RICHARD DAWSON Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Richard Dawson                                                                             
Born: 20 November 1932 Gosport, Hampshire, England                                               
Richard Dawson aka 'The Kissing Bandit' (born November 20, 1932) is a British-born               
American actor, comedian, game show panelist and host. He is best known for his                 
role as Bob Crane's British non-commissioned officer, Corporal Peter Newkirk, on                 
the World War II situation comedy Hogan's Heroes, and as the original host of                   
the Family Feud game show from 1976-1985 on ABC and in syndication, and again                   
from 1994 to 1995, replacing Ray Combs. Dawson also appeared as a panelist on                   
the 1970s version of Match Game on CBS, from 1973-1978.                                         
Dawson was born in Gosport, England, as Colin Emm. At the age of 14, he ran away                 
from home to join the Merchant Marines, where he pursued a boxing career. Having                 
married British sex symbol Diana Dors, Dawson moved to Los Angeles, California,                 
where he gained fame in the hit show Hogan's Heroes opposite Bob Crane's                         
character, as Cpl. Peter Newkirk. The war-related sitcom was one of the highest-rated           
shows on television during its six-year run from 1965 to 1971. Earlier, in 1963,                 
a svelte, dapper young Dawson had appeared in an episode of the Dick Van Dyke                   
show in the role of Brit entertainer "Racy Tracy" Rattigan. In 1965, Dawson had                 
a small role at the end of the film "King Rat", starring George Segal. He played                 
a 1st recon paratrooper, Capt. Weaver, sent to free allied POW's in a Japanese                   
camp. In 1967, Dawson released a psychedelic 45rpm single including the songs "His               
Childrens Parade" and "Apples & Oranges" on Carnation Records. Dawson was also                   
in the movie the Devil's Brigade as Private Hugh McDonald in 1968. Dawson and                   
Dors eventually divorced, and Dawson gained custody of both their children, Gary                 
and Mark. Immediately following the cancellation of Heroes, Dawson performed as                 
a regular on the popular NBC variety show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In from 1971                 
to 1973, and would also be a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show from 1973 to                 
1974. Dawson also appeared as a panelist on the 1972–73 syndicated revival of I've             
Got a Secret.                                                                                   
After Laugh-In left the airwaves in 1973, game show pioneer Mark Goodson signed                 
Dawson to appear as a regular on Match Game '73. Dawson, who had already served                 
a year as panelist for Goodson's revival of I've Got a Secret, proved to be a                   
solid and funny gameplayer and was the frequent choice of contestants for the "Head-to-Head     
Match" portion of the show's bonus round, in which the contestant and Dawson had                 
to obtain an exact match to the requested prompt. In a classic episode of Match                 
Game '77, he and fellow panelist Debralee Scott revolted when their answer "Finishing           
School" did not match the answer "school" in the judges' mind; thus sparking the                 
"School Riot".                                                                                   
Dawson hosted a one-season syndicated revival of Masquerade Party in 1974; the                   
program featured regular panelists Bill Bixby, Lee Meriweather, and Nipsey                       
Russell. Produced by Monty Hall and Stephan Hatos, the program was not popular                   
enough to warrant a second season.                                                               
Richard Dawson (host) and contestants from the 1976-1985 original version of "Family             
In 1975, Dawson was hired by Mark Goodson to emcee an upcoming project entitled                 
Family Feud which debuted in the summer of 1976 on ABC's daytime schedule.                       
Unlike his flop with Masquerade Party, Family Feud became a breakout hit (particularly           
the syndicated nighttime version), eventually surpassing the ratings of Match                   
Game in late 1977. In 1978 he left Match Game and won a Daytime Emmy Award for                   
Best Game Show Host for his work on Family Feud. His trademark, kissing all the                 
female contestants, was one of the things that made the show a warm and friendly                 
program. After Dawson became a naturalized citizen of the United States in                       
1984, he showed his passport and photo during the introduction of an episode of                 
Family Feud. He continued hosting the Feud until both versions, network and                     
syndicated, were canceled in 1985.                                                               
Dawson parodied his TV persona by co-starring in the action movie The Running                   
Man in 1987 as evil, egotistical, dark-sided game-show host Damon Killian. Of                   
Dawson's performance, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Playing a character who                   
always seems three-quarters drunk, Dawson chain-smokes his way through backstage                 
planning sessions and then pops up in front of the cameras as a cauldron of                     
false jollity. Working the audience, milking the laughs and the tears, he is not                 
really much different than most genuine game show hosts - and that's the movie's                 
private joke."                                                                                   
Dawson hosted an unsold pilot for a revival of the classic game show You Bet                     
Your Life in 1988. In the fall of 1994, he returned to Family Feud, replacing                   
Ray Combs for what became the final season of the show's official second run (1988-1995).       
He was considered for the current version of Family Feud, but elected not to                     
Dawson currently resides in Beverly Hills, California, with his wife since 1991,                 
Gretchen (Johnson) Dawson, whom he met when she was a contestant on Family Feud                 
in 1981. They have a daughter, Shannon Nicole Dawson (born in 1990). Richard                     
also has three grandchildren: Lindsay Dors Dawson, Tyler Emm Dawson, and Emma                   
Rose Dawson.                                                                                     
Dawson had been friends with Bill Bixby since 1968, appearing on an episode of                   
The Dating Game. Four years later, Bixby appeared with Dawson in a game show                     
pilot produced by Chuck Barris, Cop-Out, as well as Password and Masquerade                     
According to Werner Klemperer from Hogan's Heroes, Dawson and Bob Crane were                     
like oil and water. Klemperer told E! True Hollywood Story that there "was no                   
love lost between the two". Ironically, Dawson had introduced Crane to John                     
Carpenter, the former video camera salesman who was later implicated in Crane's                 
murder in 1978.                                                                                 
In 2006, Brett Somers told Game Show Network (GSN) that many of the Match Game                   
personnel were "relieved" when Dawson quit the show in 1978. Dawson was annoyed                 
that a "star" wheel was added to select celebrities, as most contestants would                   
choose him 3 to 1 over the other five panelists prior to the wheel's addition (in               
fact, he himself admitted that he took the addition of the wheel as, as he put                   
it, "a direct slight"). Richard had already been starring as host of Family Feud                 
on ABC prior to leaving Match Game and had been trying to quit Match Game in                     
order to focus on his Feud duties. Producers initially didn't want to release                   
him from his contract. Because of this, in later years of Match Game, Dawson                     
could be seen wearing large, dark sunglasses, speaking in a quiet, raspy voice,                 
or otherwise looking like he was sulking and didn't want to participate.                         
Dawson had a small role in King Rat. As Paratrooper Captain Weaver, Dawson makes                 
a dramatic entrance near the movie's end, signaling the liberation of captives                   
from a World War II POW camp.                                                                   
Dawson was played by actor Michael E. Rodgers in the 2002 film Auto Focus.                       
Dawson was mentioned in the Wu-Tang Clan song "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F'                 
Wit" in the line "I'm causin' more family feuds than Richard Dawson".