Height: 5′ 10″ (1.79 m)
Look at the long, successful career of Bob Hope, longtime humanitarian and master of the one-liner and loved acter & comedian.
Bob Hope, KBE, KCSG, KSS, born Leslie Townes Hope (May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003), was an English-born American comedian, actor, singer and dancer who appeared onBroadway, in vaudeville, movies, television, and on the radio. He was noted for his numerous United Service Organizations (USO) shows entertaining American military personnel—he made 57 tours for the USO between 1942 and 1988. Throughout his long career, he was honored for this work. In 1996, the U.S. Congress declared him the “first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.”
Over a career spanning 60 years (1934 to 1994), Hope appeared in over 70 films and shorts, including a series of “Road” movies co-starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. In addition to hosting the Academy Awards fourteen times, he appeared in many stage productions and television roles, and was the author of fourteen books. He participated in the sports of golf and boxing, and owned a small stake in his hometown baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. He was married to his wife, fellow performer Dolores Hope (née DeFina), for 69 years.
In the early days, Hope’s career included appearances on stage in Vaudeville shows and Broadway productions. He began performing on the radio in 1934 and switched to television when that medium became popular in the 1950s. He began doing regular TV specials in 1954, and hosted the Academy Awards fourteen times in the period from 1941 to 1978.Overlapping with this was his movie career, spanning the years 1934 to 1972, and his USO tours, which he did from 1942 to 1988.
Hope signed a contract for six short films with Educational Pictures of New York. The first was a comedy, Going Spanish (1934). He was not happy with the film, and told Walter Winchell, “When they catch John Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice.” Educational dropped his contract, but he soon signed with Warner Brothers. He made movies during the day and performed Broadway shows in the evenings.
Hope moved to Hollywood when Paramount Picturessigned him for the 1938 film The Big Broadcast of 1938, also starring W. C. Fields. The song “Thanks for the Memory“, which later became his trademark, was introduced in this film as a duet with Shirley Ross as accompanied by Shep Fields and his orchestra. The sentimental, fluid nature of the music allowed Hope’s writers (he depended heavily upon joke writers throughout his career) to later create variations of the song to fit specific circumstances, such as bidding farewell to troops while on tour.
As a movie star, he was best known for comedies like My Favorite Brunette and the highly successful “Road” movies in which he starred with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. The series consists of seven films made between 1940 and 1962. Hope had seen Lamour as a nightclub singer in New York, and invited her to work on his United Service Organizations(USO) tours. Lamour sometimes arrived for filming prepared with her lines, only to be baffled by completely re-written scripts or ad-lib dialogue between Hope and Crosby. Hope and Lamour were lifelong friends, and she remains the actress most associated with his film career. Hope made movies with many other leading women, including Katharine Hepburn,Lucille Ball, Rosemary Clooney, Jane Russell and Elke Sommer.
Hope teamed with Crosby for the “Road” pictures and countless stage, radio, and television appearances together over the decades from their first meeting in 1932 until Crosby’s death in 1977. The two invested together in oil leases and other business ventures, but did not see each other socially.
While aboard the RMS Queen Mary when World War II began in September 1939, Hope volunteered to perform a special show for the passengers, during which he sang “Thanks for the Memory” with rewritten lyrics. He performed his first USO show on May 6, 1941, at March Field, California and continued to travel and entertain troops for the rest of World War II, and later during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the third phase of the Lebanon Civil War, the latter years of the Iran–Iraq War, and the 1990–1991Persian Gulf War. His USO career lasted half a century, during which he headlined 57 tours.He had a deep respect for the men and women who served in the military, and this was reflected in his willingness to go anywhere in order to entertain them. During the Vietnam War, Hope had trouble convincing some performers to join him on tour. Anti-war sentimentwas high, and Hope’s pro-war stance made him a target of criticism. Some shows were drowned out by boos and others were listened to in silence. The tours were funded by the United States Department of Defense, his television sponsors, and by NBC, the network that broadcast the television specials that were created after each tour. Many people considered him as an enabler of the war and a member of the system that made it possible.
