01/26/07 - robert clary

In today's excerpt - director John Rich writes about sitcom actor Robert Clary:

"In the 1960s, between my long tenures with [Dick] Van Dyke and All in the Family ... even after I had been working in television for well over a decade, at times I still came across things that surprised or even shocked me. That occurred once during a lunch break on the set of Hogan's Heroes. I had directed several episodes of that series, even though I always had a bit of trouble with its trivialization of a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. ... This feeling was magnified one day when I sat next to Robert Clary, who portrayed a young French prisoner in Colonel Hogan's barracks. Lunch was served outdoors, and since it was a hot day, Robert was wearing a sleeveless shirt.

"As I reached for something on the table, I noticed a numbered tattoo on Clary's arm. I was astonished. 'Forgive me for asking,' I said to him, 'but do those numbers mean what I think they do?'

"Clary responded without hesitation. 'Yes, I was a prisoner in Auschwitz.'

"A chilling thought came into my mind. 'How can you play an inmate,' I asked, ... 'and face those horrible symbols of Nazi authority? How do you interact with swastikas and all other paraphernalia of a system that condemned you to an extermination camp?'

" 'It's a job,' Clary said with a shrug, 'you get over it.'

"[Y]ears later ... he admitted it had been more than a little difficult."


John Rich


Warm Up the Snake: A Hollywood Memoir


University of Michigan Press


Copyright by John Rich 2006


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