Robert Clary, who played impish foodie Corporal LeBeau on the sitcom Hogan's Heroes – and who had been the legendary show's final living main cast member — has died at 96.
Clary's death, on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, was confirmed to THR by a granddaughter, though little other information exists about his children and grandchildren.
Clary was born March 1, 1926, in Paris, where he performed as an adolescent. In WWII, his entire family was shipped to Auschwitz. His mother's final piece of advice was to "behave." She and Clary's father were gassed to death, and the rest of his family also perished in the notorious death camp.
To survive, Clary sang for his Nazi captors. He also attributed his youth and good health to making it out alive after 31 months in captivity at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
Moving to L.A., he had a recording contract with Capitol and made his TV debut in 1949 on Hollywood on Television.
After filming small parts in the films Ten Tall Men (1951) and Thief of Damascus (1952), he was discovered by A-list entertainer Eddie Cantor (1892-1964), who took Clary under his wing, getting him booked at La Vie en Rose, an NYC hot spot.
That exposure directly led to his casting in Broadway's New Faces of 1952 with Eartha Kitt (1927-2008), Carol Lawrence (b. 1932), Alice Ghostley (1923-2007), Paul Lynde (1926-1982) and Ronny Graham (1919-1999), with writing (and performing) by Mel Brooks (b. 1926) and Sheldon Harnick (b. 1924).
That show was such a hit it was filmed and released in movie theaters in 1954.
Clary was also on Broadway in Seventh Heaven (1955), a musical with Gloria DeHaven (1925-2016), Bea Arthur (1922-2009) and Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009).
With Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971), Clary enjoyed lasting success, and he became tight friends with his co-stars. He relished the role, which gave him the opportunity to fully express himself as a performer, and which he felt addressed WWII in a way that emphasized the indomitable human spirit.
Aside from his great success on Hogan's Heroes, Clary was also seen in the films A New Kind of Love (1963) and The Hindenburg (1975), and appeared on the soaps Days of Our Lives (1972-1987, over 500 episodes) and The Bold and the Beautiful (1990-1992, 43 episodes).
In beginning in the 1970s, Clary opened up publicly about his experience in the death camps, believing it was necessary in order to help combat the wave of Holocaust denialism that troubled him. He became a speaker, working with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in L.A.
Clary was preceded in death by his wife of 30+ years, Natalie, who was Cantor's second daughter.