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.