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Bob Hope

the most honored entertainer in the world

Bob Hope ogling an Oscar

Leslie Townes Hope was born in Eltham, England, on May 29, 1903. His English father was a stonemason, his Welsh mother a concert singer. His father brought the family to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1907. Upon his father's naturalization in 1920, Bob (as he was always known) and his six brothers became U.S. citizens.

Early Career

As a youth Hope earned money selling newspapers, jerking sodas, selling shoes, as a pool hustler, and as a constant entrant in amateur talent shows. After high school he took dancing lessons from entertainer King Rastus Brown and vaudeville hoofer Johnny Root. He was soon deemed good enough to take over some of the classes.

At the age of 18, Hope persuaded girlfriend Mildred Rosequist to become his dance partner. The pair were earning $8 a night at local vaudeville houses when Mildred's mother happened to catch their act and put an end to the partnership.

Hope next teamed with Lloyd Durbin, with whom he developed a new act. The pair honed their act in local bookings, and were eventually hired as a warm-up act for Fatty Arbuckle. After about a year with Durbin, Hope teamed with George Byrne, with whom he was able to secure gigs at major houses in New York City. Hope & Byrne were eventually chosen to appear on the Broadway show Sidewalks of New York. Although the show enjoyed a long successful run, the team of Hope & Byrnes did not.

Hoping to boost their careers, Hope & Byrnes went west, and finally got a three-day date in a tiny theater in New Castle, Pennsylvania. On opening night, Hope was asked to announce the coming attractions to the audience. The audience's response led him to expand the routine to five minutes, and by the end of the engagement he was a single act.

From vaudeville Hope moved on to Broadway, in the play Ballyhoo (1932). His first major recognition came when he played Huckleberry Haines in Roberta, in 1933. He also appeared in Say When (1934) and Ziegfeld Follies (1936), among others.

Radio Career

Hope first entered radio in 1933, appearing on the "Fleishmann Hour," starring Rudy Vallee. In May 1937, he was signed to a twenty-six week contract by NBC to perform on the "Woodbury Soap Show." That show went so well that, in 1938, he got his own show, "The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope," which became the highest-rated program on radio during World War II, and remained at or near the top of the ratings through April 1956.

Movie Career

Like many other vaudeville performers of his day, Hope did several minor movies in New York to help make ends meet. Unlike most of those other performers, however, he made the transition to Hollywood-filmed movies. His first major feature film was The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938), in which he debuted what would become his signature song, "Thanks for the Memories." While filming in Hollywood, he did his radio show via transcontinental hook-up.

Over the subsequent decades Hope would star in more than 50 feature films and make cameo appearances in another 15 or so. Many of those films were box-office hits, but he is probably best remembered for the "Road Films" he made with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, beginning with Road to Singapore (1940). His last major film appearance was in Spies Like Us (1985).

Television Career

Again, unlike many of his contemporaries, Hope made the transition from big to little screen quite easily. His formal television debut came in October of 1950, when he hosted the NBC special "Star Spangled Revue," a 90-minute tour-de-farce of old vaudeville routines. He would subsequently host six more specials for NBC during the 1950-1951 season, and firmly established what would become another of his trademarks -- the extravaganza special featuring a small group of "regular" performers along with an impressive list of "guest stars." He would, essentially, spend the next thirty-plus years airing an extravagant vaudeville show, and scoring top ten ratings every single time.

"Military" Career

In May of 1941, Hope took a group of performers to March Field, California, and did his radio show for the airmen stationed there. Throughout World War II every one of his radio shows, with the exception of two, were performed at and broadcast from military bases and installations, including those within the theaters of war.

Bob Hope doing one of his many USO shows

In 1948 Hope did a Christmas show from Germany before troops involved in the Berlin Airlift. The show was such a success that he determined to make the Christmas show a tradition, eventually filming them for television starting in 1954. The 90-minute "Bob Hope Christmas Specials" were broadcast every holiday season until 1972. He did each of them from an overseas military base, and he always made it a point to include some of the servicemen in the show. Although regular television broadcasts of Hope's Christmas specials ended in 1972, his shows did not. He continued to visit overseas bases well into the 1990s, including during the first Gulf War.

Oscar Career

Hope began hosting the Oscar Awards telecast in 1960, and performed those duties for a total of fifteen years, a record which is not likely to ever be broken. He did this despite the fact that he was never even nominated for a performing Oscar. He was, however, the recipient of two honorary Oscars, two special awards, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Golfing Career

In addition to his successes on the vaudeville stage, behind the radio microphone, and in front of movie and television cameras, Hope also enjoyed success on the golf course. Although he never considered himself a true professional in any sense of the world, he truly enjoyed the game and was, according to many actual professionals, a very capable golfer. In fact, he so loved the game that he helped develop the Palm Springs, California, area into one of the premier golfing destinations in the country. He also developed the Bob Hope/Chrysler Classic, a pro-am charity tournament held annually in Palm Springs. Over the last 44 years the tournament has raised over $35 million. Hope's book, Confessions of a Hooker, was on the New York Times best seller list for 53 weeks.

