Richard Dawson (born Colin Lionel Emm; 20 November 1932 – 2 June 2012) was a British-born American actor, comedian, game-show host, and panelist in the United States. Dawson was well known for playing Corporal Peter Newkirk in Hogan's Heroes, as a regular panelist on Match Game (1973–1978), and as the original host of Family Feud (1976–1985, 1994–95).

Richard Dawson
Dawson on Hogan's Heroes, 1968
Colin Lionel Emm

(1932-11-20)20 November 1932
Gosport, Hampshire, England
Died2 June 2012(2012-06-02) (aged 79)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • game show host
  • panelist
Years active1954–1995, 2000
(m. 1959; div. 1967)
Gretchen Johnson
(m. 1991)
Children3, including Mark

Early life edit

Colin Lionel Emm was born in Gosport, Hampshire, England, on 20 November 1932[1] to Arthur Emm (born 1897) and Josephine Lucy Emm (née Lindsay; born 1903).[2][3] His father drove a removal van and his mother worked in a munitions factory.[4] Dawson and his older brother John Leslie Emm were evacuated as children during World War II to escape the bombing of England's major port cities in the south. In a radio interview with Hogan's Heroes co-star Bob Crane, Dawson recounted how this experience severely limited his school attendance, stating that he attended school regularly for only two years.[5]

At age 14, Dawson ran away from home to join the British Merchant Navy, where he pursued a career in boxing, earning almost $5,000 in shipboard matches.[6] During 1950 and 1951, Dawson made several passages on the RMS Mauretania from Southampton to ports of call, including Nassau, the Bahamas, Havana, and New York City.[7] Following his discharge from the merchant service, Dawson began pursuing a comedy career using the stage name Dickie Dawson; he later changed his alias to Richard Dawson, which he eventually adopted as his legal name.[8]

Career edit

Comedy and variety artist in the UK edit

Emm began his career in England as a stand-up comedian known as Dickie Dawson.[1] Possibly his first television appearance occurred on 21 June 1954, when he was 21, and was featured on the Benny Hill Showcase, an early BBC Television programme focused on "introducing artists and acts new to television".

Emm also had at least four BBC Radio programme appearances during 1954, including two bookings on the Midday Music Hall on BBC Home Service and two spots on How Do You Do, a BBC Light Entertainment broadcast billed as "a friendly get-together of Commonwealth artists."

In 1958, Emm appeared alongside his future wife, Diana Dors, on BBC TV's A to Z: D, a programme featuring entertainers with names beginning with the letter D. In 1959, Emm made four appearances on BBC TV's Juke Box Jury, three of them alongside Dors, to whom he was by then married.[9]

Actor and comedian in the US edit

After his move to the USA, in September 1961, Dawson began hosting a late-night talk show, the Mike Stokey Show, on Los Angeles television station KCOP-TV.[10][11] On 8 January 1963, Dawson appeared on The Jack Benny Program, season 13, episode 15, as an audience member seated next to Jack, barely recognisable in glasses and false moustache.[12] That same year, Dawson made a guest appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show (season two, episode 27) playing "Racy" Tracy Rattigan,[13] a lecherous flirt who was the summer replacement host on the Alan Brady Show. He was credited as Dick Dawson.[14]

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. He gained fame in the television show Hogan's Heroes as Cpl. Peter Newkirk from 1965 to 1971.[15] Dawson had a minor role in Universal's Munster, Go Home!. A year later, he 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, Dawson was a regular joke-telling panellist on the short-lived syndicated revival of the game show Can You Top This? in 1970 and joined the cast of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In that same year.[16][circular reference]

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 panellist 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 "Super-Match" bonus round, in which the contestant and a panellist of the contestant's choice had to match exactly. During Dawson's time on Match Game, he most often occupied the bottom centre seat, only sitting elsewhere (in the top centre seat) during one week early in the show's run.[citation needed]

Family Feud host and TV stardom edit

Dawson (left) and contestants on the 1975/1976 pilot episode of Family Feud

Due to his popularity on Match Game, Dawson expressed to Goodson his desire to host a show of his own. In 1975, during Dawson's tenure as one of Match Game's regular panelists, Goodson began developing a spin-off game show, Family Feud, based on the "Super Match" portion of Match Game. Goodson specifically saw the show as a vehicle for Dawson, due to his popularity among Match Game contestants. Feud 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, Dawson left Match Game due to a combination of the recent introduction of the "Star Wheel"—which affected his being selected for the Head-To-Head Match portion of the show's "Super Match" bonus round—and burnout from his regular appearances on both Match Game and Family Feud. That same year, Dawson won a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Game Show Host for his work on Family Feud.[8] After Dawson left Match Game, his spot on the panel was filled with many other stars—most notably his best friend Bob Barker, who was then the host of The Price is Right.[citation needed]

