Ivan Dixon, who died Sunday at 76, deserves to be remembered for more than just his role as Sgt. Kinchloe on Hogan’s Heroes, though he credited that role with opening a lot of doors for him in television. He in turn opened doors for African-Americans in TV as a director. In the ’70s and ’80s, when it was still very rare to see blacks behind the camera in movies, Dixon was quietly racking up dozens of directing credits on episodic TV, including such series as The Waltons, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, and Magnum, P.I.
Dixon also had a memorable film career, though his movies have fallen into undeserved obscurity. Two of them are ripe for rescue: Trouble Man (1972), a Shaft-like blaxploitation drama that Dixon directed, with exciting action and a terrific Marvin Gaye soundtrack; and Nothing But a Man (1964), a Civil Rights-era drama of a man and his wife (Dixon and jazz icon Abbey Lincoln) struggling for dignity in Jim Crow Alabama. Dixon fans regard Nothing as his finest performance — and as the supreme example of what he could do when he wasn’t trapped in that prison camp.