Hope’s first Broadway appearances, in 1927’s The Sidewalks of New York and 1928’s Ups-a-Daisy, were minor walk-on parts. He returned to Broadway in 1933 to star as Huckleberry Haines in the Jerome Kern / Dorothy Fields musical Roberta. Stints in the musicals Say When, the 1936 Ziegfeld Follies (with Fanny Brice), and Red, Hot and Blue with Ethel Mermanand Jimmy Durante followed. Hope reprised his role as Huck Haines in a 1958 production ofRoberta at The Muny Theater in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri.
Hope rescued Eltham Little Theatre from closure by providing funds to buy the property. He continued his interest and support and regularly visited when in London. The Theatre was renamed in his honor in 1982.
In 1934, Hope married Dolores (DeFina) Reade, who had been one of his co-stars on Broadway in Roberta. They adopted four children at anadoption agency called The Cradle, in Evanston, Illinois: Linda (1939), Tony (1940), Kelly (1946), and Nora (1946). From them he had several grandchildren, including Andrew, Miranda, and Zachary Hope. Tony (as Anthony J. Hope) served as a presidential appointee in theGeorge H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations and in a variety of posts under PresidentsGerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
Hope had a reputation as a womanizer and continued to see other women in spite of his marriage. In 1949, while Hope was in Dallas on a publicity tour for his radio show, he met starlet Barbara Payton, a contract player at Universal Studios, who at the time was on her own public relations jaunt. Shortly thereafter, Hope set Payton up in an apartment in Hollywood. The arrangement soured as Hope was not able to satisfy Payton’s definition of generosity and her need for attention. Hope paid her off to end the affair quietly. Payton later revealed the affair in an article printed in July 1956 in Confidential. “Hope was … at times a mean-spirited individual with the ability to respond with a ruthless vengeance when sufficiently provoked.”[ His advisors counseled him to avoid further publicity by ignoring theConfidential exposé. “Barbara’s … revelations caused a minor ripple … and then quickly sank without causing any appreciable damage to Bob Hope’s legendary career.” According toArthur Marx‘s Hope biography, The Secret Life of Bob Hope, Hope’s subsequent long-term affair with actress Marilyn Maxwell was so open that the Hollywood community routinely referred to her as “Mrs. Bob Hope”.
In 1998, a prepared obituary by The Associated Press was inadvertently released on the Internet, prompting Hope’s death to be announced in the U.S. House of Representatives Hope remained in good health until old age, though he became a bit frail. In June 2000 he spent nearly a week in a California hospital after being hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding. In August 2001, he spent close to two weeks in the hospital recovering from pneumonia.
On July 27, 2003, two months after his 100th birthday, Bob Hope died at his home in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles. His grandson, Zach Hope, told Soledad O’Brien that when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, Hope had told his wife, “Surprise me.” His remains were interred in the Bob Hope Memorial Garden at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles. After Hope’s death, many newspaper cartoonists worldwide paid tribute to his work for the USO or featured Crosby welcoming Hope into heaven.
- 13th Academy Awards (1940): Special Award – in recognition of his unselfish services to the motion picture industry
- 17th Academy Awards (1944): Special Award – for his many services to the Academy
- 25th Academy Awards (1952): Honorary Award – for his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise
- 32nd Academy Awards (1959): Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
- 38th Academy Awards (1965): Honorary Award – for unique and distinguished service to the industry and the Academy
Hope’s Modernist 23,366-square-foot home, built to resemble a volcano, was designed in 1973 by John Lautner. Located above Palm Springs, it has panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and the San Jacinto Mountains. The house was placed on the market for the first time in February 2013 with an asking price of $50 million.
- Bob Hope’s Futuristic Space Age Home Up for Sale (laughingsquid.com)
- Bob Hope’s iconic estate listed for $50 million (nbcnews.com)
- Bob Hope Memorial – A Pictorial (invisibleones.wordpress.com)