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Werner Klemperer

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Title: Werner Klemperer  
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Subject: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Hogan's Heroes, The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, Kim Hamilton, Wake Me When the War Is Over
Collection: 1920 Births, 2000 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 20Th-Century American Singers, 20Th-Century Opera Singers, 20Th-Century Violinists, American Male Film Actors, American Male Musical Theatre Actors, American Male Stage Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of German-Jewish Descent, American Violinists, Cancer Deaths in New York, Jewish American Male Actors, Operatic Baritones, Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award Winners, People from Cologne, People from the Rhine Province, United States Army Soldiers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Werner Klemperer

Werner Klemperer
Klemperer in December 1998.
Born (1920-03-22)March 22, 1920
Cologne, Germany
Died December 6, 2000(2000-12-06) (aged 80)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Cause of death Cancer
Occupation Actor, musician
Years active 1947–95
Spouse(s) Susan Dempsey (m. 1959–1968; divorced)
Louise Troy (m. 1969–1975; divorced)
Kim Hamilton (m. 1997–2000; his death)
Children 2
Parent(s) Otto Klemperer
Johanna Geisler

Werner Klemperer (March 22, 1920 – December 6, 2000)[1] was a German-born American stage, film, and television actor and musician.

Born in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Klemperer and his family fled Germany in 1935. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he began his professional acting career on the Broadway stage in 1947. Klemperer appeared in several films and numerous guest starring roles during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1965, he won the role of Colonel Wilhelm Klink on the CBS television sitcom Hogan's Heroes. The series aired for six seasons with Klemperer receiving a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nomination for each year, winning the award in 1968 and 1969.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Later career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Death 5
  • Selected filmography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Klemperer was born in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, to a musical family. His father was renowned conductor Otto Klemperer and his mother was soprano Johanna Geisler. He had a younger sister named Lotte (1923–2003).[2] His father was a Jew who converted to Catholicism but later converted back to Judaism; his mother was Lutheran.[3]

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 at the Pasadena Playhouse[1] 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 war's end, he performed on Broadway before moving into television acting.

Klemperer was also a violinist and an accomplished concert pianist.[4] He broadened his acting career by performing as an operatic baritone and a singer in Broadway musicals. He can also be heard as the Speaker in Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, in a 1979 live performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


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. During this time he made three guest appearances on Perry Mason: in 1958 he played murder victim Stefan Riker in "The Case of the Desperate Daughter;" in 1963 he played Ulric Zenas in "The Case of the Two-Faced Turn-a-bout;" and in 1964 he played Inspector Hurt in "The Case of a Place Called Midnight."

Prior to Hogan's Heroes, Klemperer appeared in the 1956 episode 'Safe Conduct' of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, along with future co-star John Banner; twice appeared as Hugo on the syndicated romantic comedy series, How to Marry a Millionaire (1957–1959), with Barbara Eden and Merry Anders; and appeared on the "Purple Gang" episode of The Untouchables.

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.

He appeared in character and costume as Klink in the 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. He also played a villain in an episode of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea titled "The Saboteur.

After Hogan's Heroes ended in 1971, Klemperer continued his career in stage and film roles and guest starring roles on television. In 1987, he portrayed the role of Herr Schultz in the Broadway revival of Cabaret. The role earned Klemperer a Best Featured Actor Tony Award nomination. His final television work was a guest voice role in a 1993 episode of The Simpsons, as "Homer's Guardian Angel as Colonel Klink".

Later career

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 with the Boston Symphony and Seiji Ozawa, in 1979. In 1981, he appeared, to critical and audience raves, as Prince Orlofsky in Seattle Opera's production of Die Fledermaus. In 1990 he narrated the children's story "Gerald McBoing Boing" (music by Gail Kubik) for a CD of classical music for children. 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.[5] 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.[6]

Personal life

Klemperer was the father of two children, Mark and Erika, with his first wife, Susan Dempsey.[7] On the set of Hogan's Heroes, he met his second wife, actress Louise Troy, who was making a guest appearance. They married in 1969, and divorced in 1975.

In 1997, Klemperer married his third wife, television actress Kim Hamilton, after dating for the prior 21 years.[8] They remained married until Klemperer's death. Hamilton died on September 16, 2013, aged 81.


