Bob Hope

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Leslie Townes Hope KBE (May 29, 1903July 27, 2003), best known as Bob Hope, was a famous entertainer, having appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, on radio and television, movies and in army concerts. Hope became famous with several Broadway musicals including Roberta, Say When, the 1936 Ziegfeld Follies and Red, Hot and Blue with Ethel Merman. Before becoming a comedian, Hope boxed professionally under the boxing nickname of Packy Easte.

London origins

Hope was born in Eltham, London, England, as fifth of seven sons. His English father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, Whitehall and St. George in Bristol before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in 1907. He became a United States citizen in 1908.

Personal life

According to biographer Arthur Marx (son of long-time friend and rival, Groucho Marx), Hope married his first wife, Grace Louise Troxell, his vaudeville partner since 1928, on January 25, 1933, although when the marriage record was uncovered some years ago, Hope denied that they had actually wed; they were quickly divorced, but it was rumoured that he had fathered a child with Troxell, and that, despite a reputation for frugality, he sent generous checks to her daughter. He married his second wife on or about February 19, 1934, one Dolores DeFina, a devoutly Roman Catholic Bronx, New York-born nightclub singer of Irish and Italian extraction who was professionally known as Dolores Reade. They had met two months previously, at The Vogue, a Manhattan nightclub where Reade was performing. Dolores and Bob Hope had four children - all adopted from the same Evanston, Illinois, orphanage - and remained together until his death. Theirs was the longest marriage in Hollywood history - 69 years of wedlock.

Thanks for the Memory

In the 1938 film The Big Broadcast of 1938, Hope introduced the song that became his trademark: "Thanks for the Memory", which he initially sang in a duet with Shirley Ross. The original story of the song in that movie's plot-line was that she was his first of now three ex-wives, and it is clear from the warm and nostalgic lyrics that she was his first and best love. The sentimental nature of the music allowed Hope and his writers to come up with endless variations of the song over the years, to fit specific circumstances, such as saying farewell to the troops on one of his many tours for the men in uniform.

Hope's film career

Hope starred in several one-reel comedies for Warner Bros. and from there his movie career accelerated quickly. As a movie star he was best known for the road movies in which he was paired with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, as well as the movie My Favorite Brunette. He never won any Oscars for these, though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honored him five times—with two honorary Oscars, two special awards and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. As host of the Academy Awards - a role he filled numerous times from the 1950s to the 1980s - he once joked about Oscar time, "Or as it's known at my house, Passover."

Tours of duty

Hope made big money performing live: An eight-week tour in 1940 took in a then-record $100,000 in receipts, according to newspaper reports. The next year, he did a show for free.

Bob Hope, Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
Bob Hope, Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
Photo: www.af.mil

On May 6, 1941 at California's March Field, Hope performed his first USO show. He continued entertaining troops for the rest of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War all the way until the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War (The Hundred Hour War). He took the matter to heart when entertaining and was almost always seen in army duds, just like his audience, as a sign of support for the troops for whom he performed. Hope's USO career spanned six decades, during which he headlined approximately 60 tours.

Hope for humanity and sport

Hope was also renowned for his passion for sports. He boxed professionally, was a pool hustler, watched football and even owned part of the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Rams. Hope is mostly remembered for his passion for golf, and even played in a few PGA tour events. The Hope/Chrysler Classic is named after him, which is now in its 44th year. He also golfed with nearly every President of the United States from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. As seen in the photo, he also often used a golf club as an on-stage prop.

In the 1950s he was named honorary mayor of Palm Springs, California.

In 1974, Hope was named to the Board of Governors of the National Space Institute, forerunner of the present-day National Space Society, a nonprofit, educational space advocacy organization founded by Dr. Wernher von Braun.

In 1978, Hope was created an honorary knight in the Order of the British Empire "in recognition of his contributions to film, to song, and to the entertainment of troops in the past." (citation)

In 1997, Hope was honored by the United States Congress with the title "Honorary Veteran of the United States Armed Forces" during an October 29 tribute. It was given him in recognition of the entertainment he provided US troops during war and peacekeeping missions.

Hope for (and on) the air

Hope's career in broadcasting spanned sixty-four years, and part of this was his long association with NBC. He first appeared on television in 1932, back when the tube was in the experimental stages, but it wasn't on the Peacock network--he appeared on a test transmission for CBS. By the time Hope made his radio debut in 1937, NBC was mainly just a radio network. Hope's first regular series for NBC Radio was the "Woodbury Soap Hour". One year later, he had the first show to bear his name, and then sponsored by Pepsodent toothpaste. Modern viewers remember Hope best for the many specials he did for the NBC television network in the decades that followed, some of which were sponsored by Texaco. Hope's Christmas specials were always fan favorites. A signature portion of his yuletide specials was his performance of "Silver Bells" (from his 1951 film The Lemon Drop Kid), usually done as a duet with a featured female guest star (through the years done with such stars as Olivia Newton-John and Brooke Shields). His final television special was in 1996, with guest Tony Danza helping Hope to salute the Presidents of the United States.

Hope's twilight

Hope lived so long that he suffered the rare indignity of receiving premature obituaries on two separate occasions. In 1998 his death was erroneously reported by Associated Press and then announced in the US House of Representatives. In 2003 he was among several famous figures who had pre-written obituaries published on CNN's web site due to a lapse in password protection.

Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003, and might rival Irving Berlin or George Burns as the most notable entertainment centenarian. In honor of Hope on his birthday, the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles, California was christened Bob Hope Square. His centennial was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 U.S. states. Hope celebrated his birthday privately in his Toluca Lake home where he had lived since 1937. Even at 100 years of age, Hope maintained his sense of humor, quipping "I'm so old, they've canceled my blood type." And according to one of Hope's daughters, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, he told his wife, "Surprise me." He died two months later of pneumonia at 9:28 PM July 27, 2003 at his home in Toluca Lake, north of Hollywood.

Bob Hope is interred in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Conversion

It was confirmed by Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles that Bob Hope had converted to Roman Catholicism some years before he died, and that he had died a Catholic in good standing. It is certain that his devout wife, Dolores, helped him to make that decision.

Honors

  • In 1965 the PGA renamed an existing tournament the Bob Hope Desert Classic in recognition of the comedian's lifelong passion for the game.
  • Bob Hope has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: the motion picture star on 6541 Hollywood Blvd., the radio star on 6141 Hollywood Blvd., the TV star on 6758 Hollywood Blvd. and the live theatre special plaque on 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
  • Bob Hope has had several buildings in the U.S. named after him. In 2004, Stockton, California's renovated Fox Theatre movie palace was renamed the "Bob Hope Theatre".
  • In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Filmography

External link


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