Werner Klemperer

Werner Klemperer (March 22, 1920 – December 6, 2000)[1] was a German-American actor, stage entertainer, and singer. He was best known for the role of Colonel Wilhelm Klink on the popular CBS television sitcom Hogan's Heroes, for which he twice won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series at the Primetime Emmy Awards in 1968 and 1969.

Werner Klemperer
Klemperer in 1971 on the set of ABC's Password
Born(1920-03-22)March 22, 1920
Cologne, Germany
DiedDecember 6, 2000(2000-12-06) (aged 80)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Years active1947–1995
Spouse(s)Susan Dempsay (m. 1959–1968; divorced)
Louise Troy (m. 1969–1975; divorced)
Kim Hamilton (m. 1997–2000; his death)
Parent(s)Otto Klemperer
Johanna Geisler

After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he began performing on the Broadway stage in 1947. Klemperer then appeared in several films during his early acting career such as The Wrong Man (1956), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and Houseboat (1958), and numerous roles in television shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1956), Perry Mason (1956), Maverick (1957), Gunsmoke (1958), The Untouchables (1960), and Have Gun Will Travel (1961), prior to his Hogan's Heroes role.

Early life

Klemperer was born in Cologne, Germany, to a musical family, but he said that he had little musical aptitude.[2] His father was renowned conductor Otto Klemperer and his mother was soprano Johanna Geisler. He had a younger sister named Lotte (1923–2003). His father was Jewish by birth; he converted to Catholicism, but later returned to Judaism. His mother was Lutheran. Otto Klemperer was a first cousin of Victor Klemperer.[3]

The Klemperer family emigrated to the United States in 1935, settling in Los Angeles, where Otto Klemperer became conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 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.

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 Gurre-Lieder, 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 played a German government officer in the 1959 episode, "The Haunted U-Boat", of the series One Step Beyond. Also in 1959, he appeared as a Frenchman in the episode "Fragile" of the Western TV series Have Gun – Will Travel.[4] He 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 prosecutor 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 that aired on CBS. During this time, he made three guest appearances on Perry Mason: he played East German murder victim Stefan Riker in the 1958 episode "The Case of the Desperate Daughter"; the East European character Ulrik Zenas in the 1963 episode "The Case of the Two-Faced Turn-a-bout"; and German Swiss Police Inspector Hurt in 1964 in "The Case of a Place Called Midnight". In 1963, Klemperer also portrayed a professor of psychology in "The Dream Book", an episode on the sitcom My Three Sons.[5]

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 bungling, cowardly, conceited, and self-serving Kommandant of Stalag 13 on Hogan's Heroes, which was broadcast on CBS from 1965–1971. Klemperer, conscious that he would be playing the role of a German officer during the Nazi regime, accepted the part only on the condition that Klink would be portrayed as a fool who never succeeded. According to co-star, Richard Dawson, Klemperer supplied his own uniforms. When Klemperer's father, the famous conductor Otto Klemperer, 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 excruciatingly bad violin playing. For his performance as Klink, Klemperer received six Emmy Award nominations for best supporting actor, winning successive awards in 1968 and 1969.

Klemperer made a cameo appearance in character as Klink in the Batman episode "It's How You Play the Game" and as Officer Bolix in the Lost in Space episode "All That Glitters" in 1966. He played a bumbling East German official in the 1968 American comedy film The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, directed by George Marshall and starring Elke Sommer and several of his costars from Hogan's Heroes, including Bob Crane and John Banner. 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 Blizzard Makers".

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 Herr Schultz in the Broadway revival of Cabaret. The role earned Klemperer a Best Featured Actor Tony Award nomination.

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 including the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He also made occasional guest appearances on television dramas, and took part in a few studio recordings, notably a version of Arnold Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder with the Boston Symphony and Seiji Ozawa, in 1979. From 1979 to 1982, he appeared as Bassa Selim in 18 performances of Mozart's Singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.[6] 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". 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.[7]

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.[8]

Personal life

Klemperer was the father of two children, Mark and Erika, with his first wife, Susan Dempsay.[9][10] 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 her for 21 years.[11] They remained married until Klemperer's death. Hamilton died 13 years later at age 81 on September 16, 2013.


Klemperer died of cancer at his home in Manhattan on December 6, 2000, at the age of 80, according to his manager John A. Anderson. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.[12]


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
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 Have Gun – Will Travel Etienne Episode: "Fragile"
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 Vienna 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 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", (final appearance)


  1. Weinraub, Bernard (December 8, 2000). "Werner Klemperer, Klink in Hogan's Heroes, Dies at 80". The New York Times.
  2. Wigler, Stephen (May 7, 1985). "Col. Klink Goes Classical Seriously Talented Werner Klemperer On FSO Program". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 22, 2018. I studied piano and violin, but I made noises a dog shouldn't hear
  3. Captain Spaulding (December 2000). "Hooray for Me". Hogan's Heroes Fan Club. Archived from the original on June 7, 2016.
  4. Have Gun – Will Travel (S03E07) on IMDb
  5. "The Dream Book", S03E20, My Three Sons, originally broadcast January 31, 1963. TV Guide Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  6. "Werner Klemperer", Metropolitan Opera Archives
  7. "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher: Episode Guide". MSN. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  8. Woo, Elaine (December 8, 2008). "Werner Klemperer; Played Col. Klink in Hogan's Heroes". Los Angeles Times.
  9. Lipton, Michael A. (January 8, 2001). "Camp Clown". People. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  10. "Klemperer Likes Trend in Which Heroes Have Faults". St. Joseph News-Press. Associated Press. May 29, 1966. p. 6C. Retrieved January 14, 2013 via Google News.
  11. Rode, Alan K. (April 13, 2007). "Kim Hamilton interview with Alan K. Rode – Pt 1 and Pt 2". Film Noir Foundation. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  12. "Werner Klemperer; portrayed Col. Klink". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. December 8, 2000. p. B6. Retrieved January 14, 2013 via Google News.
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