Werner Klemperer, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who went on to play the inept German prison-camp commandant Col. Klink on TV’s Hogan’s Heroes, has died. He was 80.
Klemperer died of cancer Wednesday at his home in New York, said his publicist, Bernie Ilson.
Klemperer fled Germany in 1935 with his father, Otto, a distinguished conductor and composer. He won two Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the monocled Col. Wilhelm Klink on the 1960s sitcom about World War II Allied prisoners of war.
Klemperer had his own condition for playing the part: “If ever a segment was written where Col. Klink is the winner, I would leave the show,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last year.
He was a gifted actor on both film and stage, receiving a Tony nomination in 1988 as a feature actor in a musical for his role in Hal Prince’s revival of Cabaret.
Involved in Musical World
Other Broadway roles included starring opposite Jose Ferrer in The Insect Comedy, and with Tallulah Bankhead in the 1955 production of Dear Charles. Most recently, he co-starred in Circle in the Square’s production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
His film credits included Death of a Scoundrel,, The Goddess, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Ship of Fools.
Klemperer also appeared as a narrator with nearly every major symphony orchestra in the United States. His repertoire included such works as Beethoven’s Egmont and Fidelio, Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat and Oedipus Rex.
His narration of Mozart’s The Impresario, with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, aired on PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center. He also performed in various operas, including The Sound of Music, with the New York City Opera. He played Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with companies in Seattle and Cleveland.
“He was very active in the music world,” said David Licht, Klemperer’s attorney for 30 years.
A Much-Loved Colonel
But for television fans, who can still see Hogan’s Heroes in syndication, Klemperer will always be remembered as Klink, the hapless commandant who couldn’t keep his prisoners behind barbed wire.
Klemperer knew that the role would follow him throughout his career.
“I am quite sure that the role of Col. Klink will be with me for a long, long time, and I’m proud and happy about that,” he said in an 1987 interview with The Associated Press. “It has certainly not hindered me in doing all the work I’m doing and it gives me the kind of recognition that I can appreciate and I’m very grateful for it.”
He said Klink was a character people could relate to.
“The part of Col. Klink became a part that people had a lot of kind of odd identification with,” Klemperer said. “He was a little greedy, a little pompous, a little vain and a little insecure. All those things are very much part of our own personalities in many ways, so that’s what made him fun.”
Klemperer is survived by his wife, actress Kim Hamilton Klemperer, a son and a daughter. Funeral services will be private.