Monday, July 3, 2023

Deliberate Deceit: How 'Auto Focus' Fails in Its Miserable Attempt at Portraying Bob Crane

It should come as no surprise that I don't like the film Auto Focus. Neither do my coauthors, Linda Groundwater and Dee Young. And most notably, neither did the vast majority of the people who talked with us about Bob Crane for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography.

Having gotten to know Bob through hundreds of his closest family members, friends, and associates, we were privileged to learn who he was, what made him tick, and how he lived his life. We take our work seriously. This is, after all, a man's life. Neither his addiction nor his murder are joking matters. We are professional. We are thorough. We are factual.

The same cannot be said for Auto Focus director Paul Schrader. As writer David Edelstein proclaimed in his 2002 article, Video Killed the TV Star, "Almost every time I see a film by Paul Schrader, I think about what a sensational subject he has gotten hold of and how I wish that someone else had stepped in to bring it to life."

We have quoted Mr. Schrader before with regard to how he felt about Auto Focus. In the September 29, 2002, edition of The New York Times, Mr. Schrader stated, "My intent with Auto Focus is not to be true or definitive. People's actual lives are not really that interesting. And with Crane, I wanted to get at something meaty. Otherwise, who cares?" Among other things, he also admitted that "[John] Carpenter was not as important in Crane's life as he is in the film. It is a distortion."

In the same article, Bob's younger son Scott Crane rebukes Mr. Schrader's take on his father. "The movie is 'Auto Fiction!' he says. "Schrader's idea is to make my dad dark. 'Let's make him seedy' ... He's portraying a fiction as fact. Schrader has destroyed my father's reputation in the world."

Scott is 100% correct. We stand in solidarity with Scott and all those who see the film for what it is: Celluloid garbage.

This New York Times article, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. After combing through several resources about Auto Focus, it is clear as day that Mr. Schrader was not simply lazy in his research about Bob Crane for Auto Focus, he was intentionally wrong with conviction. It is unprofessional and unforgivable.

In our latest episode of Flipside: The True Story of Bob Crane, Linda and I delve into the motivation behind Auto Focus. We examine published quotes by Mr. Schrader and actor Greg Kinnear, and discuss how they and others affiliated with the film felt not just about making the so-called biopic about Bob Crane, but their opinions regarding the Hogan's Heroes star himself.

Access the articles mentioned in this episode: 

Transcript of the episode coming soon.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Bob Crane's Unsolved Murder — 45 Years Ago Today

In the early morning hours of June 29, 1978, we lost Bob Crane. As the Hogan's Heroes star slept in his Scottsdale, Arizona, apartment, he was brutally bludgeoned to death. It was a gruesome crime scene, and Bob's murder remains unsolved to this day, baffling detectives and law enforcement now for 45 years.

Bob had been appearing in his play, Beginner's Luck, in Scottsdale, and the run of the show was nearing its end. Bob was looking forward to returning home to Los Angeles on July 4, focusing on new television projects, reconnecting with his family, and working on bettering his life with the help of a professional therapist. But it was not to be. Bob left this world abruptly by the cruel hands of another just two weeks shy of his 50th birthday. Ever since, his murder and the scandal that followed have overshadowed nearly everything else Bob did in his life. So much of what he did was good, and yet, we don't hear much about it. As I was once told by a television executive, "Nobody wants to read the good stuff. They only want the dirt. Who cares about radio? Who cares about his charity work? Who cares about drums? That stuff will never sell."

We beg to differ.

It's all too easy to focus on the negative. Sure, it boosts ratings and brings in the money. And there is a lot of money to be made on murder and scandal. 

But when you are only served the "low-hanging fruit," you don't get to hear the whole story. You don't get to know the person, what made them tick, why they behaved in certain ways, and how they handled their successes, as well as their struggles. When you are only served up the crime and the dirt, it can have devastating effects in the court of public opinion. 

This couldn't be more true in the case of Bob Crane. Many will snicker and sneer when they see or hear the name Bob Crane, and there will be an avalanche of ignorant, hurtful, and hateful comments on social media. True crime enthusiasts will watch any number of investigative TV shows and/or podcasts, playing armchair detective and theorizing who dunnit. Even with their limited knowledge on the subject, they don't just think—they think they know—everything there is to know because a TV show or a movie or Wikipedia told them so, and you cannot convince them otherwise.

The truth is, and as we have been saying for nearly two decades, there is so much more to Bob Crane's life story than his starring role on Hogan's Heroes, his unsolved murder, and a stale tabloid headline. We are proud to be Bob Crane's official biographers, endorsed and supported by The Estate of Bob Crane. We are honored to have been entrusted with cherished memories from hundreds of people directly connected to Bob spanning his entire lifetime. These are not just little anecdotes collected from a few people making for an interesting compendium. They are full, detailed, reflective testimonies, woven together with painstaking research of archival materials into a rich tapestry that allowed us to form a deep understanding of Bob from nearly every facet, time period, and corner of his life. And since he is no longer here to do so himself, we will continue to share Bob Crane's complete and true life story every chance we get, humbly standing up for him and on behalf of so many beautiful souls who knew him well and loved him dearly—most of whom trusted only us to do so.

We might night never know who committed the crime or why Bob Crane was murdered. But we do know this—he continues to be remembered and loved by many: members of his family, his dear friends, his coworkers, and his fans. 

Rest in peace, Bob Crane. You are not forgotten.