I picked up a new DVD set released this week of an old TV show that I barely remembered but have enjoyed watching in syndication. It was a collection of the 3rd season of Hogan’s Heroes. That show ran from September 17, 1965, to July 4, 1971, on the CBS TV network. The comedy starred Bob Crane as Colonel Robert E. Hogan and was set in a German prisoner of war (POW) camp during the Second World War. The POWs of Stalag 13 were actually active war participants, using the camp as a base of operations for Allied espionage and sabotage against the Nazis.
One of the regulars on the U.S. Staff Sgt. James Kinchloe. He was one of the only African-American’s on the show and in charge of electronic communications and could also mimic German officers on the radio or phone.
The role was played to perfection by Ivan Dixon. Dixon has taken his Final Taxi ate the age of 76.
Ivan Dixon was born in New York City on April 6, 1931. Ivan had a prestigious list of acting credits before delving into the comedic escapades of Stalag 13. One of his first acting credits was for the celebrated television anthology show “The Dupont Show of the Month” in the 1960 production of “Arrowsmith.” He went on to act in the film version of the theatrical drama “A Raisin in the Sun” with Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier in 1961, in which he played Asagai, the African boyfriend of Beneatha. He also portrayed Jim in the 1959 film version of “Porgy and Bess.” His other pre-“Hogan’s Heroes” film work includes: “Something of Value” (1957), “The Murder Men” (1961), and “The Battle at Bloody Beach” (1961).
Perhaps Ivan’s most important film role is in the acclaimed drama “Nothing But a Man” (1964). In this subtle, complicated character study, Ivan plays Duff, a Southern railroad worker who must decide if his life, his marriage and his relationship with his son will repeat the mistakes his own father committed. Unlike many films of the era, it presents a cast of black characters who are fully-developed individuals, with problems, joys and identities of their own. Dixon acted with Poitier again in the 1965 film “A Patch of Blue” about a blind white girl falling in love with a black man (Poitier).
Also in 1965, Dixon began his enlistment as Sergeant James Kinchloe on “Hogan’s Heroes” “Kinch” was primarily responsible for radio, telegraph, and other forms of electronic communications on the show and was always their when Hogan needed him.
Dixon left the series in 1970, one year before the show ended. His post-“Hogan” films included: “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?” (1970) and the Vietnam veteran melodrama “Clay Pigeon” (1971). I fondly remember him in the movie “Car Wash” (1976) when he played the boss Lonnie. Other television acting credits include the 1987 mini-series “Amerika,” the 1986 mystery film “Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star,” in which he played the judge, and the 1974 action drama “Fer-de-Lance” (aka “Death Dive”). In addition to acting on television, he also directed hundreds of episodic shows, including “The Waltons,” “The Rockford Files,” “Magnum P.I.” and “Heat of the Night.”
Dixon began directing films in the early 1970s, such as the 1972 gang warfare flick “Trouble Man” and the 1973 action movie “The Spy Who Sat by the Door” (which he also produced). For television, he directed “Love Is Not Enough” (1978), the series “Palmerstown, U.S.A.” (1980), the detective series “Hawaiian Heat” (1984), and the telemovie “Percy & Thunder” (1993).
Dixon’s awards include four NAACP Image Awards, National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award from the Black American Cinema Society. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild of America, and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
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