Leslie Townes Hope KBE (May 29, 1903 – July 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 . Before becoming an comedian, Hope boxed professionally under the boxing nickname of Packy East.
Hope was born in Eltham, London, 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.
According to biographer Arthur Marx, Hope married his first wife, Grace Louise Troxell , his vaudeville partner since 1928, on January 25, 1933; they were quickly divorced. He married his second wife, reportedly on February 19, 1934, Dolores DeFina , a Bronx-born nightclub singer 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, Ill., orphanage - and remained together until his death.
In his 1938 film The Big Broadcast Of 1938 , he introduced the song that became his trademark: Thanks for the Memories .
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, 1990Photo: 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. In honor of America's most beloved entertainer, there's even the Hope/Chrysler Classic 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.
In the 1950s he was named honorary mayor of Palm Springs, California.
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 lived so long that he suffered the rare indignity of receiving premature obituaries on two separate occasions. In 1989 his death was erroneously reported by Associated Press and then announced in the US House of Representatives. On another occasion 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.
- In 1965 the PGA renamed an existing tournament the Bob Hope Desert Classic in recognition of the comedian's lifelong passion for the game.
- On 3 November 2003 the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority voted unanimously to rename that airport to "Bob Hope Airport." Hope had joked with his family that he wanted an airport named for him after hearing in 1979 that Orange County officials renamed their airport after Hope's friend John Wayne. On 18 November 2003 the Glendale, California, and Burbank, California, city councils voted unanimously to approve the change, and Pasadena, California, followed on 10 December. The process of changing the name began immediately, though the FAA-given, three-letter designation, "BUR," most likely will not change. The rededication ceremony took place on 17 December, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight.
- 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.
- Going Spanish (1934) (short subject)
- Paree, Paree (1934) (short subject)
- The Old Grey Mayor (1935) (short subject)
- Double Exposure (1935) (short subject)
- Calling All Tars (1935) (short subject)
- Soup for Nuts (1935) (short subject)
- Watch the Birdie (1935) (short subject)
- Shop Talk (1936) (short subject)
- Don't Hook Now (1938) (short subject)
- The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- College Swing (1938)
- Give Me a Sailor (1938)
- Thanks for the Memory (1938)
- Never Say Die (1939)
- Rhythm Romance (1939)
- The Cat and the Canary (1939)
- Road to Singapore (1940)
- Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 6 (1940) (short subject)
- The Ghost Breakers (1940)
- Road to Zanzibar (1941)
- Caught in the Draft (1941)
- Nothing But the Truth (1941)
- Louisiana Purchase (1941)
- My Favorite Blonde (1942)
- Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 4 (1942) (short subject)
- Road to Morocco (1942)
- Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
- Strictly G.I. (1943) (short subject)
- Combat America (1943) (documentary)
- They Got Me Covered (1943)
- Show Business at War (1943) (short subject)
- Let's Face It (1943)
- The Princess and the Pirate (1944)
- The All-Star Bond Rally (1945) (short subject)
- Story of G.I. Joe (1945) (voice)
- Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945) (short subject)
- Road to Utopia (1946)
- Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)
- My Favorite Brunette (1947)
- Variety Girl (1947)
- (1947) (documentary)
- Where There's Life (1947)
- Road to Rio (1947)
- The Paleface (1948)
- Sorrowful Jones (1949)
- The Great Lover (1949)
- Screen Actors (1950) (short subject)
- Fancy Pants (1950)
- Cassino to Korea (1950) (documentary)
- You Can Change the World (1951) (short subject)
- The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
- My Favorite Spy (1951)
- The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) (cameo)
- Son of Paleface (1952)
- (1952) (short subject)
- Road to Bali (1952)
- Off Limits (1953)
- Scared Stiff (1953) (cameo)
- Here Come the Girls (1953)
- Casanova's Big Night (1954)
- (1954) (short subject)
- (1955) (short subject)
- The Seven Little Foys (1955)
- Showdown at Ulcer Gulch (1956) (short subject)
- That Certain Feeling (1956)
- The Iron Petticoat (1956)
- The Heart of Show Business (1957) (short subject) (narrator)
- (1957) (short subject)
- Beau James (1957)
- Alias Jesse James (1959)
- The Five Pennies (1959) (cameo)
- The Facts of Life (1960)
- Bachelor in Paradise (1961)
- The Road to Hong Kong (1962)
- Critic's Choice (1963)
- Call Me Bwana (1963)
- A Global Affair (1964)
- I'll Take Sweden (1965)
- The Oscar (1966)
- Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966)
- Not with My Wife, You Don't! (1966) (cameo)
- Eight on the Lam (1967)
- Rowan & Martin at the Movies (1968) (short subject)
- The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968)
- How to Commit Marriage (1969)
- Cancel My Reservation (1972)
- The Muppet Movie (1979) (cameo)
- Spies Like Us (1985) (cameo)
- A Century of Cinema (1994) (documentary)
- (1994) (documentary)
- (1997) (documentary)