Richard Dawson in 1968
|Born||Colin Lionel Emm
20 November 1932
Gosport, Hampshire, England
|Died||2 June 2012
Los Angeles, California, US
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery|
Game show host and panellist
|Television||Hogan's Heroes (as Corporal Peter Newkirk)
Family Feud (host; 1976-85, 1994-95)
Match Game (panelist; 1973-78)
|Diana Dors (m. 1959; div. 1966)
Gretchen Johnson (m. 1991)
|Children||3, including Mark|
Richard Dawson (born Colin Lionel Emm; 20 November 1932 - 2 June 2012) was a British-American actor and comedian, and a game show host and panelist in the United States. Dawson was well known for playing Corporal Peter Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes, as a regular panelist in 1973-1978 on Match Game, and as the original host of Family Feud in 1976-1985 and 1994-1995.
Dawson was born Colin Lionel Emm in Gosport, Hampshire, England, on 20 November 1932 to Arthur and Josephine Emm. At the age of 14 he ran away from home to join the British Merchant Navy, where he pursued a boxing career. After his discharge, two years later, he began pursuing a comedy career using the stage name Dickie Dawson; when he reached adulthood, he revised this to become Richard Dawson, which he later legally adopted as his real name.
On 8 January 1963, Dawson appeared on the Jack Benny Program, Season 13, Episode 15. Dawson is the audience member sitting next to Jack. He is almost unrecognisable because of the glasses and fake mustache. In 1963, Dawson appeared in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in the role of dapper entertainer "Racy Tracy" Rattigan.
In 1964, he appeared in "The Invisibles", an episode of The Outer Limits and appeared (credited as Dick Dawson) in "Anyone For Murder?", a 1964 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He played a soldier in the 1962 film The Longest Day.
In 1965, Dawson had a small role at the end of the film King Rat, starring George Segal, playing 1st Recon paratrooper Captain Weaver, sent to liberate allied POWs in a Japanese prison. Dawson had by then moved to Los Angeles, California. He gained fame in the television show Hogan's Heroes as Cpl. Peter Newkirk from 1965 to 1971. He had a minor role in Universal's Munster, Go Home! A year later, Dawson released a psychedelic 45 rpm single including the songs "His Children's Parade" and "Apples & Oranges" on Carnation Records. In 1968, Dawson was in the film The Devil's Brigade as Private Hugh McDonald. Following the cancellation of Hogan's Heroes, he was a regular joke-telling panellist on the short-lived syndicated revival of the game show Can You Top This? in 1970.
He was also a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1971-73, and became a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1973-74). He portrayed a theatre director in the first season of McCloud and was a panellist on the 1972-73 syndicated revival of I've Got a Secret. He played himself on an episode of The Odd Couple.
After Laugh-In was cancelled in 1973, game show pioneer Mark Goodson signed Dawson to appear as a regular on Match Game '73, alongside Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and host Gene Rayburn. 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 player and was the frequent choice of contestants to participate in the "Head-To-Head Match" portion of the show's bonus round, in which the contestant and a panelist of the contestant's choice had to obtain an exact match to the requested fill-in-the-blank. During Dawson's time on Match Game, he occupied the bottom center seat of the panel.
In 1975, during his tenure as one of Match Game regular panelists, Dawson was hired by Goodson to host another game show titled Family Feud, which debuted on 12 July 1976 on ABC's daytime schedule. Family Feud was a break-out hit, 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.
One of Dawson's trademarks on Family Feud, kissing the female contestants, earned him the nickname The Kissing Bandit. Television executives repeatedly tried to get him to stop the kissing. After receiving criticism for the practice, he asked viewers to write in and vote on the matter. The mail response was 704 against and 14,600 in favor. On the 1985 finale, Dawson explained that he kissed contestants for love and luck, something his mother did with Dawson himself as a child. Some viewers complained when he kissed the cheeks of non-white women, but in a 2010 interview he defended his actions, saying that "It's very important to me that on Family Feud I could kiss all people... I kissed black women daily and nightly on Family Feud for 11 years, and the world didn't come to an end, did it?"
In 1983, Dawson made an appearance on Mama's Family as himself, hosting an episode of Family Feud where the Harpers play as contestants (reuniting him with former Match Game co-panelists Betty White and Vicki Lawrence).
Dawson parodied his TV persona in 1987's The Running Man, in which he portrayed the evil, egotistical game-show host Damon Killian and received rave reviews for his performance. Film critic Roger Ebert (who gave the film a thumbs down) wrote, "Playing a character who always seems three-quarters drunk, he 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 film's private joke."
Dawson hosted an unsold pilot for a revival of the classic game show You Bet Your Life that was to air on NBC in 1988, but the network declined to pick up the show, which attempted two more failed revivals with hosts Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby. In 1990 he auditioned to host the syndicated game show Trump Card, but that role went to Jimmy Cefalo. On 12 September 1994, Dawson returned to the syndicated edition of Family Feud, replacing and succeeding Ray Combs for what became the final season of the show's official second run (1988-95). The show has been in continuous production since 1999 with hosts Louie Anderson (1999-2002), Richard Karn (2002-2006), John O'Hurley (2006-2010) and Steve Harvey (2010-present).
Upon Dawson's return, he received a standing ovation when he walked on set. Afterwards he said, "If you do too much of that, I won't be able to do a show for you because I'll cry." During the revival, he did not kiss the female contestants because of a promise he'd made to his young daughter to kiss only her mother. The final episode aired on 26 May 1995, and then Dawson officially retired. In 1999, he was asked to make a special appearance on the first episode of the current version of Family Feud, but decided to turn down the offer and have no further involvement with the show. In 2000, Dawson narrated TV's Funniest Game Show Moments on the Fox network.
Upon retiring, Dawson remained in Beverly Hills, California, where he had lived since 1964. He met his second wife, Gretchen Johnson (born 22 September 1955), when she was a contestant on Family Feud in May 1981; they married in 1991. A daughter, Shannon Nicole Dawson, was born in 1990. Dawson announced the birth and showed a picture of his daughter during his inaugural episode of Feud in 1994 as he was greeting a contestant who had been a contestant on Match Game when he was a panelist. The episode was featured on the 25th anniversary of Family Feud as no. 14 on the Game Show Network's top 25 Feud Moments.
With his first wife, British actress Diana Dors, Dawson had two sons, Mark (born 1960) and Gary (born 27 June 1962). The marriage ended in divorce, and Dawson gained custody of both sons. He had four grandchildren.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Dawson participated in various liberal movements, including the Selma to Montgomery marches and participated in a campaign for George McGovern before the 1972 presidential election.
Dawson died at age 79 from complications of esophageal cancer in Los Angeles, California on 2 June 2012 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was interred in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles.
|1962||The Longest Day||British Soldier||Uncredited|
|1966||Out of Sight||Agent||Uncredited|
|Munster, Go Home!||Joey|
|1968||The Devil's Brigade||Pvt. Hugh MacDonald|
|1973||Treasure Island||Long John Silver||Voice|
|1978||How to Pick Up Girls!||Chandler Corey|
|1987||The Running Man||Damon Killian||(final film role)|