Richard Dawson, Actor and Game Show Host, Dies at 79
After a successful career as an actor, which included roles on such television series as Hogan's Heroes, Dawson went on to greater heights as host of the popular game show Family Feud.
Richard Dawson, a British-born performer who enjoyed television fame as both an actor and a game show host, died June 2, 2012, in Los Angeles. He was 79.
According to news reports, the cause was esophageal cancer.
Dawson, who was born Colin Lionel Emm on November 20, 1932, in Gosport, Hampshire, England, grew up in poverty in the aftermath of World War II. He went on to achieve worldwide recognition through acting roles on such TV series as the comedy Hogan's Heroes, and as the host of the popular game show Family Feud.
His signature on Family Feud was kissing many of the female contestants. The show aired originally from 1976-1985, and continued for decades in syndication. Steve Harvey is the host today.
As a young man, Dawson did not aspire to a show business career. However, following a stint in the merchant marines, his natural sense of humor — and the prospect of meeting women – led him to pursue performing.
He moved to the U.S. with his first wife, Diana Dors, a shapely actress often compared to Marilyn Monroe. Dawson first drew public attention as Cpl. Peter Newkirk, an amiable con man, forger and pickpocket, on Hogan’s Heroes, a CBS comedy set in a Nazi prison camp. He appeared for a time on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and had guest roles on numerous series, including McCloud, Love, American Style, The Odd Couple, McMillan and Wife, Fantasy Island and more.
His feature films credits included King Rat, Promises, Promises, Munster Go Home and The Running Man, a 1987 futuristic action thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which Dawson played the host of a deadly a game show.
For his work on Family Feud, Dawson received seven Daytime Emmy Award nominations and won once, in 1978.
Dawson and Dors divorced in 1966. survived by his second wife, Gretchen, whom he met when she was a contestant on Family Feud; their daughter; two sons from his first marriage; and four grandchildren.
RIchard Dawson had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television.
During the three-and-a-half-hour interview, conducted in Beverly Hills, California, on December 1, 2010, by Paul Brownstein, Dawson described his path from comedy stages in the West End of London to game show sets in Hollywood.
He went on to discuss how he loved to make people laugh and shared how he made the jump from comedian to actor. He also recalled his memorable roles on both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The New Dick Van Dyke Show, and spoke of his work as Corporal Peter Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes.
In addition, Dawson talked about his experiences as guest host for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and detailed how he got the gig for which he is most famous: hosting Family Feud. He recounted favorite moments from his years with Family Feud, and offered advice on how to be a considerate host and still get to kiss all the ladies.