Bob Hope 1903- 2003
Leslie Townes ‘Bob’ Hope, was a British American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete and author with a career that spanned nearly 80 years. Best known for his rapid fire , self deprecating, sharp wit, Hope appeared in more than 70 films, in addition to hosting the Academy Awards nineteen times, more than any other host. He appeared in many stage productions and radio and television roles, and was the author of 14 books.
Hope was born on May 29, 1903 in Eltham, Kent , the fifth of seven sons, to William and Avis Hope, His father was a stonemason and his mother was singer. The family moved to Bristol before emigrating to the United States in 1908, eventually settling in Cleveland, Ohio.
From age 12, Hope earned pocket money by busking in public , singing, dancing, and performing comedy sketches. Encouraged by his mother ,he entered numerous dancing and amateur talent contests and won a prize in 1915 for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. For a time, he attended the Boys’ Industrial School in Lancaster, Ohio and later donated substantial sums of money to his old school. Hope had a very brief career as a boxer in 1919, fighting under the name ‘Packy East’.
Hope worked at various jobs from his teens to early twenties, at one of which he was injured whilst felling a tree with his brother which crushed his face and required re constructive surgery –hence his distinctive appearance. Deciding on a show business career, Hope took dancing lessons and was performing at a club in 1925, when Fatty Arbuckle, then a star of the silent movies, saw them perform and found them work with a touring troupe. Hope then formed an act called the Dancemedians on the vaudeville circuit.
By the early 1930s, Hope had gone solo. He attracted widespread notice for his role in the Broadway musical Roberta, which showcased his quick wit and superb comic timing.
Bob Hope then met singer Dolores Reade and they married in 1934 . When he passed away in 2003, their marriage of 69 years held the record for the longest Hollywood marriage.
In 1936 Hope showed off his comedic talents in the Ziegfeld Follies and later that year, landed a leading part in Red, Hot and Blue, with Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante.
In 1937, Hope landed his first radio contract and in his own show on Tuesday nights, listeners tuned in to hear Hope’s snappy one-liners and wisecracks. He became one of radio’s most popular performers, and stayed on the air until the mid-1950s.
In the late 1930s, Hope moved into feature films. In his first major role in ‘The Big Broadcast ,‘ he sang “Thanks for the Memory” with Shirley Ross. The song became his trademark tune. The following year, Hope starred in The Cat and the Canary, a comedy mystery, in which he played a sharp, smart-talking coward, the type of self -deprecating character he would make his own throughout his career.
In 1940, Hope made his first film with popular crooner Bing Crosby. The pair starred together as a pair of likeable con artists in ‘The Road to Singapore’ with Dorothy Lamour playing their love interest. The duo proved to be highly popular and Hope and Crosby, made seven ‘Road’ pictures together and remained lifelong friends. On his own and with Crosby, Hope starred in numerous hit comedies. He was one of the top film stars throughout the 1940s, with such movies as 1947’s western spoof ‘The Paleface’ with Jane Russell.
During World War II, Hope regularly took time out of his film and television career to entertain American soldiers abroad. Whilst he and his wife Dolores had four adopted children of their own, they spent many of their Christmases away with the troops. He was celebrated for his United Service Organizations (USO) shows to entertain American military personnel on active duty.where he had one golden rule for himself and his fellow performers –you must never cry in front of the audience, no matter how dreadful the injuries to hospitalised soldiers. He made 57 tours for the USO after 1941 including stops in Europe and the Pacific front and later through until 1999 with the Vietnam and first Gulf wars. Hope was declared an honorary veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces in 1997 by act of the Congress.
By the late 1990s, Hope had become one of the most honoured performers in entertainment history. He received more than 50 honorary degrees in his lifetime, as well as a British knighthood in 1998. The British-born Hope was especially surprised by the honorary knighthood, saying, “I’m speechless. Seventy years of ad-lib material and I’m speechless.”
Despite a well documented reputation for frugality, Hope is believed to have donated an estimated $1 billion to charity. He was one of the richest movie stars, ranking in the top ten highest salaried stars continuously from 1941-53 , except for 1948.In 1969 he was worth in excess of $150 million, largely as a result of shrewd business and real estate investments.
Hope quietly celebrated his 100th birthday in May of 2003, at his Taluca Lake home and there, he died of pneumonia on July 27, 2003.