Richard Dawson

Active - 1965 - 1991  |   Born - Nov 20, 1932 in Gosport, Hampshire, England  |   Died - Jun 2, 2012   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Trained in British repertory, actor Richard Dawson achieved prominence in the late '50s as a cabaret and TV comedian. Arriving in the U.S. in 1961, Dawson made the variety-show rounds with an act consisting largely of quickie celebrity impressions. One of his first acting assignment was as Peter Sellers' takeoff Racy Tracy Rattigan in a 1963 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. A solid dramatic role as a military prisoner in King Rat led to a longer stint as resourceful cockney POW Peter Newkirk on the popular sitcom Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971). After appearing as a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Dawson settled into his true niche as a wisecracking game-show host. From 1976 through 1985, he emceed TV's The Family Feud, winning an Emmy Award for his troubles (he later resumed his Family Feud hosting chores in the 1994 syndicated version). Fittingly enough, Richard Dawson's first feature-film role after Feud was as the smarmy host of a futuristic life-or-death quiz program in Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Running Man (1989).

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  • Ran away from his childhood home and served in the Merchant Marines for three years as a teenager, earning money as an amateur boxer while enlisted.
  • Rose to prominence in the United States playing the role of British Corporal Peter Newkirk on the hit TV series Hogan's Heroes (from 1965 to '71).
  • As the host of the first incarnation of the popular game show Family Feud (1976-85), his penchant for kissing all the female contestants earned him the nickname "The Kissing Bandit."
  • Met his second wife, Gretchen, when her family appeared on Family Feud in 1981.
  • Won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work on the 1987 sci-fi film The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.