Werner Klemperer (March 22, 1920 – December 6, 2000) was a comedic and dramatic actor, best known for his role as Colonel Klink on the CBS television sitcom, Hogan's Heroes.
Born in Cologne to a musical family, Klemperer was the son of the renowned conductor Otto Klemperer (1885–1973) and Johanna Geisler (1888–1956), a soprano. He had a younger sister named Lotte (1923–2003). Klemperer was musically talented, being a violinist and an accomplished concert pianist. He broadened his acting career by performing as an operatic baritone and a singer in Broadway musicals. He can be seen playing in the violin section of the New Philharmonia Orchestra on the EMI Classics DVD "Otto Klemperer – Beethoven Symphony No. 9." at a concert performed on November 8, 1964, at London's Royal Albert Hall.
The Klemperer family emigrated to the United States in 1935, settling in Los Angeles where Otto Klemperer took up work as a conductor. Werner Klemperer began acting in high school and enrolled in acting courses in Pasadena before joining the United States Army to serve in World War II.
While stationed in Hawaii, he joined the Army's Special Services unit, spending the next years touring the Pacific entertaining the troops. At the end of the war, he worked on Broadway before moving into television.
Klemperer's first major film role was as a psychiatrist in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956). He then received significant notice for his role in the award winning 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg. The film presents a fictionalized account of the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials, with Klemperer portraying Emil Hahn, a Nazi judge and one of the defendants at the trial. Prior to this, he had a small role in the 1957 Errol Flynn film Istanbul and a pivotal part in the "Comstock Conspiracy" episode of Maverick that same year. He played the title role in the 1961 film Operation Eichmann. He guest starred in the first Brian Keith television series, Crusader, a Cold War drama which aired on CBS.
Prior to Hogan's Heroes, Klemperer appeared in the 1956 episode 'Safe Conduct' of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, along with future co-star John Banner, and twice appeared as Hugo on the syndicated romantic comedy series, How to Marry a Millionaire (1957–1959), with Barbara Eden and Merry Anders. He is best known, however, as Colonel Wilhelm Klink: the bumbling, cowardly and self-serving Kommandant of Stalag 13 on Hogan's Heroes, which aired from 1965–1971. Klemperer, conscious that he would be playing the role of a German officer during the Nazi regime, agreed to the part only on the condition that Klink would be portrayed as a fool who never succeeded. When Klemperer's father, the famous conductor, saw his first episode of Hogan's Heroes, he said to his son, "Your work is good . . . but who is the author of this material?" In addition to the character's bumblings, Klink was also remembered for his horribly screechy violin playing, spoofing Klemperer's talent for the violin. For his performance as Klink, Klemperer received six Emmy Award nominations for best supporting actor, winning in 1968 and 1969. On the set of Hogan's Heroes, he met his second wife, actress Louise Troy, who was making a guest appearance. They fell in love and married in 1969, but divorced in 1975.
He appeared in character and costume as Klink in the Batman episode "it's how you play the game" and as Officer Bolix in the Lost in Space episode "All That Glitters" in 1966. he also appeared in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Episode 13 The Blizzard Makers in December 7, 1964.
He played a bumbling East German official in the 1968 American comedy film The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, directed by George Marshall and starring Elke Sommer and several of his costars from Hogan's Heroes, including Bob Crane. Klemperer later starred in Wake Me When The War Is Over in 1969 playing the role of a German Major, Erich Mueller alongside Eva Gabor (Green Acres).
Between 1970 and 1978, Klemperer owned a Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 V8. When it was parked on the set of Hogan's Heroes, co-star Bob Crane joked about it being "The Colonel's staff car". After Crane's murder, Werner sold the car because it brought back too many memories of his friend.
After his father’s death in 1973, Klemperer expanded his acting career with musical roles in opera and Broadway musicals. He earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Cabaret in its 1987 Broadway revival. A member of the Board of Directors of the New York Chamber Symphony, Klemperer served as a narrator with many other American symphony orchestras. He also made occasional guest appearances on television dramas, and took part in a few studio recordings, notably a version of Arnold Schönberg's Gurre-Lieder in 1979. In 1981, he appeared, to critical and audience raves, as Prince Orlofsky in Seattle Opera's production of Die Fledermaus. In 1992, he made a guest appearance in an episode of Law & Order, "Starstruck," as the father of an attempted murder suspect.
In 1993, Klemperer reprised the role of Klink in an episode of The Simpsons as Homer's guardian angel and spirit guide in the episode "The Last Temptation of Homer" (episode # 5.9). According to the episode's DVD commentary, when Klemperer appeared, he had to be given a quick reminder of how to play Colonel Klink. He declined other offers to reprise the character, including one from talk show host Conan O'Brien.
Klemperer appeared in several episodes of the news/talk show Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.
Klemperer was the father of two children, Mark and Erika, with his first wife, Susan Dempsey. In 1997, Klemperer married his third wife, television actress Kim Hamilton, with whom he had lived for several years. On December 6, 2000, Klemperer died of cancer in New York and his ashes were scattered at sea.
For many years, Klemperer was an elected member of the council of Actors' Equity Association, and was a vice president of the union at the time of his death.
- ↑ Weinraub, Bernard "Werner Klemperer, Klink in 'Hogan's Heroes,' Dies at 80" New York Times (December 8, 2000)
- ↑ Klemperer was a cousin of Victor Klemperer.
- ↑ Erickson, Hal "Werner Klemperer" (Allmovie biography)
- ↑ "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher : Episode Guide". MSN. http://tv.msn.com/tv/series-episodes/politically-incorrect-with-bill-maher/?sb=0&si=1&ipp=40. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
- ↑ Woo, Elaine "Werner Klemperer; Played Col. Klink in ‘Hogan’s Heroes’" Los Angeles Times (December 8, 2008)
- Werner Klemperer at the Internet Broadway Database
- Werner Klemperer at the Internet Movie Database
- Werner Klemperer at AllRovi
- Werner Klemperer at the Turner Classic Movies
- Werner Klemperer at Find a Grave
- Werner Klemperer at concentric.net
- Werner's mom and dad, Otto and Johanna, 1920s portrait by Nickolas Muray
- Werner Klemperer at TriviaTribute.com
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