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.[17] After receiving criticism for the practice (which also included a great deal of physical contact such as holding hands and touching), Dawson asked viewers to write in and vote on the matter. The wide majority of the roughly 200,000 responses favoured the kissing.[18] On the 1985 finale, Dawson explained that he kissed female contestants for love and luck, something his mother did with Dawson himself as a child.[1][19]

Dawson was a frequent guest host for Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, hosting 14 times during 1979[20][21][circular reference] and 1980.[22][circular reference] Dawson was a contender for the role of Tonight Show host in the event that Carson left the show, a move that Carson was seriously considering during 1979–80.[23] (Carson ended up remaining as host until 1992.) Two of the few Carson-era Tonight Show episodes that did not air on the night they were intended were guest hosted by Dawson. During one, actress Della Reese suffered a near-fatal aneurysm midinterview during taping; the remainder of the episode was cancelled. (Reese later recovered.) The other featured an untimely monologue regarding the danger of flying on airplanes; it was replaced with a rerun because it would have aired the same night as the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in Chicago, which killed all 271 people aboard, as well as two on the ground. The episode was aired several weeks later.

Later years edit

Dawson parodied his TV persona in 1987's The Running Man opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, portraying the evil, egotistical game-show host Damon Killian. He 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 [from] most genuine game-show hosts—and that's the film's private joke".[24]

Before Dawson was cast as Damon Killian, Chuck Woolery was originally considered for the role, but was unavailable and Schwarzenegger suggested Dawson because he and Dawson were close friends.

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. In 1990, he auditioned to host the syndicated game show Trump Card; the role went to Jimmy Cefalo.

On 12 September 1994, Dawson returned to Family Feud, hosting what became the last season of the show's second run (1988–1995) after previous host Ray Combs was fired due to spiralling ratings. During his second tenure as host, Dawson did not kiss female contestants because of a promise he had made to his young daughter to kiss only her mother. The show's ratings never recovered under Dawson and the final episode aired on 26 May 1995, after which Dawson officially retired. Family Feud remained out of production until being revived for a third run in 1999 with new host Louie Anderson, who asked Dawson to make a special appearance on the first episode to give Anderson his blessings. Dawson turned down the offer, wanting no further involvement with the show.[25]

In 2000, Dawson narrated TV's Funniest Game Shows on the Fox network.

Personal life and family edit

With his first wife, actress Diana Dors, Dawson had two sons, Mark (born in London, 4 February 1960)[26] and Gary (born in Los Angeles, 27 June 1962).[27] The marriage ended with a divorce granted in Los Angeles in April 1967,[28] and Dawson gained custody of both sons. He has four grandchildren.[29] Dawson became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1984.[30]

On 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 the inaugural episode of his second stint as host 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 number two on the Game Show Network's top 25 Feud moments.[31]

During the 1960s and 1970s, Dawson participated in various movements, including the Selma to Montgomery marches and George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign.[32]

Death edit

Dawson died of complications from esophageal cancer at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on 2 June 2012, aged 79.[1][17][33] He is interred in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles.[34]

Dawson used to smoke almost four packs of cigarettes per day, and he was seen smoking on some episodes of Match Game, Family Feud, and Hogan's Heroes. His daughter Shannon convinced him to stop smoking by 1994, when he was 61.[citation needed]

On 7 June 2012, GSN aired a four-hour marathon of Dawson's greatest moments on Match Game and Family Feud, including the first episode of his 1994–95 Feud tenure.[35]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Longest Day British Soldier Uncredited
1963 Promises! Promises! Uncredited
1965 King Rat Weaver
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)

