Thursday, June 7, 2012

Richard Dawson Passes On

Richard Dawson, who played Corporal Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes and was a regular on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, passed on 2 June 2012 at the age of 79. The cause was oesophageal cancer.

Richard Dawson was born Colin Lionel Emm in Gosport, Hampshire on 20 November 1932. He was only 14 when he left home to join the Merchant Navy. He served in the Merchant Navy for three years. Afterwards he would take up being a comedian. He would migrate to the United States with his wife, British screen legend Diana Dors. He made his first appearances on television in 1959, on his wife's show (The Diana Dors Show) and on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show. It was in 1962 that he made his acting debut in a small part in the film The Longest Day. In the Sixties he would go onto appear in such films as Promises! Promises! (1963), King Rat (1965), Out of Sight (1966), Munster, Go Home (1966), and The Devil's Brigade (1968).

It would be for his work on television that he would become best known.  He appeared on such shows as The Jack Benny Prograamme, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Outer Limits, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. It was in 1965 that he was cast in his best known role, that of Corporal Peter Newkirk in Hogan's Heroes. The series ran for six years and has been successful in syndication ever since its cancellation.

In 1970 Mr. Dawson joined the cast of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He remained with the show until its end in 1973. In 1973 he became a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show in its final season. That same year he became a regular panellist on a revival of I've Got a Secret and the long running Match Game.  It was in 1976 that Richard Dawson became the host of Family Feud. He would remain with the game show until 1985. In the Seventies Richard Dawson also appeared on the TV shows Love American Style, The Odd Couple, and McMillan & Wife. He provided voices for the animated series Wait Til Your Father Gets Home and Hong Kong Phooey. The Eighties saw Mr. Dawson's career slow down, but he did appear in the feature film The Running Man (1987) as sinister game show host Damon Killian. He returned to a revival of Family Feud  in 1988 and remained with the the show until it went off the air in 1995.

Richard Dawson was a very funny man. It is the reason that Corporal Newkirk ("the Englander" as Colonel Klink called him) remains one of the best remembered characters on Hogan's Heroes, the reason and the reason he was one of the most popular and longest running panellists on Match Game, and the reason he had such a long run as the host of Family Feud. While most people know that Richard Dawson was an incredible comedian, sadly he was not recognised for his talent as an actor very often. In King Rat Richard Dawson held his own against such acting heavyweights as John Mills and Tom Courtenay in a role that was not particularly large. On Hogan's Heroes he may well have given the best performance of any of the actors playing prisoners of war, making Corporal Newkirk among the best remembered characters on the show. His performance in The Running Man is nothing short of phenomenal. Mr. Dawson's portrayal of Damon Killian is not simply a parody of game show hosts, but a villain to equal those in Bond films. Killian is arrogant, vain, treacherous, and utterly unconcerned about the welfare of others. Richard Dawson was a talented comic who also had skill as an actor. There can be no doubt that he will be remembered.

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