... either playing Kinchloe in "Hogan's Heroes" or maybe as the moral center of the movie "Car Wash"...
... I also remember him in one of the more emotional episodes of "The Twilight Zone" for me, "The Big, Tall Wish"...
but did you know he produced and directed one of the most controversial of the blaxploitation era films "The Spook Who Sat by the Door"?
Yeah, neither did I. Shot, according to the author of the book, in Chicago outside without permits, this film tells the story of how an African-American who is recruited (and more importantly trained) by the C.I.A. for show, quits and takes his training to Chicago to form a revolutionary army out of the gangs there.
Dixon went from this to directing mostly TV, paving the way for African- American television actor-turned-directors like Thomas Carter, Eric Laneuville and Kevin Hooks.
Let's see the New York Times has to say...
Ivan Dixon, Actor in ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dies at 76
By DENNIS HEVESI
Published: March 20, 2008
Published: March 20, 2008
Ivan Dixon, an actor and director who was best known for playing Sgt. James Kinchloe on the 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” but whose films included vivid portrayals of black struggles in the American South and insurrectionist inclinations in the North, died on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. He was 76 and lived in Charlotte.
The cause was complications of kidney disease, said his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon.
Ms. Dixon said her father was always pleased to be recognized as Sergeant Kinchloe, the American radio technician in a World War II German P.O.W. camp who could adeptly mimic his captors. But he was most proud, she said, of the 1964 movie “Nothing but a Man,” in which he starred, and of the 1973 film “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” which he directed.
In “Nothing but a Man” Mr. Dixon played a young black railroad worker who gives up his job to marry a minister’s daughter, played by Abbey Lincoln, and then runs into trouble for not knowing his place in the Deep South. In a 1991 article on the history of black films, Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times that “Nothing but a Man” was “way ahead of its time.”
“Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln give tough, moving performances as a couple making their way in a white world without apologies to anyone,” he wrote. “No thoughts of integration for them. They demand their own lives and are willing to fight for them.”
“The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” based on the novel by Sam Greenlee, tells the tale of Dan Freeman, the first black officer in the Central Intelligence Agency. After five years of menial assignments, Freeman quits, takes what he has learned about terrorist tactics and goes to Chicago, where he tries to put together a black guerrilla operation.
Although “The Spook” aroused controversy and was soon pulled from theaters, it later gained cult status as a bootleg video and, in 2004, was released on DVD. At that time Mr. Dixon told The Times that the movie had tried only to depict black anger, not to suggest armed revolt as a solution.
Mr. Dixon directed scores of television shows, including episodes of “The Waltons,” “The Rockford Files,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Quincy” and “In the Heat of the Night.” In 1967 he played the title role in a CBS Playhouse drama, “The Final War of Olly Winter,” about a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who decides that Vietnam will be his final war. For that role he received an Emmy nomination for best single performance by an actor.
Ivan Nathaniel Dixon 3rd was born on April 6, 1931, in Harlem, where his family owned a grocery store. Besides his daughter, Doris, who lives in Charlotte, Mr. Dixon is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Berlie Ray; and a son, Alan, of Oakland, Calif.
Mr. Dixon graduated from North Carolina Central University in 1954 with a drama degree. His big break came in 1957 when he appeared on Broadway in William Saroyan’s “Cave Dwellers.”
Two years later he played Joseph Asagai, the charming, mannerly Nigerian student visiting the United States in Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun,” the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.
What I liked in Dixon's performances was his intensity. He always had something going on in his eyes, something that let you know he (the character) was thinking, taking what was going on, making his mind up.
Yes, even "Hogan's Heroes", as much as the part would allow.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.