Filmed in black-and-white, the opening episode of Hogan's Heroes swiftly establishes the series' premise, wherein American POW Col. Robert Hogan (Bob Crane) and his fellow prisoners are shown running a terrifyingly efficient Allied espionage operation right under the noses of their stupid German captors, Col. Wilhelm Klink (Werner Klemperer) and Sgt. Hans Schultz (John Banner). A couple of details in the pilot episode would be altered in the subsequent color installments: prisoner Andrew Carter (Larry Hovis), identified as a lieutenant in the opener, was later "demoted" to sergeant; and (Leonid Kinskey), cast as Russian POW Vladimr Minsky, would be removed as a regular character once the series proper got under way. Fans of the series will notice that Klink is more nasty and Schultz less stupid in season one than in subsequent seasons; also, Klink's curvaceous blonde secretary is not Sigrid Valdis as Hilda, but instead Cynthia Lynn as Helga. Introduced during the series' first season are such recurring characters as Klink's fatuous superior officer General Burkhalter (Leon Askin), Kathleen Freeman as Burkhalter's Wagnerian sister Gertrude, and Bernard Fox as British POW Colonel Crittenden, whose slavish dedication to rules and regulations -- not to mention his stunning ineptitude -- bids fair to mess up every one of Hogan's missions to which he is assigned. Howard Caine, later cast as irascible SS officer Major Hochstetter, shows up during season one as a different character on the episode titled "Happy Birthday, Adolf." And in another episode of note, "The Prince from the Phone Company," Ivan Dixon, the series' only African-American regular, is allowed to stretch his acting muscles in the dual role of Sgt. Kinchloe and an African potentate.
Cast & Crew
Bob Crane - Col. Robert Hogan
Werner Klemperer - Col. Wilhelm Klink
John Banner - Sgt. Hans Schultz
Robert Clary - Louis LeBeau
Richard Dawson - Peter Newkirk