It’s not really tangential for me to include LeBeau from Hogan’s Heroes on this blog. Robert Clary (born today in 1926) started out singing in French music halls at the age of 12. (And promptly froze–he has never stopped looking 12 years old, has he?).
During the German occupation he was shipped off to a series of concentration camps for being Jewish; the Holocaust took most of his family. It is mind-boggling to me that after having survived Buchenwald, he found himself able to play a cartoon Frenchman (wearing a chef hat, say, when the plot called for him to whip up a soufflé) in a sit-com set in a German P.O.W. camp. On the other hand, you know what? After having lived through something like that, maybe you just say “whatever”. Maybe one thing is as good as another. And what better revenge on the Nazi myth of superiority than Werner Klemperer? For Clary’s own comments on participating in the show after all that he had been through see the great documentary The Last Laugh (2016).
Anyway, there were two decades between the liberation and Hogan’s Heroes. His records became successful in the U.S., and so he came over. (Another vaudeville connection, and a trivia tidbit I bet you didn’t know. He’s Eddie Cantor’s son-in-law! He married Eddie’s daughter Natalie) . Clary was a frequent presence on tv variety shows in the 50s and 60s (including Colgate Comedy Hour, which Cantor hosted) prior to being cast as LeBeau.
And after LeBeau? Well, read for yourself. M. Clary is still with us, still very active, has an excellent web site, and has written a book about his life. To find out more about where he’s at today, just go here.
To find out more about the history of variety entertainment, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.