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100 Years of Hope


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The Immigrant, the Comedian, the Movie Star, the Tycoon, the Humanitarian.

By Keith Bush


 

The Immigrant: A poor English boy named Hope begins the voyage of the century.

On the day of Bob Hope’s burial, U.S. flags flew at half-mast by presidential decree. It seemed an unusual tribute to a comedian, but a fitting one for a true American icon who buoyed the country’s spirits in troubled times and brought laughter to those who needed it most.

“Bob Hope, like Mark Twain, had a sense of humor that was uniquely American, and like Twain, we'll likely not see another like him," said veteran entertainer Dick Van Dyke.

Golf partner of presidents, recipient of some of this nation’s highest honors – no one could have predicted such a destiny for a small boy named Leslie Townes Hope as he got off the boat in 1907 to begin life in a foreign land.

“I left England at the age of 4 when I found out I couldn’t be king,” Hope later quipped. In fact, his father, William Henry Hope, a struggling English stonemason, came to this country first and settled in Cleveland before sending for his wife and children.

The family continued to have trouble making ends meet. Avis Hope took in boarders to supplement her husband’s unreliable income, but Leslie, the fifth of seven boys, learned to rely on his own resources. At age 6, he got a job as a newsboy for the Cleveland Plains Dealer. Later, he worked as a soda jerk, a shoe salesman and a delivery boy in his brother Fred’s meat market. He would also find more colorful ways of
earning money.

His Welsh mother, once an aspiring concert singer, taught young Leslie to sing, a skill he put to use on trolley rides to Cleveland’s Luna Park to collect change from fellow passengers. At the park, he would challenge people to race him for money. He made additional money as a pool hustler, and was caught once stealing tennis balls from a sporting-goods store.

“We'd have been called juvenile delinquents only our neighborhood couldn't afford a sociologist," Hope said.

School proved a trial for young Les Hope, whom his peers taunted by transposing his first and last name and calling him “Hopeless.” He became something of a scrapper, and entered the world of amateur boxing at 16. He competed as Packy West, but he would later say, “I called myself Rembrandt Hope, because I spent so much time on the canvas.”

Sensing he could have greater success in show business than in pugilism, Hope took lessons from a professional hoofer, King Rastus Brown and teamed – professionally and personally – with Mildred Rosequist, a young  department-store model. They danced locally, somewhat grandiosely billing themselves as the Cleveland Castles, after the famed dancing couple Vernon and Irene Castle. Rosequist’s mother squashed any dreams of stardom when she learned of Hope’s intent to take her daughter on the road.

After stints as a laborer with the Cleveland Illuminating Company and the Chandler Motor Car Company, Hope, now calling himself Lester, became a dance instructor. His card read: “LESTER HOPE will teach you to DANCE -- Buck and Wing Eccentric -- Soft Shoe -- Waltz Clog.”

Hope met Lloyd “Lefty” Durbin while teaching dance, and a new act was born. In 1924 they appeared in a show headlined by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who helped them get a place with Hurley’s Jolly Follies, a small-time road show. It looked like a lucky break for the two young vaudevillians, but their luck didn’t last. Durbin fell ill and died the next year, and Hope returned to Cleveland.

It didn’t take Hope long to find a new partner and try again. He and George Byrne toured for six months in 1926 as a supporting act for headliners Daisy and Violet Hilton, 18-year-old Siamese twins who told anecdotes, played saxophone and clarinet duets, and danced with Hope and Byrne.

In 1927, the two men heard from a choreographer who had seen their act and wanted them to audition for a new musical, The Sidewalks of New York. That October, Hope and Byrne found themselves dancing with Ruby
Keeler in a certified Broadway hit.

A few days later, they were fired. The producers had decided the show had more dancers than it needed. Hope and Byrne became once more small-time vaudevillians playing second-rate houses. It could have been
a crushing blow, but Hope remained determined to transform himself into something more – and he would succeed spectacularly.

The Comedian: Laughter makes a young man's dreams come true.

Lester Hope had reached the big time, if only briefly. Now he had to find a way to get there again. During an engagement at a small theater in Indiana, the manager asked Hope to announce coming attractions. Hope adlibbed a few jokes, the audience laughed, and a stand-up comic was born. He soon set out to conquer Chicago, but Chicago put up a fight.

“Before long, I was in debt. I had holes in my shoes, and I was eating doughnuts and coffee," Hope recalled years later. “And when I met a friend who bought me a meal, I had forgotten whether to cut a steak with a knife or drink it out of a spoon."

Hope eventually landed a three-day gig as a master of ceremonies. Audiences responded so well, three days became six months. Hope decided the name “Lester" didn’t suit his new career. His new business cards read: "Bob Hope: Monology and Eccentric Dancing."