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
1963 The Jack Benny Program Man in audience Episode: "Jack Meets Max Bygraves"
1963 The Dick Van Dyke Show Tracy Rattigan (credit: Dick Dawson) Episode: "Racy Tracy Rattigan"
1964 The Outer Limits Oliver Fair (credit: Dick Dawson) Episode: "The Invisibles"
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Robert Johnson (credit: Dick Dawson) Episode: "Anyone for Murder?"
1965–1971 Hogan's Heroes Corporal Peter Newkirk 168 episodes
1983 Mama's Family Richard Dawson Episode: "Family Feud"
1967 Mr. Terrific Max Episode: "The Formula Is Stolen"
1970 McCloud Ted Callender Episode: "The Stage Is All the Word"
1970–1973 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Regular performer 58 episodes (15 uncredited)
1971 Love, American Style Rick Jagmund Episode: "Love and the Groupie"
1971 Love, American Style Danny Episode: "Love and the Hiccups"
1972 Love, American Style Melvin Danger Episode: "Love and the Private Eye"
1972 Wait Till Your Father Gets Home Claude (voice) Episode: "The Hippie"
1973–1978 Match Game Panelist 1,279 episodes
1973–74 The New Dick Van Dyke Show Richard Richardson 7 episodes
1974–75 Masquerade Party Host
1975 The Odd Couple Himself Episode: "Laugh, Clown, Laugh"
1975 McMillan & Wife Roger Stambler Episode: "Aftershock"
1976–1985, 1994–95 Family Feud Host 2,334 episodes
1978 Fantasy Island Harry Beamus Episode: "Call Me Lucky/Torch Singer"
1978 The Love Boat Bert Buchanan Episode: "The Song Is Ended"
1979 Bizarre Host Pilot episode
2000 TV's Funniest Game Shows Narrator

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d "Former 'Family Feud' host Richard Dawson dies". CNN. 3 June 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  2. ^ England and Wales Civil Registration Birth Index, Fourth Quarter, 1932.
  3. ^ 1939 England and Wales Registe. via
  4. ^ Baber, David (2015). Television Game Show Hosts: Biographies of 32 Stars. McFarland & Co. pp. 68–74. ISBN 9781476604800 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Dawson, Richard (15 September 1972). The Bob Crane Show. Interviewed by Bob Crane. KMPC-Los Angeles – via YouTube.
  6. ^ "Richard Dawson Lost His Own Family Feud with Diana Dors, but His Show Is Hot Comfort," People, 21 November 1977
  7. ^ New York passenger and crew lists for Colin Emm. via
  8. ^ a b "Richard Dawson biography". NNDB. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  9. ^ BBC Genome Project, catalog of Radio Times listings from 1923 to 2009, found at:
  10. ^ "Richard Dawson and Family Feud," by Mary Ann Norbom, Signet Books, 1981, pp. 63-65.
  11. ^ Television Academy Foundation: The Interviews, "Talking about Mike Stokey." Found at
  12. ^ "Jack Meets Max Bygraves". IMDb. 8 January 1963. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  13. ^ Racy Tracy Rattigan, 3 April 1963, retrieved 27 November 2018
  14. ^ The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, by Vince Waldron, page 334. Applause Theater Books, copyright 1994 and 2001.
  15. ^ "'Family Feud' TV Host Richard Dawson Dies At 79". KRDO-TV. Archived from the original on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  16. ^ "View source for Richard Dawson - Wikipedia". Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  17. ^ a b Schwirtz, Michael (3 June 2012). "Richard Dawson, Host Who Kissed on 'Family Feud', Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  18. ^ Royce, Brenda Scott (1998). Hogan's Heroes: The Unofficial Companion. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-58063-031-3.
  19. ^ "'Family Feud' TV Host Richard Dawson Dies at 79". Time. 3 June 2012. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  20. ^ Shales, Tom (26 April 1979). "The Cloning Of Carson". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  21. ^ List of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson episodes (1979)
  22. ^ List of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson episodes (1980)
  23. ^ "Former 'Family Feud' host Richard Dawson dies". CNN. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (13 November 1987). "The Running Man review". Chicago Sun-Times.
  25. ^ "Family Feud". E! True Hollywood Story. 28 July 2002.
  26. ^ "Diana Dors Has a Son," The New York Times, 5 February 1960, page 23
  27. ^ "Diana Dors Has Son," The New York Times, 28 June 1962, page 21.
  28. ^ State of California, California Divorce Index, 1966-1984 page 6068. Found at:
  29. ^ "Richard Dawson Dies: 'Family Feud' Host Was 79". ABC News. 3 June 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  30. ^ Eames, Tom (3 June 2012). "'Family Feud' host Richard Dawson dies, aged 79". Digital Spy. Retrieved 9 March 2024. Dawson became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1984.
  31. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Family Feud '94 - Richard Dawson's Return". YouTube.
  32. ^ Anderson, Penny P. "Richard Dawson getting involved". The StarPhoenix. No. 20 July 1973. Saskatoon. Retrieved 20 May 2018 – via Google News.
  33. ^ "TV star Richard Dawson passes away at 79",; accessed 24 December 2015.
  34. ^ Wilson, Scott (22 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 183. ISBN 978-0786479924.
  35. ^ MacIntyre, April. "GSN honors Richard Dawson in special marathon". Monsters and Critics. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.

External links edit

Media offices
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Host of Family Feud
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ray Combs
Host of Family Feud
Succeeded by