Robert Clary is a French-American actor, published author, and lecturer. He is best known for his role in the television sitcom Hogan's Heroes as Corporal LeBeau (“Frenchie”). Clary is one of the last two living principal cast members of Hogan's Heroes (with Kenneth Washington, who joined the sitcom in its final season).
Born in 1926 in Paris, France, Clary was the youngest of 14 children. At the age of twelve, he began a career singing professionally on French radio and also studied art at the Paris Drawing School. In 1942, because he was Jewish, he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Ottmuth. He was later sent to Buchenwald, where he was liberated on April 11, 1945. Twelve other members of his immediate family were sent to Auschwitz; Clary was the only survivor. When he returned to Paris after World War II, he learned that some of his siblings had not been taken away and had survived the Nazi occupation of France.
He returned to the entertainment business and began making songs that not only became popular in France, but in the United States as well. Clary made his first recordings in 1948; they were brought to the United States on wire and were issued on disk by Capitol Records. He went to the U.S. in October 1949. One of Clary's first American appearances was a French language comedy skit on The Ed Wynn Show in 1950. Clary later met Merv Griffin and Eddie Cantor. This eventually led to Clary meeting Cantor's daughter, Natalie Cantor Metzger, whom he married in 1965. Cantor later got Clary a spot on the Colgate Comedy Hour. In the mid-1950s, he appeared on NBC's The Martha Raye Show and on CBS's Appointment with Adventure, a dramatic anthology series.
Clary's comedic skills were quickly recognized by Broadway, where he appeared in several popular musicals including New Faces of 1952, which was produced as a film in 1954. In 1952, he appeared in the film Thief of Damascus which also starred Paul Henreid and Lon Chaney Jr. In 1958, he guest-starred on NBC's The Gisele MacKenzie Show.
In 1965, the diminutive (5'1") Clary was offered the role of Corporal Louis LeBeau on a new TV sitcom called Hogan's Heroes, and he accepted the role when the pilot sold. The series was set in a German POW camp during World War II, and Clary played a prisoner nicknamed “Frenchie” who was a member of an Allied sabotage unit operating from inside the camp. After Hogan's Heroes, he appeared in a handful of feature films with World War II themes including the made-for-television film Remembrance of Love, about the Holocaust. Clary also made notable appearances on Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless, where he played Pierre Roulland (1973–1979).
Clary appeared in the 1975 film The Hindenburg, which dramatized a fictional plot to blow up the German airship after it arrived at the Lakehurst, New Jersey Naval Air Station. He played Joseph Späh, a real-life passenger on the airship's final voyage.
After Hogan's Heroes went off the air, Clary maintained close ties to fellow Hogan's Heroes cast members Werner Klemperer, John Banner and Leon Askin, whose lives were also affected by the Holocaust. Clary spent years touring Canada and the United States, speaking about the Holocaust. He is a painter, painting from photographs he takes on his travels. Clary wrote a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan's Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary in 2001.