Dawson’s son Gary shared the sad news via Facebook, saying, “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered.”
Born in Gosport, Hampsire, England, Dawson’s first major acting role after moving to Los Angeles was as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on the war-themed comedy Hogan’s Heroes, which ran from 1965 to ’71. After that show’s run, he appeared as a panelist on such game/quiz shows as I’ve Got a Secret and Match Game.
Fun fact: So popular was Dawson on Match Game that contestants almost always chose him as their Head-to-Head bonus round partner — to the point that a rule change was made where the celeb partner was randomly selected for the player.
As a host, Dawson’s credits include Family Feud, which debuted in July 1976 and where he was famous for smooching female players, and what I always felt was the too-short-lived Masquerade Party.
On the big screen, Dawson tweaked his TV persona by playing a malevolent game show host/producer in 1987′s The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
UPDATE: GSN (the Game Show Network) will tribute Dawson on Thursday, June 7, from 7 to 11 pm EST, with a marathon of his most iconic moments from Family Feud and Match Game.