Bob Crane biography
SynopsisBorn in 1928, Bob Crane started acting in the 1960s, appearing on such shows as The Twilight Zone and The Dick van Dyke Show. In 1965, Crane auditioned for and got the lead role on TV’s Hogan’s Heroes, a role that earned him two Emmy nods. Crane’s racy personal life started to surface in the 1970s, overshadowing his career, and in 1974 he was found brutally murdered, a crime that remains unsolved.
Actor. Born Robert Crane, on July 13, 1928, in the rural blue-collar town of Waterbury, Connecticut. Robert and his older brother were raised by their parents, Alfred and Rosemary Crane, in the upscale town of Stamford, Connecticut.
As a young boy, Crane developed an ear for music and an affinity for playing the drums. During World War II, he formed his own jazz band, performing at local dances to raise money for war bonds. In his late teens, he adopted a more classical sound, briefly enjoying a place in the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra.
After his high school graduation, Crane set his sights on a career as a radio disc jockey. He landed his first position at WLEA in Hornell, New York, where he earned a weekly salary of $35. Around the same time, he married his childhood sweetheart Anne Terzian. Shortly after their nuptials, Anne became pregnant, influencing Crane to seek work closer to Stamford. Opportunities arose in the towns of Bristol (at WBIS) then Bridgeport (at WICC), where he developed his trademark off-the-wall routines. Eventually his morning show on WICC gained a loyal following. When an opening in Los Angeles presented itself, CBS suggested Crane for the job.
Crane accepted the offer (which was accompanied by a five-figure salary) and moved his family to California. Listeners quickly took to Crane's brash and irreverent style. His morning show met with instant success, earning him the title "King of the LA Airwaves."
In 1960, at age 32, Crane began taking acting lessons and appearing in plays. He used the popularity of his radio show to entice the Hollywood press and influential producers to come watch his performances. Crane's first few projects earned admirable reviews. Small parts in television followed, including The Twilight Zone and General Electric Theater.
Among his notable radio guests was The Dick Van Dyke Show producer Carl Reiner. Crane made an appearance on the popular series, which led to an offer to appear on The Donna Reed Show. After an impressive performance, Crane was offered a permanent part as the Stone's neighbor Dr. Dave Kelsey. He spent two seasons on the show until he was unceremoniously fired in 1965.
Crane's termination was a blessing in disguise, as it afforded him the opportunity to audition for a new CBS program called Hogan's Heroes (1965). Crane won the lead role as the easygoing and wisecracking Colonel Robert Hogan. Eventually, his demanding television schedule forced him to relinquish his 16-year radio career. The comedy, which was set in a World War II POW camp, premiered in September 1965, and met with instantaneous success.
By the end of its first season, Hogan's Heroes ranked among the top ten most popular television shows. In 1966 and 1967, Crane earned Emmy nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.
However, Crane's success was overshadowed by his personal indiscretions. His extramarital affairs with Hogan's Heroes costars Cynthia Lynn and Patti Olsen, culminated in the end of his 20-year marriage. In June of 1970, Crane divorced his first wife Anne, and in October of that year, he married Olsen in an elaborate ceremony on the set of Hogan's Heroes.
Around the same time, Crane befriended video salesman John Carpenter. The two men shared an affinity for electronics, and for video taping their sexual encounters. The two scouted out partners, becoming regulars at various strip clubs around Los Angeles. Crane's secret life began to take a toll on his career. In 1974, he landed his first lead role in a major motion picture, Disney's Superdad. As the film was ready to be released, knowledge of Crane's voyeurism surfaced, forcing Disney to distance itself from the actor. The following year, Crane attempted to boost his flagging career by executing his own short-lived TV show, The Bob Crane Show, which barely survived long enough to air a dozen episodes.
On June 29, 1978, Crane was found brutally murdered in an apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had been so badly beaten that he was hardly recognizable. As the police tried to piece together the murder, the secret life of Crane began to unravel. Although no clear motive was established, John Carpenter served as the prime suspect. Nevertheless, without a weapon or an eyewitness, the local county attorney's office felt there wasn't enough evidence to convict.
Crane's murder remained untried until a newly appointed state attorney, Rick Romley, re-opened the case in 1990. As evidence was re-examined, a previously overlooked photo showed a piece of human tissue in the interior of Carpenter's car. Two years later, Carpenter was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. A trial commenced in September 1994, in which the prosecution based its case on the idea that Carpenter murdered Crane in a fit of rage. However, the jury acquitted Carpenter, citing lack of evidence. The Crane case remains unsolved.