Robert Clary, Corporal LeBeau on ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dead at 96

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Actor Robert Clary, who played Corporal LeBeau in the classic TV sitcom Hogan’s Heroes starring Bob Crane, has died at 96 years old. Clary, who was mentored by the legendary Eddie Cantor, died on Wednesday morning at his home in Los Angeles. Kim Wright, Clary’s granddaughter, informed The Hollywood Reporter of the news.

Hogan’s Heroes was on the air between September 1965 to April 1971. It was one of the CBS shows that made the transition from black-and-white episodes to color ones. Crane starred as Colonel Robert E. Hogan. He was an American who led a group of Allied prisoners of war in a covert operation to beat the Nazis from inside the Luft Stalag 13 camp. Werner Klemperer and John Banner also starred in the series.

Robert Clary Ended Up In Concentration Camp With His Family

Clary’s character, Corporal Louis LeBeau, used his diminutive size at 5-foot-1 to his advantage. LeBeau hid in small spaces, and had a great reputation with the guard dogs. Another side of LeBeau was his ability to cook well for Colonel Klink, played by Klemperer, and get out of trouble with those superiors.

In fact, Clary was the final original cast member who was still alive. Clary was born Robert Max Widerman in Paris on March 1, 1926. He was the youngest of 14 children in a strict Orthodox Jewish family. When Clary was 12 years old, he started singing and performing. Then when he was 16 years old, Clary and his family were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz.

“My mother said the most remarkable thing,” Clary told The Hollywood Reporter’s Peter Flax in late 2015. “She said, ‘Behave.’ She probably knew me as a brat. She said, ‘Behave. Do what they tell you to do.'” His parents were killed in the gas chamber on that very day. While he was at Buchenwald, Clary sang with an accordionist every other Sunday to an audience of SS soldiers. “Singing, entertaining, and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived,” Clary said in his interview with Flax.

Clary got back to France in May 1945 and turned to singing in dance halls. But he came to Los Angeles in 1949 to record for Capitol Records. A year later, he appeared in a French comedy skit on a CBS variety show hosted by vaudevillian Ed Wynn. The famed actor appeared in such films as Ten Tall Men (1951) and Thief of Damascus (1952), then met Cantor, who took him to New York to perform at the tony La Vie en Rose club. He came to the attention of producer Leonard Sillman, who cast Clary in the Broadway musical revue New Faces of 1952.