“I’m so old that they got rid of my blood type,” joked Bob Hope when he turned 100 in July 2003. He became a legend by making movies, TV, and radio shows and visiting the troops overseas. In fact, Bob Hope has been around for most of the 20th century.
Bob Hope was born in Eltham, England, on May 29, 1903. His family emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was four (“I left England when I was four years old and realized I couldn’t be king”). In 1915, he got his first small break in show business when he won a Charlie Chaplin impersonation contest.
In the early 1920s, he started working in vaudeville, and in the early 1930s, he was on Broadway. In 1938’s “The Big Broadcast,” his first movie, he sang a duet with Shirley Ross called “Thanks for the Memory.” That song would come to be known as “Bob Hope’s song.”
Bob Hope was in more than 75 movies during his career, but he only won two honorary Oscars. He even joked about not winning an Oscar: “At our house, Oscar night is called Passover!” Even though he didn’t win many Oscars, he liked bringing his style of humor to the ceremony. He presented or co-presented the Oscars a record 18 times up until 1977.
The “road” movies he made with Bing Crosby in the 1940s are still his most well-known movies. He also starred with Jane Russell in “The Paleface,” which many people think is his best movie. Today, you can buy many of his old movies on DVD or watch them regularly on cable TV.
Hope once joked about how movies end up on TV when they die. But TV made Bob Hope a star and a name everyone in the United States knew. Hope got into TV later in his career because he was still determining if the still-new medium would do well.
Easter Sunday, 1950 was a memorable day. It was on that day that Bob Hope made his formal television debut. In addition to Hope’s appearance, the “Star Spangled Revue” featured other popular entertainers and stars of the day, including Dinah Shore and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
The show’s formula immediately succeeded, and Bob Hope’s television shows remained successful for 40 years. Bob Hope’s favorite network was NBC, and he was in many Christmas and other holiday specials on that network. In 1996, he did a show with Tony Danza that was his last TV special. Today, these shows are considered classics or have been watched by many generations.
Bob Hope may be best known for the times he visited the troops, which almost certainly did more to boost morale than any visit by the president. Bob Hope’s first show like this was in May 1941, when he and a few friends went to March Field in California to entertain the airmen.
As they say, the rest is history. Bob Hope was soon called “G.I. Bob” by the troops, and for the next 60 years, he performed worldwide. He has performed for troops and done radio shows from Europe, the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. He almost always showed up in army fatigues to show his support for the troops.
Bob Hope has been honored by the U.S. Congress five times and made an honorary veteran and honorary mayor of Palm Springs. He also has several theatres, a battleship, and an airport named after him. The Bob Hope Classic, a major golf tournament, honors his love of the game.
But the most important thing he has given us is much fun over the years. And, of course, he has a sharp sense of humor. His one-liners and quotes are almost as well-known as his TV shows and movies. He once said, “I’ve always been in the right place at the right time. I led myself there, of course.” ~Ben Anton, 2007