In 1929, Hope signed a three-year contract to tour the prestigious Orpheum circuit. Realizing he needed new material, Hope enlisted gag writer Al Boasberg, who had worked with George Burns and Jack Benny.Some of their jokes challenged the tastes of the day, incorporating double entendre and political humor. Audiences generally responded well, although a Boston censor noted in his report, "act needs a lot of watching."

Hope returned to Broadway in 1932 in a revue called Ballyhoo, but it was in the 1933 musical Roberta that the 30-year-old comedian became a star on the Great White Way.

Enjoying a night out with song-and-dance man and future U.S. Senator George Murphy, Hope visited the Vogue club and heard 24-year-old Dolores Reade sing “Paper Moon." He became a regular, escorting her home nightly, and they married a few months later. Finally, Hope found a partnership that would last. Dolores Hope was at her husband’s side at the end of his life, 69 years later.

Hope enjoyed more Broadway success, culminating in 1936 appearances with Eve Arden in Ziegfeld Follies and Ethel Merman in Cole Porter’s Red, Hot and Blue! That might have satisfied another former dance instructor from
Cleveland, but Hope turned his back on Broadway forever in search of greater fame and fortune.

While performing his variety act at New York City’s Capitol Theater in 1932, he had appeared on The Capitol Family Hour, a radio show hosted by Major Edward Bowes. He performed on various shows over the next few years as a guest and as a host, leading to The Pepsodent Show in 1938.

Hope hired a gaggle of professional gagmen for the series. They put together a 90-minute script each week, which Hope would try out in front of a live audience before whittling it down for the 30-minute broadcast. He employed more than 100 writers during his career, contributing to what eventually became an 85,000-page collection of jokes, but Hope put the zest in the zingers.

“Watch any stand-up comic today -- Hope is part of the DNA," said Larry Gelbart, who wrote for Hope in the late '40s and '50s. "It's that brash, fast-talking, fill-it-in-after-you-get-the-laugh, keep-talking-so-that-the-act-seems-to-keep-going style that he perfected."

NBC brass fretted over political jokes that seem quite time by today’s standards, and management seriously considered canceling the show after receiving complaints about racy material. But enough people enjoyed the humor to put Hope at the top of the ratings for most of the next decade, and a national poll of radio critics named Bob Hope as the No. 1 entertainer in 1941. As another home-entertainment medium grew to threaten radio’s primacy, however, Hope set out to conquer it as well.

Hope appeared on the first commercial West Coast television broadcast in 1947 and on Ed Sullivan’s show two years later, but he made his big splash in 1950 as host of Star Spangled Revue, a high-budget extravaganza with guests including Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dinah Shore.

“This is Bob Hope telling all you girls who have tuned me in -- and I wanna make this emphatic -- if my face ain't handsome and debonair, it's just the static," he began.

More than 280 NBC specials would follow in the next 47 years, most scoring top-10 ratings with a familiar mix of comedy and musical numbers.

“When vaudeville died, television was the box they put it in,” Hope once said. Although other entertainers made the transition from vaudeville to TV, none thrived in the new medium as well or as long as did Hope, thanks
to the enduring power of laughter.

The Movie Star: Film gives a versatile peformer his greatest fame and frustration.

What went through Bob Hope’s mind that day in 1930 as he settled into the Pathé Studios screening room? Perhaps he remembered his experience as an 11-year-old boy, winning the money to buy his mother a new stove by impersonating the most popular film star of the day, Charlie Chaplin. Perhaps he reflected on his more recent accomplishments, knocking ’em dead in a coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. No wonder a Hollywood agent had called him during a Los Angeles engagement to arrange a screen test. We know one thing he thought about: the glamorous future that awaited him.

Then, the film started. As Hope watched himself on the screen, his dreams crumbled.

“I'd never seen anything so awful,” he said later. “I looked like a cross between a mongoose and a turtle. I couldn't wait to get out of the place. I wanted to run all the way to Salt Lake, our next booking, clasp vaudeville to my bosom, and say, "Honest, Dear, nothing happened. That movie wench didn't touch this precious thing we have.” He couldn’t believe how badly he came across on film: that voice, those mannerisms, and – worst of all – that beak. “My nose hit the screen 10 minutes before I did.”

But three years later, while appearing in Roberta on Broadway, he got an offer to make six short pictures. Each would take three days to film at a studio in Queens, and he could get back to Broadway for the play each night. Filming each would take only three days at a studio in Queens, giving him time to get back to Broadway each night.

