Everyone remembers that the first host of the TV game show Family Feud was Richard Dawson, who died this past Saturday at the age of 79. His family says his death came after a battle with esophegeal cancer.
There are few who remember that Richard, who was born Colin Lionel Emm in Gosport, Hampshire, England, made his big screen debut in an uncredited role as a British soldier in The Longest Day in 1962.
He joined the Merchant Marines as a teenager and for a time boxed to earn money. He was married twice, once to actress Diana Dors, with whom he had two sons, and later in life he married a former contestant on Family Feud, with whom he had a daughter.
Richard’s first big success came when he was cast in the role of Corporal Newkirk on the tv sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. The show lasted six seasons and made Dawson a star. Aside from becoming a regular on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and the game show Match Game, he went on to do guest roles on Love American Style, The Odd Couple, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and more. Then after his success on Match Game as a regular panelist, he transitioned to the role for which he probably garnered the most fame, his stint on Family Feud.
What makes this show so popular is that you don’t have to be brilliant or a great puzzle solver as some game shows require, in order to be a successful contestant. You just have to guess how ordinary people will respond to a simple survey question. The show is still going strong today, hosted by Steve Harvey at the moment. But anyone who saw Richard Dawson carrying out the host duties onFamily Feud will remember his quick wit and quick lips.
What may have been his biggest and best acting achievement is almost forgotten today.
In 1987, almost ten years after what had been his last acting role, he was cast in The Running Man, a big budget sci-fi action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. As the deliciously evil “Damian Killian,” he portrayed the host of a futuristic game show titled, “The Running Man”. Convicted felons are given the chance to “run” for freedom, but what they are running is a gauntlet of highly skilled killers who always get the felon before they can make their escape.
Dawson’s performance garnered no Oscar or Golden Globe acclaim, but he did win a Saturn Award from the USA based Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Dawson was also an Emmy award recipient for his hosting work on Family Feud.