Other Information

Bob Hope married Dolores Reade in February 1934. The couple had four children: Linda, Anthony, Nora, and Kelly.

In 1996, Hope published a collection of presidential humor, entitled Dear Prez, I Wanna Tell Ya.

Bob Hope died in Toluca Lake, California, on July 27, 2003, just a couple of months past his 100th birthday.

Awards and Honors

The Guiness Book of World Records lists Bob Hope as the most honored entertainer in the world, with more than 2,000, including 54 honorary doctorates and three Presidential citations -- President John F. Kennedy honored him with the Congressional Gold Medal, President Richard Nixon with the Medal of Freedom, and President Bill Clinton with the Medal of the Arts. In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Hope's long record of service to America's armed forces has earned him some unique honors. In May of 1997, the U.S. Navy christened the USNS Bob Hope in his honor. Not to be outdone, the Air Force dedicated a new C-17 in his name (the "Spirit of Bob Hope"), in June of that same year. In October of 1997, Congress passed Resolution 75, making him an Honorary Veteran, the first (and to date only) civilian to be so honored. On May 29, 2002, The Chapel at the Los Angeles National Cemetery was named The Bob Hope Veterans Chapel.

Among his many more "conventional" honors are:

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars)
Special Silver Plaque in recognition of his unselfish services to the motion picture industry (1941)
Life Membership in honor of his many services to the Academy (1945)
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 (1953)
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (1960)
Gold Medal for unique and distinguished service to our industry and the Academy (1966)
American Comedy Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy (1995)
American Society of Composers, Artists, and Producers (ASCAP)
Pied Piper Award (1986)
Emmy Awards
Trustees' Award (1959)
Outstanding Variety Special -- "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre" (1963)
Governor's Award (1984)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Gala Tribute (1979)
Golden Apple Awards
Most Cooperative Actor (1941)
Most Cooperative Actor (1943)
Louella Parsons Award (1975)
Golden Boot Awards
Golden Boot (1991)
Golden Globes
Special Award -- Ambassador of Good Will (1958)
Cecil B. DeMille Award (1963)
Hasty Pudding Theatricals
Man of the Year (1967)
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Motion Picture Star
Television Star
Laurel Awards (Golden Laurels)
Top Male Comedy Performance -- Bachelor in Paradise (1962)
Special Award (1963)
Male Comedy Performance -- Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1967)
Peabody Awards
Personal Award for outstanding contribution to international understanding (1958)
Personal Award (1968)
People's Choice Awards
Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer (1975)
Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer (1976)
Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer (1977)
Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer (1978)
All-Time Favorite Entertainer (1985)
Screen Actors Guild
Life Achievement Award (1966)
Television Critics Association
Career Achievement Award (1993)


Going Spanish (1934)
Paree, Paree
The Old Grey Mayor
Shop Talk
Calling All Tars
Watch the Birdie
Double Exposure
Red, Hot and Blue
The Big Broadcast of 1938
College Swing
Give Me a Sailor
Thanks for the Memory
Never Say Die
Some Like It Hot
The Cat and the Canary
Road to Singapore
The Ghost Breakers
Malibu Beach Party
(1940) performer
Road to Zanzibar
Caught in the Draft
Nothing But the Truth
Louisiana Purchase
My Favorite Blonde
Road to Morocco
They Got Me Covered
Let's Face It
Strictly G.I.
(1943) performer
The Princess and the Pirate
Road to Utopia
Monsieur Beaucaire
My Favorite Brunette
Where There's Life
Road to Rio
Variety Girl
(1947) performer
The Paleface
Sorrowful Jones
The Great Lover
Fancy Pants
The Lemon Drop Kid
My Favorite Spy
The Greatest Show on Earth
(1952) uncredited
Son of Paleface
Road to Bali
Off Limits
Scared Stiff
(1953) uncredited
Home Come the Girls
Casanova's Big Night
The Seven Little Foys
Showdown at Ulcer Gulch
That Certain Feeling
The Iron Petticoat
Beau James
Paris Holiday
Alias Jesse James
The Five Pennies
(1959) uncredited
The Facts of Life
Bachelor in Paradise
The Road to Hong Kong
Critic's Choice
Call Me Bwana
A Global Affair
Mr. and Mrs.
(1964) TV
I'll Take Sweden
Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!
Eight on the Lam
Carnival Nights
(1968) TV
The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell
How to Commit Marriage
(1969) TV
Plimpton! Did You Hear the One About?
(1971) TV
Cancel My Reservation
The Muppet Movie
Spies Like Us
A Masterpiece of Murder
(1986) TV
A Stand Up Life (1993) TV
Radio Star -- die AFN -- Story (1994)
A Century of Cinema (1994)
That Little Monster (1994) uncredited
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 50th Anniversary Celebration Tribute to Bob Hope (1996) video
Bob Hope: Celebrity Bloopers (1997) video


