'Family Feud' host Richard Dawson poses with some celebrity contestants. Dawson passed away June 2 from esophageal cancer; he was 79. (AP file photo)
LOS ANGELES -- Richard Dawson, the British-born actor who died over the weekend, became familiar to millions of Americans through such TV sitcoms as "Hogan's Heroes" and the game show "Family Feud."
Dawson's death was announced online Sunday by his son Gary Dawson, who said his father died from complications of esophageal cancer Saturday evening.
"He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad and a doting grandfather," Gary Dawson wrote.
Dawson, 79, had his most famous role as Peter Newkirk, an RAF corporal with a cockney accent who was one of the prisoners in "Hogan's Heroes." The 1960s TV show produced laughs from a group of Allied soldiers who bamboozle their captors in a Nazi Germany prison camp during World War II. The series ran from 1965 to 1971.
With phrases like "righto" and addressing Col. Hogan, the prisoners' leader played by Bob Crane, as "gov'nor," Newkirk was often the colorful straight man.
He was known to a younger generation as the joking host of "Family Feud" during its initial run from 1976 to 1985. It pit family teams in guessing the answers given in polls. His introductory line revealing the correct answer became a national catchphrase: "Survey says ..."
Dawson won a Daytime Emmy in 1978 for best game show host. Reviewer Tom Shales, in The Washington Post, called him "the fastest, brightest and most beguilingly caustic interlocutor since the late great Groucho bantered and parried on 'You Bet Your Life.'"
Dawson was known for kissing female contestants. One of them, Gretchen Johnson, who appeared with her family in 1981, became his wife in 1991.
Dawson is survived by his wife and their daughter Shannon, as well as sons Gary and Mark from his first marriage to British actress Diana Dors, and four grandchildren. He was born Colin Lionel Emm in 1932 in Gosport, England.