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.
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.
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.
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 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.