"The Star-Spangled Revue" (1950)
"The Colgate Comedy Hour" (19 episodes, 1950-1955)
"The Arthur Murray Special for Bob Hope" (1960) guest of honor
"The 32nd Annual Academy Awards" (1960) host and Hersholt Award recipient
"The Bob Hope Show" (1 episode, 1962)
"Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre" (1 episode, 1963)
"The Bob Hope Thanksgiving Special" (1964)
"Bob Hope Christmas Show" (1965)
"The Bob Hope Vietnam Christmas Show" (1966)
"The 38th Annual Academy Awards" (1966) host and Honorary Gold Medal recipient
"The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the World with the USO" (1969)
"Swing Out, Sweet Land" (1970)
"The Bob Hope Vietnam Christmas Show" (1971)
"Bob Hope on Campus" (1975)
"Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope in 'Joys'" (1976)
"Texaco Presents: Bob Hope in a Very Special Special: On the Road with Bing" (1977)
"The Bob Hope All Star Christmas Comedy Special" (1977)
"The Bob Hope All Star Comedy Special from Australia" (1978)
"Happy Birthday, Bob" (1978)
"Bob Hope's Salute to the 75th Anniversary of the World Series" (1978)
"Bob Hope on the Road to China" (1979)
"Bob Hope Special: Hope, Women and Song" (1980)
"Bob Hope's Overseas Christmas Tours: Around the World with the Troops 1941-1972" (1980)
"Bob Hope's All-Star Birthday Party" (1980)
"Bob Hope's All Star Comedy Look at TV's Prime Time Wars" (1980)
"Bob Hope for President" (1980)
"The Bob Hope Christmas Show and All-Star Comedy Special" (1980)
"The Bob Hope Anniversary Show" (1981)
"The Bob Hope Funny Valentine Special" (1981)
"Bob Hope's Spring Fling of Glamour and Comedy" (1981)
"Bob Hope's All-Star Comedy Birthday Party from West Point" (1981)
"Bob Hope's All-Star Comedy Look at the Fall Season: It's Still Free and Worth It!" (1981)
"Bob Hope's All-Star Celebration Opening the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum" (1981)
"Bob Hope's Stand Up and Cheer for the National Football League's Sixtieth Year" (1981)
"The Bob Hope Christmas Special" (1981)
"Bob Hope's Women I Love: Beautiful But Funny" (1982)
"Bob Hope Laughs with the Movie Awards" (1982)
"Bob Hope's Stars Over Texas Special" (1982)
"Bob Hope's All-Star Birthday Party at Annapolis" (1982)
"Bob Hope's Star-Studded Spoof of the New TV Season--GRated--With Glamour, Glitter and Gags" (1982)
"Bob Hope's USO Christmas in Beirut" (1984)
"Bob Hope's Unrehearsed Antics of the Stars" (1984)
"The American Collegiate Talent Search with Bob Hope" (1985)
"Bob Hope Buys NBC?" (1985)
"The Bob Hope Christmas Show" (1985)
"The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts" (1985) honoree
"Bob Hope's Royal Command Performance from Sweden" (1986)
"Bob Hope's High-Flying Birthday" (1986)
"Bob Hope Winterfest Christmas Show" (1987)
"Bob Hope's USO Christmas from the Persian Gulf: Around the World in Eight Days" (1988)
"America's Tribute to Bob Hope" (1988)
"Bob Hope's Jolly Christmas Show" (1988)
"Bob Hope's Super Bowl Party" (1989)
"Ooh-La-La: It's Bob Hope's Fun Birthday Spectacular from Paris' Bicentennial" (1989)
"Bob Hope's Christmas Special from Waikoloa, Hawaii" (1989)
"Bob Hope & Friends: Making New Memories" (1991)
"Bob Hope's Christmas Cheer from Saudi Arabia" (1991)
"Bob Hope's Yellow Ribbon Celebration" (1991)
"Bob Hope's America: Red, White and Beautiful" (1992)
"Bob Hope: A 90th Birthday Celebration" (1993)
"Bob Hope's Bag Full of Christmas Memories" (1993)
"Bob Hope's Birthday Memories" (1994)
"Bob Hope's Young Comedians: Making America Laugh" (1994)
"Bob Hope's Young Comedians" (1995)
"Bob Hope: Laughing with the Presidents" (1996)
"100 Years of Hope and Humor" (2003)


Internet Movie DataBase
Official Bob Hope Website

See Also

Fatty Arbuckle
World War II
John F. Kennedy
Richard Nixon
Queen Elizabeth II

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The Robinson Library >> Dramatic Arts >> Biography: United States

This page was last updated on 12/20/2018.