In his first film, Hope played a man traveling through the South American village of Los Pochos Eggos during a festival in which you can do or say anything to anyone, as long as you sing them a song afterward. After completing it, Hope bumped into newspaper columnist Walter Winchell on the streets of Manhattan.

“Winchell asked me how the film was and I told him that when the cops catch Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice," Hope said. When the film’s producer saw the comment the next day, he canceled Hope’s contract, but a new deal for a series of low-budget quickies for Warner Bros. followed quickly.

By 1937, Hope’s successes on Broadway and in radio had Hollywood’s attention. When Jack Benny turned down a role in The Big Broadcast of 1938, Paramount gave the part to Hope.

W.C. Fields and Martha Raye had top billing, but Hope stole the show in a duet with Shirley Ross. That Academy Award-winning song, “Thanks for the Memory," became inextricably linked with Hope, who trotted it out in hundreds of radio shows, TV specials and live appearances, often with jokey lyrics tailored to the occasion. Leo Robin’s original words, however, told a bittersweet tale of two ex-lovers looking back at their relationship. Hope smoothly crooned his part while conveying the right degree of sadness behind his smile. It was a poignant, memorable moment in an otherwise mediocre comedy.

"What a delivery, what a song, what an audience reception," Damon Runyon raved in his newspaper column.

Following his initial success, Hope appeared in five forgettable films in 1938 and 1939 before costarring with Paulette Goddard in the suspense-comedy hit The Cat and the Canary. This film marked the emergence of the definitive character that Hope would play again and again throughout his film career: the wisecracking, vainglorious coward. The New York Times had this to say:

“Some of his lines are good (“I’m so scared even my goose pimples have goose pimples”) and some are bad (“Let’s drink Scotch and make wry faces.”) Good and bad profit alike from the drollery of Mr. Hope's comic style. It is a style so perfidious we think it should be exposed for the fraud it is. Mr. Hope's little trick is to deliver his jests timidly, forlornly, with the air of a man who sees no good in them. When they are terrible, as frequently they are, he can retreat in good order, with an `I told you so' expression. When they click, he can cut a little caper and pretend he is surprised and delighted too. It's not cricket, but it is fun."

Goddard and Hope teamed up again for 1940’s The Ghost Breakers, a successful follow-up, but that same year saw the start of a more-enduring cinematic match-up.

The script for this next film began life as a drama, but Paramount had two contract writers reshape it for George Burns and Gracie Allen. When they turned it down, the studio offered it to Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray. Finally, the studio gave it to Hope and another contract player, a crooner by the name of Bing Crosby. Hope and Crosby had shared a bill at New York City’s Capitol Theater in 1932 and started a comic feud that carried over into guest spots on each other’s radio shows as well as live appearances.

To broaden the film’s appeal, the studio added Dorothy Lamour, an actress whose roles in such films as The Jungle Princes and Her Jungle Love already had earned her fame as the “Sarong Girl.” She had also appeared as Hope’s fiancée in Broadcast.

The movie became a hit and gave the world one of the most famous musical-comedy teams in film history. Hope and Crosby’s rapport sustained them through several sequels.

"The Road shows were rummage sales of stuff out of vaudeville, burlesque -- marvelously shoddy masterpieces of farce and fantasy, stitched together with clichés and adlibs," said Time magazine in 1977.

“I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham,” Lamour said toward the end of her life.

Hope starred in three feature films in 1941. That was the first year the Motion Picture Herald listed him among the 10 biggest box-office draws in the nation, where he would place consistently for the next 12 years.

The 1944 Samuel Goldwyn Technicolor extravaganza The Princess and the Pirate ranks among his best comedies and features a memorable cameo by Crosby. “How do you like that!” Hope exclaimed in a typical aside to the
audience. “I knock myself out for nine reels and some bit player from Paramount comes over and gets the girl. That's the last film I do for Goldwyn."

Hope introduced an Oscar-winning song for the second time in his career when he warbled “Buttons and Bows” to Jane Russell in 1948’s The Paleface. The western spoof proved Hope’s biggest commercial success to that point and inspired a sequel, Son of Paleface, in which he and Russell were joined by Roy Rogers and Trigger.

"I was once asked who was my favorite kisser from all my leading men," Russell recalled recently. "I said, 'Bob Hope of course! Those soft flabby lips - you just melted right into them.' He then followed me on stage and said, 'I wasn't even trying!'"

Hope showed his audience a different side in 1952’s The Seven Little Foys.

“Hope can now hold up his head with Hollywood's dramatic thespians as for the first time in his career, Hope isn't playing Hope on screen. He's acting and doing a commendable job,” gushed the New York Daily News.


