Happy Birthday Bob Hope: 110 years old today!

Happy Birthday Bob Hope: 110 years old today!

Happy Birthday to Bob Hope who would be 110 years old today!

Leslie Townes Hope, more popularly known as Bob Hope, was born on May 29, 1903 in Eltham, London. His parents were William Henry Hope, a stonemason, and Avis Townes, an opera singer. In 1908, when Leslie was four years old, his family moved to the United States, and became residents of Cleveland in Ohio. Up to now, no one knows exactly when he decided to use the name “Bob,” although some say that it started when he was teased by his classmates because of his roll-call name Hope, Leslie which they shorten to “hopeless.” According to Bob Hope himself, he chose that name because it “sounded brisker.”

While in Cleveland, the 12-year old Bob had different jobs including selling shoes, delivering newspapers, and delivering meat. For a short period, he was once a boxer as well, fighting using the name Packy East. When not working, he would enter various talent contests. This eventually landed him as a vaudeville dancer, together with Mildred Rosenquist, who eventually became his girlfriend. They had this career until Mildred’s mother learned about it.

Broadway Calls

Bob then moved on to perform for shows in local theaters with his first partner, his friend Lloyd Durbin. Fatty Arbuckle saw one of the duo’s performance, and he invited both to work on his show. A year after having Durbin as his partner, Bob had a new one, George Byrne. He began touring with him, and they eventually made it to New York. For a brief period, the two were able to appear on Broadway, before taking the advice of their agent to rethink their act. When hired to perform in Pennsylvania, Bob was asked to make some announcements for the upcoming attractions in a small theater there. He was able to deliver the material in a very entertaining way, causing him to impress the management very well. Following that, he decided finally to go solo.

Bob had his big break when he appeared on the 1933 Broadway musical Roberta, where he played the role of character Huckleberry Haines. It was in that show when he got to know Dolores Reade, a singer working on the 57th street club who became his wife until his death in 2003. After Roberta, he was featured in other Broadway shows like Say When (1934), Red, Hot and Blue (1936), and Ziegfield Follies (1936).  Apart from working with Jimmy Durante and Ethel Merman, it was also in Red, Hot and Blue where Bob was spotted by Paramount Pictures, which became the producer of his first feature films.

The Road to Movies

Going Spanish was the title of the 1934 short film where Bob made his first movie appearance. Several comedy and musical shows followed after that, until he was eventually cast as Buzz Fielding in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938, which also debuted his trademark song Thanks for the Memory.

The films that land Bob Hope to Hollywood stardom were the series of comedy films called Road to… where he co-starred with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Included in the film series were:

All six films had similar storyline, with the two guys (Bob and Bing) playing the role of con-artists trying to make as much money as they can, and rivals for the love of Dorothy Lamour’s character.

Although he never got even one Oscar award during his career, Bob did receive several honorary awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He had a total of five from 1941 to 1966, among which was the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian he won in 1960. Two songs sang by him won Oscars– Thanks for the Memory and Buttons and Bows, which was heard in the 1948 film The Paleface.

His film career lasted for six decades. In his last film appearance, Bob did a cameo role in the the 1985 film Spies Like Us, which was a homage to his popular film series Road to… Actors Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd took over Hope’s and Crosby’s roles.

Radio Star

Bob’s film career was simultaneous with his career in old time radio. In fact, most of his co-stars appeared as special guests in his radio programs. In return, used these programs to promote his upcoming movie and theatrical shows. In 1937, NBC gave Bob his regular slot in The Woodbury Soap Show. Just a year after that, he was given his own show, which went on-air until 1956.

The television was another medium that showcased Bob’s comedy. His first appearance on the television was in the 1930s, at the time during which the technology was still new and experimental. Bob’s major TV guesting was in 1950, when he became the host of the Star-Spangled Revue. Although he never really had his own television show, whenever he appeared on a show as guest of host, that show would surely get a high rating.

WWII Broadcasts for the Troops

Bob Hope was highly successful in his film, radio, theater and television careers. Nevertheless, it was through his work with the USO, or United Service Organizations, where he gained much appreciation and respect. In fact, the US troops hailed him as their “Ambassador of Goodwill.”

His involvement with the USO starting during World War II, when he entertained the US troops based in California. Throughout the war period, nearly all of his radio programs were heard over military bases in the United States, Europe, and South Pacific.

In 1948, while entertaining troops from what was known as the Berlin Airlift, Bob did a Christmas radio show. This quickly turned into a tradition, for over three decades, where all his succeeding Christmas broadcasts were done in the military bases.

His final tour for the USO took place in 1990, when he went to Saudi Arabia during the Operation Desert Shield. And then, in October of 1997, his work for the troops was recognized when they formally made him an honorary veteran, an award which was specifically created for him through a special resolution by the United States Congress. Bob considered that award greatest honour he had ever received.

Golf Fanatic

“Golf is my profession. I tell jokes to pay my green fees.”

Bob’s true passion was golf, and he had, in fact, played with six former US Presidents– Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton. He also came up with a best-selling book about his golf experiences entitled Confessions of a Hooker.

He also helped establish the pro-am golf tournament known as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, which is held once a year in Palm Springs, California. Since its inception in 1960, the tournament was able to raise more than $35 million for the local charities.

Bob Hope Honors

I’m speechless. Seventy years of ad-lib material and I’m speechless.

