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RuiCarvalho ( 2007-09-14 )
John Banner, who achieved television immortality for his portrayal of the Luftwaffe prison-camp guard Sergeant Schultz in the TV series "Hogan's Heroes" (1965), was born on January 28, 1910 in Vienna, the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The 28-year-old Banner, who was Jewish, was forced to abandon his homeland after the 1938 Anschluss (union) between Nazi Germany and Austria, which occurred while he was engaged in a tour of Switzerland with an acting company. Unable to return to Austria due to Hitler's anti-Semitic policies of persecution, he emigrated to the United States as a political refugee. Soon after reaching the States, Banner -- who was completely ignorant of the English language -- was hired to emcee a musical revue. He had to learn his lines phonetically, but the total immersion paid off in that he rapidly picked up English. His accent and "Nordic" look ironically meant that he was typecast in several films as Nazis during the 1940s. He survived the war playing the very villains who were murdering his family who had been left behind in Austria, all of whom perished in concentration camps. The Banner who had emigrated to the US weighed a trim 180 lbs., but eventually, he added another 100 lbs. to become the roly-poly character actor that America would come to know and love. The 280-lb. Banner became a character actor who appeared regularly in movies and on TV, specializing in foreign-official types, such the Soviet Ambassador in the Fred MacMurray comedy Kisses for My President (1964). In 1965, Bing Crosby Productions cast Banner as Sgt. Schultz in the wartime sitcom Hogan's Heroes, a take-off on _Billy Wilder_'s Stalag 17 (1953) but with more humor and less drama. The bumbling Dutch uncle that Banner assayed was a continent apart from the wickedly evil Nazis he specialized in during the war. Spectacularly inept as a guard of Allied prisoners of war, Sgt. Schultz was prone to ignoring the irregularities that transpired in the fictive Stalag 13, bellowing "I know nothing! I see nothing! NOTHING!" John Banner enjoyed the role but demurred when accused of portraying a "cuddly" Nazi. He told TV Guide, "I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in every generation." Banner, along with _Werner Klemperer_, ["Colonel Klink"] (who like Banner was a Jewish refugee from Hitler playing a comical, bumbling Nazi in "Hogan's Heroes"), co-starred with _Bob Crane (I)_ ["Colonel Hogan"] in The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (1968), a bizarre movie "comedy" about a defecting East German athlete. The picture bombed and the trio went back to turning out the highly popular series without losing too much pride or momentum. After the cancellation of "Hogan's Heroes" in 1971, Banner was signed for another TV show set in the past, "The Chicago Teddy Bears" (1971), which used the Prohibition era as its setting. Banner's Uncle Latzi was a close cousin of Schultz, but lightning did not strike twice and the series was canceled after 13 episodes. John Banner died on his 63rd birthday, January 28, 1973, in his hometown of Vienna. He lives on as the inimitable Sgt. Schultz to the legions of "Hogan's Heroes" fans who now span the generations.
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