumming talents into Hogan's Heroes, and he can be seen playing drums in two episodes, "The Flight of the Valkyrie" and "Look at the Pretty Snowflakes." He also recorded an album, Bob Crane, His Drums, and Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV, which was produced by Stu Phillips and presents arrangements of theme songs from several television sitcoms (such as Get Smart, F-Troop, Thursday Night at the Movies, The Andy Griffith Show, and Candid Camera, among others).

Bob Crane spent six years working on Hogan's Heroes, thus making him a memorable actor in Hollywood history. However, his radio career spanned decades, and music encompassed his entire life. Both played a significant role in helping pave the way for Crane's eventual career as a full-time actor, and his music went with him wherever he went.

"Hogan's Heroes March" (Bob Crane on Drums)
Bob Crane, His Drums, and Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV
Epic Records / 1966