Monday, May 28, 2012

Freedom Is Not Free - Honoring Our U.S. Military Heroes / Memorial Day 2012

On this Memorial Day, we pause to remember and honor those who have fallen in the line of duty, and we thank all who are serving and who have served in our United States Armed Forces.

Benjamin Reim, Washington, D.C.
Photo by Jeff Reim

World War II Memorial for Alfred John Crane, older brother of Bob Crane.
National World War II Memorial Registry

The Bob Crane Show / Introduction
U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Network
July 1968

(Bob Crane gave many hours of his time to the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Network during the late 1960s and also served in the U.S. National Guard in his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, from June 1948 to May 1950.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bob Crane, Radio's Man of 1000 Voices, Appears on 'The Twilight Zone' / March 1961

When Bob Crane was hired at KNX-CBS Radio in September 1956, CBS expected great things from their new morning man. And Bob did not disappoint. Having honed his broadcasting craft and successfully created his own brand of comedy on the East Coast, he had quickly earned a formidable reputation and a dynamic following on the West Coast.  

CBS also realized that Bob Crane was not going to be someone who would just settle in and be content doing the same thing over and over again for the rest of his life. Bob had already expressed an interest in acting, and the last thing they wanted was to lose their star right out of the gate. Included in Bob's contract with CBS Radio was a five-year no-acting clause prohibiting him from acting professionally during the first five years of his employment at KNX. While Bob did perform in community theatre in Southern California and make a brief appearance in the pilot episode for the unaired series Picture Window, Bob refrained from acting professionally between the years 1956 and 1961.

The Twilight Zone - "Static" 
Air Date March 10, 1961
Bob Crane / Uncredited Role as Radio Announcer
Starring Dean Jagger as Ed Lindsay (shown in this clip)

The moment the clause expired, however, Bob began seeking out acting roles. By 1961, after five years of working at KNX, he had already met, interviewed, and subsequently networked with most of the Hollywood circuit - actors, directors, producers, musicians, and writers - most of whom had been guests on his radio show. Bob had strategically placed himself in the best position possible to enter the acting field.

Bob's official migration from radio to television began with The Twilight Zone in the episode "Static," which aired on March 10, 1961. Although not a credited role, it was a role in which Bob was most comfortable - a radio announcer. It was the perfect vehicle for Bob to get his feet wet in television. Plus, this role was so much more than just one radio announcer; Bob plays the announcer plus a variety of different voices emanating from the sound box. Radio's "Man of a Thousand Voices" had just landed on television.

The Twilight Zone - "Static" 
Air Date March 10, 1961
Bob Crane / Uncredited Role as Radio Announcer
Starring Dean Jagger as Ed Lindsay (shown in this clip)

After his work on The Twilight Zone, Bob accepted bit parts in other productions, including Return to Peyton Place (released in May 1961), Man Trap (released September 20, 1961), and General Electric Theater in the episode "The $200 Parlay" (aired October 15, 1961), which also guest-starred Maureen Arthur. Bob would work with Maureen Arthur again in The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (released October 14, 1968). Eventually, Bob was cast as Harry Rogers in the episode "Somebody Has to Play Cleopatra" on The Dick Van Dyke Show (aired December 26, 1962), paving the way for more substantial roles. Bob was hired shortly thereafter by Donna Reed to portray neighbor Dr. Dave Kelsey on The Donna Reed Show, with his first episode being "The Two Doctors Stone" (aired March 14, 1963).

Bob's versatile talents are clearly heard in these two clips from The Twilight Zone episode "Static." Listen closely. The voices you hear coming from the radio are mostly - if not all - Bob's own.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bob Crane Introduces Dean Martin's 'On an Evening in Roma' - KNX / March 9, 1962

This one's for all our Dean Martin fans out there! One of our favorite recordings of Bob Crane's KNX radio show comes from the morning of March 9, 1962. Here, in this clip from that morning's show, Bob chats away after a Delta Airlines commercial; pokes some fun at his engineer, Jack Chapman; and then introduces Dean Martin's "On an Evening in Roma." Following the creative chaos, Bob plays the record, but not without adding a playful jab at the lyrics.

