Saturday, June 04, 2005

Leon Askin 1907 - 2005

Here it is another weekend and another classic sit-com actor has passed away. You probably don't recognize the name but I'm sure you know the face (if not the voice).

Leon Askin (born Leon Aschkenazy, in Vienna, Austria) was best known as Colonel Klink's superior, General Burkhalter, in the sit-com Hogan's Heroes.

Askin as a young actor and Jew, in Germany in 1933, was arrested and beaten by Hitler's Gestapo and eventually fled to Paris. While performing in France, with the increasing threat from the Nazi's, he applied for and was granted a visa to the U.S. in 1940.

During his years working on Hogan's Heroes he was subjected to questions as to how a Jewish actor could portray a German Nazi. Askin had said "From the beginning, Hogan's Heroes was misunderstood. It was about a POW camp. A stalag. In stalags there are soldiers under the Geneva convention. It was not a concentration camp. If you want to make fun of your enemy, be it French, American, German, whatever- humor is the greatest weapon. This controversy is idiotic".

When asked how he approached the role as the cantankerous General, he said "In portraying Burkhalter I try always to depict the sort of irritability of a man who realizes he has just swallowed a rotten olive."

If you get a chance, rent the James Cagney film One, Two, Three, there you can see one of his non "Hogan" roles as the funny Soviet villain.

(the above quotes are taken from the book "Hogan's Heroes Behind the Scenes at stalag 13!")

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