Ivan Dixon was a handsome, mustachioed African-American actor and director who carried a strong, serious nature about his solid frame. He initially earned attention in groundbreaking stage and film work with pronounced themes of social and racial relevance. He would become better known, however, for his ensemble playing in the nonsensical but popular WWII sitcom Hogan's Heroes His character was a POW radio technician with the last name of Kinchloe, and the role, while heightening his visibility, did little to satisfy his creative needs. Overshadowed by the flashier posturings of stars Bob Crane , Werner Klemperer and John Banner , Ivan eventually left the series after season five of six , the only one of the original cast to do so. He was among the few African-American male actors in the s, along with Bill Cosby and Greg Morris , to either star or co-star on a major TV series.
ELVIS & DIMMI
Active in the civil rights movement since , he served as a president of Negro Actors for Action. In , Dixon co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in the "Blues for a Junkman" episode of Cain's Hundred , which was the highest-rated episode of the series. An expanded version was released as a feature film in Europe entitled The Murder Men , and became Dandridge's last screen appearance. In , Dixon starred in the independent film Nothing But a Man , written and directed by Michael Roemer ; it was Dixon's performance in this film he was most proud of. Dixon played Kinchloe from to , the only one of the series' long-time cast not to remain for the entire series. Kenneth Washington replaced Dixon for the last year of the show's run, as a different character filling a similar role.
At a Glance …
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For most people, Ivan Dixon, who has died of kidney failure aged 76, was the black guy in the TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes, set in a German PoW camp during the second world war. Although rather less dominant than some of the other leading characters, Kinch took part in most of the group's schemes to outwit their Nazi captors. More significant, however, was that Dixon, who "didn't really enjoy being Sergeant Kinchloe", was one of the first African-American actors to play a leading character in a popular sitcom who was not an underling. It was but a small victory on the road to equality, and there seemed nothing in the likable portrayal of Kinchloe to suggest that Dixon was a radical figure. Yet, by the time he took the role, he had already broken through several race barriers and would subsequently go on to break through even more. In , Dixon appeared in Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking drama A Raisin in the Sun, the first Broadway play by a black woman and the first to be directed on Broadway by a black man Lloyd Richards. It ran for performances, and for the first time black audiences came to Broadway to see a play about themselves.