Saturday, December 17, 2016

Tribute to Bernard Fox — Dr. Bombay, Colonel Crittendon, and So Much More

Bernard Fox with Bob Crane on Hogan's Heroes.
This photograph was in my collection for years before
I donated it to the Liberty Aviation Museum. It is now
part of their official Hogan's Heroes display.
In 1998, I was in the process of a major life transition. Recently divorced, I was picking up the pieces from a bad marriage and moving forward. As part of that process and as a diversion, I enjoyed watching Hogan's Heroes, my favorite television show since my childhood. 

During that time, I did something I rarely ever did: I wrote a fan letter. And the person I wrote to was Bernard Fox. I told him how much I enjoyed his work as Colonel Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes and asked for an autographed photo. Within a few weeks, he wrote back, his gorgeous calligraphy handwriting inscribed on the photo, as well as the envelope it was mailed in. At a time when I was at my lowest, he helped lift my spirits, and I'll never forget that.

I've always adored Bernard Fox in everything he did. From Bewitched to The Monkees to Hogan's Heroes, and countless other television shows, he made his characters shine. Seeing him in films such as The Mummy and Titanic was a joy. In fact, in one interview with Brenda Scott Royce (author of 'Hogan's Heroes': Behind the Scenes at Stalag 13!), he recalled his roles in both James Cameron's Titanic and the 1958 version of the maritime disaster, A Night to Remember.

"[In A Night to Remember]..., I was the fellow that saw the iceberg. And it has taken me forty years to work my way up from the crew to being a first-class passenger! ... [In Titanic, all] of the shooting was night shooting. Everything. We didn't even start on the ship until six, and we broke at midnight for lunch. And how James Cameron kept his humor, in the freezing cold at four o'clock in the morning, I don't know, but he did."

Bernard Fox, Larry Hovis, and Bob Crane in the
Hogan's Heroes episode, "The Crittendon Plan."
Fast forward ten years, and Dee, Linda, and I were in the process of researching Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. We contacted Bernard Fox, who respectfully declined a full interview. However, he did correspond. He wished us well on our endeavor, stating that he enjoyed working with Bob very much. Unfortunately, he also told us that his days were spent primarily going to doctor appointments. Seeing photographs of him from recent Bewitched gatherings posted by co-stars and friends only reinforced the sad truth that he was nearing the end of a fantastic life journey.

While researching Bob's life, we learned a whole lot, and one big piece of his life story often overlooked is his work in the theatre. It is typically written off as not much more than something Bob had to do to pay the bills and not necessarily something he enjoyed doing. His play Beginner's Luck became known only as the play he was performing at the time of his murder in June 1978. But Beginner's Luck and all of Bob's stage work was much more than just making ends meet financially. Bob loved the stage and craved the audience's reactions to his comedy. Beginner's Luck received rave reviews in the press on a regular basis, and Bob even aspired to take the play to Broadway or turn it into a feature film.

Bob Crane with Bernard Fox starring in the
theatre production of Beginner's Luck.
Bernard Fox was an integral part of Beginner's Luck. He starred in the original performance along with Bob, earning both actors their permanent place in the Cast roster at the front of the playbook. Audiences loved seeing the pair perform, their onstage chemistry being just as magical as it was on Hogan's Heroes, a testament to their professionalism and friendship.

No matter what role he played, Bernard Fox always looked like he was having fun. He is probably best known for his role on Bewitched, but it was his role as Colonel Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes that he proclaimed to Brenda Scott Royce he enjoyed the most.

"Colonel Crittendon was a marvelous schmuck," he told Royce. "I think I enjoyed Colonel Crittendon more than Dr. Bombay. It was a wild character, and I totally reveled in messing up every attempt to escape. I really liked the outrageous behavior of Colonel Crittendon. And I may have got a little bit more comedy of my own in on Hogan's Heroes than I did on Bewitched. [Hogan's Heroes] was a lovely show and had nice people in it. Bob Crane, I miss very much."

Rest in peace Bernard Fox. You are already missed very much.




1 comment:

  1. WHat a wonderful tribute to Bernard. I always enjoyed any of the characters he played, he had an unforgettable voice and mannerism, R.I.P.

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For more about Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, which was published on September 17, 2015, visit http://www.vote4bobcrane.org/book.html