‘Hogan’s Heroes’: Why Bob Crane Turned Down Three Roles Before Taking on Colonel Robert E. Hogan

by Josh Lanier
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Before Bob Crane was a household name from his turn on Hogan’s Heroes, he was looking for work. However, he kept turning work down when it came his way.

That’s because he realized that if he picked the wrong show, he’d torpedo his career and end up on the pile of people that Hollywood rejected.

“My wife kept look at the ‘Jack Paar Show’ and telling me that’s what I should be doing on television,” he told The Times in 1965. “But I kept telling her she was wrong.”

He was already a notable radio DJ known for his funny and memorable interviews with big stars on WKNX in Los Angeles. It seemed natural that he could do a show like Paar. But Crane wouldn’t pursue it.

His agent thought maybe he’d fair well on a sitcom, but he was particular. He wanted some creative control in the show.

“I had to talk for a long time to explain to a producer that I was right for ‘Don’t Eat the Daisies,” he said. “I also had to explain why I didn’t want to do ‘My Living Doll’ before Robert Cummings was considered for the role.”

Bob Crane Gets Script For ‘Hogan’s Heroes’

Later that year, someone presented Crane with the original script for Hogan’s Heroes. The show was originally set in an American jail. But the CBS producers rewrote it after learning NBC was working on a sitcom set in an Italian POW camp in Italy called Campo 44, MeTV said.

Crane leaped at the opportunity. It fit his goofy and over-the-top sense of humor that had made him famous as a radio DJ. And he would play the lead, meaning he would have a lot of pull with producers.

The show is based in a 1942 German POW camp where Crane plays the titular Hogan. His ragtag group of American and British detainees spend their days making the lives of their German prison guards a nightmare. The show ran for six seasons and made Crane one of the biggest starts in the country.

But his star status quickly faded afterward. Partly because producers weren’t offering him roles. They only saw him as Robert E. Hogan. Ironically, the thing he wanted most — control and recognition — did his career in.

Crane ended up playing in numerous dinner theater productions. Producers offered him a final shot at TV in 1975 with “The Bob Crane Show” on NBC. But the network canceled it after 13 episodes.

He also appeared in two Disney films, Superdad in1973 and Gus in 1976.

Police found him murdered in his Arizona apartment in 1978.

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