Bob Crane with future wife Sigrid Valdis on Hogan's Heroes
|Born||Robert Edward Crane
July 13, 1928
|Died||June 29, 1978 (aged 49)
|Spouse(s)||Anne Terzian (1949-1970)
Sigrid Valdis (1970-1978)
Robert Edward "Bob" Crane (July 13, 1928 – June 29, 1978) was an American disc jockey and actor, best known for his performance as Colonel Robert E. Hogan in the television sitcom Hogan's Heroes from 1965 to 1971, and for his unsolved death.
Crane was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. He dropped out of high school in 1946 and became a drummer, performing with dance bands and a symphony orchestra. That same year he also enlisted in the Army Reserve, where he was assigned the job of a clerk and given an honorable discharge a few years later. In 1949, he married high school sweetheart Anne Terzian; they eventually had two children, Deborah Ann and Karen Leslie. Anne and Bob were briefly separated and living in different towns in the mid-1950s — after a few months they were reconciled and Anne later gave birth to their son, Robert David Crane. Bob later divorced Anne and married Patricia Olsen, an actress whose stage name was Sigrid Valdis. They had one son, Robert Scott Crane, and adopted a daughter, Ana Marie.
In 1950, Crane started his broadcasting career at WLEA in Hornell, New York. He quickly moved to WBIS in Bristol, Connecticut, followed by WICC in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This was a 500-watt operation where he remained until 1956, when the CBS radio network plucked Crane out to help stop his huge popularity from affecting their own station's ratings. Crane moved his family to California to host the morning show at KNX radio in Hollywood. He filled the broadcast with sly wit, drumming, and guests such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Bob Hope. It quickly became the number-one rated morning show in the LA area, with Crane known as "The King of the Los Angeles Airwaves."
Crane's acting ambitions led to his subbing for Johnny Carson on the daytime game show Who Do You Trust? and appearances on The Twilight Zone, Channing, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and General Electric Theater. When Carl Reiner appeared on his show, Crane persuaded him to book him for a guest shot on The Dick Van Dyke Show, where he was noticed by Donna Reed, who suggested him for the role of neighbor Dr. Dave Kelsey in her eponymous sitcom from 1963 through 1965.
In 1965, Crane was offered the starring role in a television comedy pilot about a German P.O.W. camp. Hogan's Heroes became a hit and finished in the Top Ten in its first year on the air. The series lasted six seasons, and Crane was nominated for an Emmy Award twice, in 1966 and 1967. During its run, he met Patricia Olsen who played Hilda under the stage name Sigrid Valdis. He divorced his wife of twenty years and married Olsen on the set of the show in 1970. They had a son, Scotty (Robert Scott), and adopted a daughter named Ana Marie.
In addition to playing the drums on the theme song, Crane's ability can be seen in the sixth season episode, "Look at the Pretty Snowflakes," where he has an extended drum solo during the prisoners' performance of the jazz standard "Cherokee".
In 1968, during the run of Hogan's Heroes, Crane and series costars Werner Klemperer, Leon Askin, and John Banner appeared, with Elke Sommer, in a feature film called The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz. The setting was the divided city of Berlin inside East Germany. Paula Schultz was being tempted to defect to the West, with Crane encouraging her to do so. Klemperer and Banner were involved as East German officials trying to keep Paula in the East.
Following the cancellation of Hogan's Heroes in 1971, Crane was frustrated that he was offered few quality roles. He appeared in two Disney films, 1973's Superdad with the title role and Gus from 1976 in a cameo.
In 1973, Crane purchased the rights to Beginner's Luck, a play that he starred in and directed. The production toured for five years, predominantly at dinner theatres from Florida to California to Texas, Hawaii and Arizona in 1978. During breaks, he guest starred in a number of TV shows, including Police Woman, Quincy, M.E., and The Love Boat. A second series of his own, 1975's The Bob Crane Show, was canceled by NBC after three months.
During the run of Hogan's Heroes, sitcom costar Richard Dawson introduced Crane (a photography enthusiast) to John Henry Carpenter, who was of the video department at Sony Electronics and could acquire early video cassette recorder/VCRs.
On the night of June 28, 1978, Crane allegedly called Carpenter to tell him that their friendship was over. The following day, Crane was discovered bludgeoned to death with a weapon that was never found (but was believed to be a camera tripod) at the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona. In the book The Murder of Bob Crane by true-crime author Robert Graysmith, it notes that investigators found semen on Crane's dead body and they assume the murderer may have ejaculated on him after killing him (p. 81). Crane had been appearing in Scottsdale in his Beginner's Luck production at the Windmill Dinner Theatre, now known as Buzz, located at the southeast corner of Shea Blvd and Scottsdale Rd.
According to an episode of A&E's Cold Case Files, police officers who arrived at the scene of the crime noted that Carpenter called the apartment several times and didn't seem surprised that the police were there. This raised suspicion, and the car Carpenter had rented the previous day was impounded. In it, several blood smears were found that matched Crane's blood type. At that time, D.N.A. testing didn't exist to confirm if it was Crane's or not. Due to a lack of sufficient evidence, Maricopa County Attorney Charles F. Hyder declined to file charges and the case went cold.
In 1992, 14 years after the murder, the case was reopened. An attempt to test the blood found in the car Carpenter rented failed to produce any result due to improper preservation of the evidence. The detective in charge instead hoped a picture of what appeared to be a piece of brain tissue found in the rental car (which had been lost since the original investigation) would incriminate Carpenter. He was arrested and indicted. In 1994 Carpenter was acquitted due to a lack of convincing evidence. Both the murder and the motive remain officially unsolved. Carpenter maintained his innocence until his death on September 4, 1998.
In July 1978, Bob Crane was interred in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California. Subsequently, over 20 years later, Crane's family had the actor's remains exhumed and transported about 25 miles southeast, to another cemetery, Westwood Village Memorial Park, located in Westwood, California.
Crane's life and murder were the subject of the 2002 film Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Greg Kinnear as Crane. The film, based on Graysmith's book Auto Focus: The Murder of Bob Crane, portrays Crane as a happily married, church-going family man and popular L.A. disc jockey who suddenly becomes a Hollywood celebrity, and subsequently declines into sex addiction.