1903 - 2003
America’s Great Comedian to the troopsby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“I left England at the age of 4 when I found out I couldn’t be
Known as “America’s Comedic Institution”, Bob Hope consistently entertained the people of America from approximately 1928 until his death in 2003. Born in England on May 29, 1903, Hope’s family immigrated to America when he was seven. Although many people know him only for his onscreen wit in television and films, Hope began his career on stage. Hope began his vaudeville career at the age of eighteen with various partners but soon became a solo entertainer. In 1932 Hope appeared on Broadway in “Ballyhoo”, but it was his next performance, “Roberta”, that earned him attention from both the public and critics. At this time he met and married Dolores Reade, who he was married to until his death.
After “Roberta”, Bob Hope continued his Broadway career, appearing in such plays and musicals as “Say When”, “Ziegfeld Follies”, and “Red, Hot and Blue”. His performance in this musical allowed him to do his first major film for Paramount Pictures: “The Big Broadcast of 1938” in 1938, in which he introduced his signature song, “Thanks for the Memories”.
Hope’s career in radio began with an appearance on the “Capitol Family Hour” to help promote the show he was doing at New York’s Capitol Theater. This stage show was also the first time Hope performed with Bing Crosby who would later be his costar in many films. His regular radio show began in May 1937 and soon shot to number one with American listeners. Hope did his last regular radio show in April 1956.
Bob Hope’s success in radio led Paramount to sign him to a long-term contract. Ultimately, his most popular and well-known movies are the “Road to…” movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour but he appeared in over 70 movies, 50 of them in starring roles. Hope’s number one spot on radio carried over to film. Despite never being awarded an Oscar for best actor, Hope was given five honorary Oscars and introduced two Academy-Award winning songs: “Buttons and Bows” (from The Paleface) and “Thanks for the Memories” with Shirley Ross (from The Big Broadcast of 1938).
Hope never suffered for awards without an actual Oscar. He holds the Guiness Book of World Records’ record for the most honored entertainer in the world, including over two thousand awards and citations and fifty-four honorary doctorates. The Queen of England also granted him an honorary knighthood in 1978, and Hope has been friends with U.S. presidents since Roosevelt. The United States Congress even unanimously passed a vote to make him an honorary veteran, the only person to receive that award, for his work entertaining overseas troops over the years.
Even with all his awards, star-power, and box-office draw, Hope always hit the road to entertain U.S. troops during war and peacekeeping efforts. Beginning with his first USO show in May 1941, Bob Hope consistently toured around the world to entertain the troops for sixty years. His Christmas custom of raising the moral of troops began in 1948 when the Secretary of Air Force asked him to travel to Germany to entertain the troops involved in the Berlin Airlift. This custom continued even after he announced his last Christmas show in 1972. Hope entertained troops involved in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.
In the midst of making hit movies and entertaining America’s servicemen and women, Hope still found time to be known as a sportsman as well as entertainer. Before beginning his acting career, Hope even boxed professionally for a short time. Golf, however, was his favorite sport. In fact, Bob Hope once said “Golf is my profession. I tell jokes to pay my green fees.” He began the Bob Hope/Chrysler Classic which has been held for forty four years and is completely for charity.
Shortly before his death, Hope’s wife asked him where he would like to be buried; he responded “Surprise me”. Bob Hope died on July 27, 2003 of pneumonia. Although Hope did good works throughout his life, he was not openly religious. Raised Protestant, he converted to Catholicism a few years before he died. The emphasis of good works in the Catholic denomination seems very in-line with Hope’s habit of performing them. Bob Hope’s work and legacy have survived almost a century and will continue to stand the test of time. A legend of character, comedy, and the world, Bob Hope will never be forgotten.
About.com http://classicfilm.about.com/library/weekly/aa052800a.htm copyright 2004
Bob Hope Enterprises, Inc. http://bobhope.com/bob.htm copyright 1997-2003
USO.org http://www.uso.org/pubs/8_16_40.cfm copyright 2004
Wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Hope copyright 2004