Take a listen - We bet you'll be humming this one for the rest of the day, not to mention wishing you were strolling down the avenues and streets of Rome!

'On an Evening in Roma' - Dean Martin
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
March 9, 1962

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bob Crane Appears on 'The Red Skelton Hour' - 1967

On January 10, 1967, Bob Crane appeared on The Red Skelton Hour, during which he played drums in a lively rendition of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" and performed a magic trick spoof with Red Skelton and John Banner. The studio audience ate it up, as Bob showcased his drumming talents and then hammed it up with Skelton and Banner. "Colonel Hogan" and "Sergeant Schultz" had many talents it seemed, and seeing them outside their normal setting was a treat.

Bob Crane on The Red Skelton Hour
"These Boots Are Made for Walking"
January 10, 1967

Bob made countless television appearances since his debut on the pilot for the unaired series Picture Window in 1959, and he was driven to keep bettering himself in his art and career. After his success on Hogan's Heroes, he wanted to make the jump into motion pictures and follow in the footsteps of one of his screen idols, Jack Lemmon. However, for many television actors - and even moreso for those who become television stars - it is a difficult move, even today. A television star can easily become typecast as his or her onscreen persona, and what the audience sees from that point forward is not the actor portraying a new role in a different show, but the iconic character playing that new role.

Bob Crane and John Banner appear 
with Red Skelton on The Red Skelton Hour
January 10, 1967

During his work on Hogan's Heroes, Bob received countless television and movie offers - many of which he turned down. As he said in a 1968 interview: "You want to be the best in your field. It's the opportunity to be choosy. I've been given more scripts lately by people who know I'll be on hiatus from Hogan's Heroes for five months. But none of the scripts are the kind of movie I'd go to. And I've read things similar to The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, which is about an eastern European female athlete who defects to the West. I said, 'What am I, a Cold War comedian?' I turned down more offers to be Jack Paar or Johnny Carson or Steve Allen before the people on The Donna Reed Show gave me a chance to earn while I learned."

Bob Crane with Francine York and Red Skelton 
(as "Freddie the Freeloader") on
The Red Skelton Hour - January 10, 1967
Bob thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated his work on Hogan's Heroes, and he brought the character of Colonel Hogan to life. However, after the series was cancelled in 1971, he felt pigeon-holed by the character, and he was unable to get the parts he desired. When people saw him, they didn't see Bob Crane. They saw Colonel Hogan. Even some directors could not escape the Hogan facade, with one director stating it was like watching Colonel Hogan in the role.

It has often been said that Colonel Hogan is the role Bob Crane was "born to play." In fact, he played the part to such perfection that it appeared he did so effortlessly on screen. Nominated for two Emmy Awards, Bob lost out both times, with the main reason being that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences did not think he was acting. In their eyes, Bob Crane was just being himself when he played the role of Hogan, which was not the case. By his own admission, he had worked very hard at the part, toning down his normally animated and jovial personality and allowing Hogan to become a more serious hero in the style of John Wayne, another of his screen idols. 

In the final years of his life, Bob was searching for a new niche, and had he lived, given his ambition and commitment to achieving his goals, he most likely would have found it. Just months before his murder, in the spring of 1978, Bob wrapped production on the pilot of a potential new television series, The Hawaii Experience. During the show, Bob served as host and tour guide, taking viewers around the island of Oahu and all of the Hawaiian Islands, giving the audience an inside look at Hawaii's tourism industry. Could this have been an unsung predecessor of The Travel Channel? We will never know. The project was abandoned shortly after Bob's death. However, The Hawaii Experience was an infantile step in the direction of reality TV as we know it today. Again, and as he always had been, Bob was lightyears ahead of his time.

Ultimately, Bob Crane will always be "best known as Colonel Hogan from Hogan's Heroes." But his comedic talent, acting capabilities, and audience rapport stretched far beyond this one particular character. Watching Bob perform different roles and characters in various settings, while removing the Colonel Hogan persona, one can appreciate his work in the entertainment industry on a much deeper, more critically acclaimed level.