Klemperer died of cancer according to John A. Anderson, his manager, on December 6, 2000, aged 80, at his home in Manhattan, New York City. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea. He was survived by his wife Kim Hamilton and two children.[9]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1956 Flight to Hong Kong Bendesh
1956 Death of a Scoundrel Herbert Bauman (Clementi's lawyer)
1956 The Wrong Man Dr. Bannay Uncredited
1957 Istanbul Paul Renkov
1957 5 Steps to Danger Dr. Simmons
1957 Kiss Them for Me Lt. Walter Wallace
1958 The High Cost of Loving Joseph Jessup
1958 The Goddess Joe Wilsey
1958 Houseboat Harold Messner
1961 Operation Eichmann Adolf Eichmann
1961 Judgment at Nuremberg Emil Hahn
1962 Escape from East Berlin Walter Brunner
1964 Youngblood Hawke Mr. Leffer
1965 Dark Intruder Prof. Malaki
1965 Ship of Fools Lt. Huebner
1968 The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz Klaus
1991 The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez Fat Man Looking for a Tax Break
1992 Queen Esther Haman (voice) Direct-to-video release
Have Gun - Will Travel Etienne Episode: "Fragile"
Year Title Role Notes
1951-1952 Goodyear Television Playhouse Various roles 2 episodes
1953 The Secret Files of Captain Video Meister Episode: "The Box"
1955 Studio 57 Dubrov Segment: "Win a Cigar"
1955 Crusader Wilhelm Leichner Episode: "The Bargain"
1955 Climax! 2 episodes
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Professor/Captain Greisham Episode: "Safe Conduct"
1957 Navy Log Ludwig Episode: " After You, Ludwig"
1957 Wire Service Krylov Episode: "The Washington Stars"
1957 General Electric Theater Muller Episode: "The Questioning Note"
1957 M Squad Heinrich Ronn Episode: "Face of Evil"
1957 Maverick Alex Jennings Episode: "Comstock Conspiracy"
1958 Perry Mason Stefan Riker Episode: "The Case of the Desperate Daughter"
1958 Studio One Dorfmann Episode: "Balance of Terror"
1958 The Thin Man Albert Episode: "The Pre-Incan Caper"
1958 Gunsmoke Clifton Bunker Episode: "Sunday Supplement"
1958 The Court of Last Resort Malone Episode: "The Allen Cutler Case"
1958 The Silent Service Captain Lieutenant Prien Episode: "U-47 in Scapa Flow"
1959 Behind Closed Doors Slavko Episode: "Crypto 40"
1959 Steve Canyon Linz Episode: "Iron Curtain"
1959 The Third Man Holz Donner Episode: "The Third Medaillon"
1959 Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond Herr Bautmann Episode: "The Haunted U-Boat"
1959 How to Marry a Millionaire Mr. Obermeyer Episode: "Gwen's Secret"
1960 The Alaskans Baron Episode: "Gold Fever"
1960 Overland Trail Arnold Braun Episode: "Vigilantes of Montana"
1960 Alcoa Theatre Colonel Hanning Episode: "The Observer"
1960 Rawhide Kessel Episode: "Incident of the Music Maker"
1960 Men into Space Major Kralenko Episode: "Flare Up"
1960 The Untouchables Jan Tornek Episode: "Purple Gang"
1960 Thriller Mr. Clark Episode: "Man in the Middle"
1961 The Islanders Michel Serati Episode: "The Pearls of Ratu"
1961 Have Gun – Will Travel Leander Johnson Episode: "The Uneasy Grave"
1961 Adventures in Paradise Kuberli Episode: "Survival"
1962 Checkmate Franz Leder Episode: "An Assassin Arrives, Andante"
1963 Perry Mason Ulric Zenas "Episode: The Case of the Two-Faced Turn-a-bout"
1963 The Lloyd Bridges Show Gustavsen Episode: "The Wonder of Wanda"
1963 77 Sunset Strip Schtiekel Episode: "Escape to Freedom"
1963 The Dakotas Col. von Bleist Episode: "Trial at Grand Forks"
1963 My Three Sons Professor Engel 2 episodes
1963 GE True K. H. Frank 2 episodes
1964 Perry Mason Hurt Episode: "The Case of a Place Called Midnight"
1964 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Laslo Kurasov Episode: "The Project Strigas Affair"
1964 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Cregar Episode: "The Blizzard Maker"
1965 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Brainwasher (voice) Episode: "The Saboteur"
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Colonel Wertha Episode: "Escape into Jeopardy"
1965-1971 Hogan's Heroes Colonel Wilhelm Klink 168 episodes
1966 Lost in Space Bolix Episode: "All That Glitters"
1966 Batman Colonel Klink (uncredited cameo) Episode: "It's How You Play the Game"
1968 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Colonel Wilhelm Klink Episode #2.6
1969 Wake Me When the War Is Over Mayor Erich Mueller Television film
1972 Night Gallery Ludwig Asper Episode: "Green Fingers/The Funeral/The Tune in Dan's Cafe"
1972 The Doris Day Show Jacques Moreau Episode: "Gowns by Louis"
1972 Assignment: Munich Insp. Hoffman Television film
1972 Love, American Style Harold Baxter Segment: "Love and the Unbearable Fiance"
1973 McMillan & Wife Dr. Ernest Bleeker Episode: "The Devil You Say"
1977 The Rhinemann Exchange Franz Altmuller Miniseries
1978 Tabitha Henry Hastings Episode: "Tabitha's Party"
1979 The Love Boat Mr. Perkins Episode: "The Grass Is Always Greener..."
1980 Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty Plato Television special
1981 Vega$ Siegfried Klaus Episode: "Heist"
1981 The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies C.D. Medford Television film
1983 Matt Houston Felix Randolph Episode: "The Purrfect Crime"
1986 Mr. Sunshine Dean 2 episodes
1988 American Experience Prince Maximilian of Bavaria Episode: "Views of a Vanishing Frontier"
1992 Law & Order William Unger Episode: "Star Struck"
1993 The Simpsons Homer's Guardian Angel as Colonel Klink (voice) Episode: "The Last Temptation of Homer"


  1. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard "Werner Klemperer, Klink in 'Hogan's Heroes,' Dies at 80" New York Times (December 8, 2000)
  2. ^ Klemperer was a cousin of Victor Klemperer.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Erickson, Hal "Werner Klemperer" (Allmovie biography)
  5. ^ "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher : Episode Guide". MSN. Retrieved June 26, 2011. 
  6. ^ Woo, Elaine "Werner Klemperer; Played Col. Klink in ‘Hogan’s Heroes’" Los Angeles Times (December 8, 2008)
  7. ^ "Klemperer Likes Trend in Which Heroes Have Faults". St. Joseph News-Press. May 29, 1966. p. 6C. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ Rode, Alan K. (2007-04-13). "Kim Hamilton interview with Alan K. Rode - Pt 1 and Pt 2". Film Noir Foundation. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  9. ^ "Werner Klemperer; portrayed Col. Klink". Reading Eagle. December 8, 2000. p. B6. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 

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