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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

Everyone’s favorite bumbling sitcom Nazi would have been 97 years old today. Werner Klemperer was born in Germany on March 22, 1920. His father, Otto Klemperer, was a world famous symphony conductor. The family, which was Jewish, wisely fled Europe in 1935.

Werner Klemperer would go on to have a solid and steady career in theater, films, and television. Although he never arrived in America until the age of 15, he spoke without any discernible accent. That may be because according to IMDB, Klemperer worked under the great Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans in a U.S. Special Services unit during WWII. It’s interesting to note that both Evans and Klemperer had classical backgrounds but found their greatest fame on American sitcoms – Klemperer as the bumbling Colonel Klink on Hogan’s Heroes and Evans as the pompous Maurice, Samantha’s melodramatic father, on Bewitched.

In a fascinating bit of trivia, the IMDB site also claims that Werner Klemperer and Gary Busey are the only two actors in history to have appeared on the three longest scripted shows on television: Gunsmoke, The Simpsons, and Law and Order. In fact, it’s rather fitting that Klemperer’s reappearance as “Colonel Klink” on The Simpsons episode in 1993  would prove to be the veteran actor’s last TV part before his death in 2000.

Any Baby Boomer who grew up in the 1960s and/or 1970s will always remember Werner Klemperer and his Hogan’s Heroes cronies with great fondness. It’s also important to note that people like Klemperer, John Banner (Sgt. Schultz) and Robert Clary (Cpl. Labue) were all either victims of, or refugees from, Nazi Germany. Their intent was to degrade the Nazis, not glorify them.

In his later years, Klemperer found great joy and success in traveling around with various philharmonic orchestras and narrating classic pieces like “Peter and the Wolf.”

Here’s Colonel Klink and another icon of 1960s television.

Here’s Colonel Klink in his more natural element.

Klemperer discusses Klink and more on an appearance with Pat Sajak.

A more serious Klemperer in two chilling scenes from Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).

And finally, his swan song as Colonel Klink.

Diiiiiiisss – miiiiiissed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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