– Bob after learning about his KBE

Bob is a record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most honoured entertainer in the world, having received over 2,000 awards for his work. In addition to the awards given to him by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he also had the following:

  • The Congressional Gold Medal

  • Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE)

  • The Medal of the Arts

  • The Medal of Freedom

  • Governor’s Award in the 1984 Emmys

  • 2 Golden Globes

  • Several “Career” and “Lifetime” achievement awards, such as those from the American Comedy Awards, Screen Actors’ Guild, and the Television Critics Association

  • Stars in the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for film and another for television.

Apart from those, he had around 60 honorary doctorates from different universities and colleges across the country, and also a “degree in comedy” from LA’s University of California. There’s even an asteroid named after him!


Bob Hope Legacy

Bob continued to provide entertainment until his 90s, or actually, almost up to his death (at age 100) on July 27, 2003. Before he died, he donated a huge amount of his old works to the Bob Hope Gallery of Entertainment, at the US Library of Congress.

Bob Hope has a universal appeal, not just to those who grew up with him, or knew him through his radio programs, but also to those who are still learning more about his works and to the US military troops who recognized him as their private entertainer. His legacy will surely never be forgotten.

70th Anniversary of “Sorry, Wrong Number”

On May 25, 2013, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of Old Time Radio’s truly magnificent treasures. One that evening in 1943, CBS’s “Outstanding Theater of Thrills”, radio’s Suspense!, presented for the first time the chilling tale “Sorry, Wrong Number”.

Lucille Fletcher, one of the female mystery writers who dominated the genre, wrote the radio play. In contrast to other types of fiction, there was relatively little “gender-gap” for mystery writers. In part, this was due to Agatha Christie’s work popularizing the genre, but the editor’s need to gather compelling stories whereever they could be found was also a factor. Ms. Fletcher also penned “The Hitch Hiker” script that was hugely successful for Orson Welles in 1941. Welles would later opine that “The Hitch Hiker” and “Sorry, Wrong Number” were the best suspense plays ever written for Radio.

“Sorry, Wrong Number” was as simple as it was effective. The program as originally written as almost a one woman show and radio veteran Agnes Moorehead handled it masterfully. The story opens as she is trying to reach her late-working husband, but finds that his office telephone is constantly busy. Seeking aid from the operator, she overhears two men plotting a cold-blooded murder. As the program progresses, the woman (and the audience) come to realize that she is the intended victim of the crime.

There were two performances of the episode on the evening of May 25, 1943; first for the East Coast and then for the West. One of the supporting actors missed a cue near the end of the East Coast broadcast, which resulted in some confusion among listeners as to the actual outcome of the story. Producer William Spier aired a clarification at the beginning of the following week’s episode, “Banquo’s Chair”, and also announced that the story would be repeated on the coming weeks due to the outstanding audience response. Suspense would present “Sorry, Wrong Number” seven times, each time starring Ms. Moorehead. Each time she assumed the role, Moorehead used her original, dog-earred script.

Producers hired Ms. Fletcher to expand the story for the 1948 film starring Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck received a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar for the role, but many fans of noir fiction feel that the expanded plot of the movie loses the taut simplicity and sheer terror of the original radio version. Ms. Stanwyck appeared on the Jack Benny Program plugging the film and supporting Jack’s parody. She also reprised her movie role for the Jan 9, 1950, Lux Radio Theater presentation.

Enjoy the “West Coast” version of “Sorry Wrong Number” starring Agnes Moorehead in radio’s Suspense!:

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Suspense-430525-043-SorryWrongNumber–OTRCAT.com.mp3

Patriotic Old Time Radio: Baseball

Many of us happily remember when America was light-heartedly defined by “Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet“.

Today, General Motors has seen its better days, Apple Pie is is derided for its calories, and stadium hotdogs have become, well, complicated.

But there is no denying the fundamental beauty of the diamond, the green of the grass, the blue of the summer sky, the smack of the ball hitting a leather glove, the crack of the bat, and the intent faces of the young players. Ahh, Baseball

Eve Arden in Our Miss Brooks is looking forward to the openning game, but her motives might be questionable;you see she has a new dress for good looking Mr. Boynton, the biology teacher, to see…

Lucille Ball is ready for the annual game at the company picnic on My Favorite Husband. Baseball was part of the college glory days for both George Cooper and his boss Mr. Atterbury (Gale Gordon). But this year they can’t play because the employees have a new rule- the teams will be made up of married couples. How could that be a problem? Both George and Mr. Atterbury are married, aren’t they? Well, that would mean that Liz (Lucy) and Iris will get to play, and that may not be a good thing…

One of the most moving of baseball stories is “Pride of the Yankees”, which is dramatized for the radio on Lux Radio Theater. Lou Gehrig may not be familiar to modern fans, but he was one of the game’s powerhouses, in many ways surpassing even his team mate Babe Ruth. Gehrig rose from his immigrant roots, over his mother’s objections, to become one of the greatest players of all time, but remained a simple and admirable man, who loved his mother and was deeply in love with his wife. His record of consecutive games was considered one of Baseball’s unbeatable records (it stood until it was bested by Cal Ripken Jr in 1995). Gehrig’s formidable power was missing at the beginning of the 1939 season, and continued to deteriorate. Eventually he would be diagnosed with a debilitating neuron-muscular disease that would eventually take his life.

The scene where Gehrig says his good-bye to baseball, which regularly appears on top-ten lists of most inspirational movie scenes, contains one of the most quoted and emotional of movie lines:

“People all say that I’ve had a bad break. But today…
today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”