The sordid, bifurcated life of Bob Crane comes to the big screen. I loved Hogan’s Heroes as a kid: I didn’t much care that a comedy about prisoners of war in WWll was in preposterous bad taste. The fantasy that the prisoners were actually empowered by their situation was the hook, and the characters were compelling and iconic. Crane was equally suave and silly.
I have preferred to keep Crane’s appalling private life and lurid death separate from Crane-as-Hogan, at least until now:
- Bob Crane, star of Hogan’s Heroes, avid amateur pornographer and bludgeoned victim of an unsolved 1978 murder, is now the subject of a fact-based film that makes most E! True Hollywood Story episodes look like Sunday-school picnics.
Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader (Affliction, scripts for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) and starring Greg Kinnear as the affable sitcom actor with a secret sordid hobby, doesn’t open in New York and Los Angeles until Friday. But it already has intensified the animosity between Crane’s two sons.
On one side is Robert, 51, one of three children Crane had with his first wife, Anne. A journalist, he was paid $20,000 to be an adviser on the movie and has a small (if ironic) part as an interviewer for a Christian publication who quizzes the TV celebrity on his tips for a happy marriage.
On the other side is Scotty, 31, Crane’s son with second wife, Patricia, who was Hilda on Hogan’s Heroes. His mother, who was separated from but never divorced from his dad, is executor of the estate and inherited proceeds from reruns. She also owns thousands of photos and tapes that document more than two decades of Crane’s sexual encounters, a selection of which forms the centerpiece of Scotty’s infamous Web site shrine, bobcrane.com..
“Infamous” is kind: the site is sensationalistic and full of unseemly exclamation marks. This is a tribute from a son? It is pure cash-in, and calls into question everything Scotty has to say.
- In 1997, Scotty, a radio host who operates a Seattle recording studio, his mother and Scotty’s former on-air partner wrote a Crane script, Take Off Your Clothes and Smile, and shopped it around. But plans for Auto Focus, based on the 1993 book The Murder of Bob Crane by Robert Graysmith, shut them out.
Says the director: ”They couldn’t get it made, and I made this other script. They wanted to control this script. So the whole tension began from this power issue: Who controls the Bob Crane film. And they lost. Out of that initial grievance many other grievances have grown.” Patricia, through attorney Lee Blackman, has threatened to sue, in part because she’s depicted as a heavy drinker who was abusive.
Scotty, who recently saw Auto Focus after being ejected from a July screening in L.A., calls it ”horrible” and ”sensationalistic.”
”I have no problem with the true story,” he says. ”That already is sensationalized enough.” However, Scotty insists, the movie ”destroys his (father’s) image. I think he would hate it.”
Maybe so, but he would hate your site even more.