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RIP: Richard Dawson, Professional Brit, Dead @ 79

LOS ANGELES TIMES:  The career of Richard Dawson, who died Sunday at age 79, breaks down, broadly speaking, into two not unrelated parts, each of which displayed and depended upon a certain roguish, vaguely foreign charm. American audiences first got to know him as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on the prisoners-of-war sitcom“Hogan’s Heroes”; later we grew to love him as the first and still most famous host of “Family Feud”for the entirety of its first run (1976-85) and for the final season of its second (1994-95), after which he retired from show business. The mid-1960s was a good time to be English in America. (Even if you were only halfway so: the British-born Dawson’s father was American.) It was the age of the Beatles and Bond, and to my own impressionable eye, this made Dawson’s Newkirk (even more than star Bob Crane’s Col. Hogan) the most attractive member of the cast. (I was little enough to take its nonsense seriously.) There was a knowingness to the character that was not quite a naughtiness, a Cockney cocksureness, a streak of larceny appealingly turned to heroic ends. These qualities Dawson imported, because they may have in some way been native to him, into his post-“Hogan” career, first as a cast member “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” already in progress, and then on the deceptively hip ’70s version of “The Match Game,” where the contest itself was less the point than the loose banter of the panelists. Then came “Family Feud” — perhaps the most American of great American game shows, with its contestants representing unity and diversity — where he dispensed innumerable kisses and compliments and kept order with a gently ironic edge. MORE

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