At the same time, Hope returned to his song-and-dance roots for one of the film’s most memorable scenes, a tabletop soft-shoe with James Cagney as George M. Cohan.

In 1957’s Beau James, Hope again received critical praise for a dramatic turn, this time as Jimmy Walker, an entertainer who became mayor of New York. But his 50 comedies, not counting short subjects and cameos, are what fans remember most fondly and where he made the greatest impact. Woody Allen credits Road to Morocco for inspiring his own long career in film.

"There are a number of films where he's allowed to show his brilliant gift of delivery, his brilliant gift of comic speech,” Allen wrote. “He had a very breezy attitude, he was a great man with a quip. Those one-liners and witticisms, they're just like air, he does them so lightly."

Though Hope never won an Academy Award for an acting role, he handed out many of the statuettes in his 27 appearances at the ceremony, most as host. “I'm very happy to be here for my annual insult,” he once said.

In fact, he did receive five honorary Oscars and the affection and respect of his peers. At 1993’s ceremony, host Billy Crystal told some of Hollywood’s brightest stars they had a legend in their midst. The camera turned to Hope and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Perhaps he thought back to a day in 1930, when he sat in a darkened room and dreamed of a moment like this.

The Tycoon: With fame came a vast fortune, but its true extent remains unknown.

Bob Hope knew the value of money. He had experienced the lack of it firsthand.\

"Looking back at my Cleveland boyhood, I know now that it was grim going," he wrote in Bob Hope, My Life in Jokes. "But nobody told us Hopes it was grim. We just thought that’s the way things were. We had fun with what we had. We ate regularly, although sometimes when we’d eaten everything on the table, we sat there staring hungrily at each other."

At 20, Hope was happy to be touring small Midwestern towns as part of a musical-variety show and splitting $45 a week with his partner. Six years later, he was playing first-rate venues for $450 a week. A couple of years later, starring on Broadway, he got the chance to do six short films for $2,500 apiece. Then came radio shows, and a feature-film contract for $20,000 a picture. By the mid-'50s, he reportedly earned $500,000 per film and $100,000 per TV special. At the rate he worked, that should have made him rich by anyone’s standards, not considering fees from personal appearances or licensed merchandize such as the Adventures of Bob Hope comic book that ran for 15 years. Not least, Hope had one-third ownership of all the Road movies, which still play on late-night TV around the world.

Hope not only earned a great deal of money, he invested it well. He and Bing Crosby bought shares in Texas oil wells and struck it rich – richer, that is. Hope used the profits to buy 10,000 acres of farmland in the San Fernando valley. Hope reportedly kept a jar of oil from his first well at the Toluca Lake home he and his wife bought in 1940 for $35,000. The home, on 6 acres, has kennels, hothouses, a pool, a poolhouse, a rose garden, a one-hole golf course and a walk-in, fireproof joke vault.

Bob and Dolores Hope also acquired property in Palm Springs and its environs. The investment would benefit both, as the Hopes’ glamour drew more people to the desert and boosted property values.

“Thunderbird Ranch was my dude ranch and made it into a country club and we were selling lots at the club and not doing very well,” recalled former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert. “Then Bob Hope came out and bought a lot, and Bing Crosby came out and bought a lot, and then everybody was running like hell to buy lots. We sold out in no time the minute Bob Hope came out there.

Hope would accumulate many other holdings over the years.

“Every time I found a piece of land, it turned out Bob Hope owned it,” Bogert says. “He knew the value of every damn piece of land he owned. He was smart as a whip.”

The Hopes but their first Palm Springs home in 1941 and added another in 1946. In the 1970s they began to build a castle fit for a land baron and his lady. Designed by John Lautner, the huge, round hillside mansion with its black, domed roof makes a striking impression.

“When they come down from Mars, they’ll know where to go,” Hope quipped when he first saw the model.

Besides an eagle’s-eye view of Hope’s desert domain, the 25,000-square-foot house has a 100-foot-long pool, a billiard room, a dining room that seats 20, a small chapel, and a 60-foot-wide skylight. It has six bedrooms and 9.75 bathrooms, according to property records. Its assessed value is $4.6 million.

A 1967 Time magazine article reported Hope owned “8,000 acres in Palm Springs, 4,000 to 5,000 acres near Phoenix, more than 7,500 acres in Malibu” and more. In 1983, Forbes listed Hope as one of the 400 richest Americans, estimating his wealth at $200 million. Hope adamantly denied that he was that rich, and after weeks of research Forbes found only abuot 8,000, much of it undevelopable. The magazine lowered its estimate to $115 million. Family publicist Ward Grant discounted that figure, according to a Desert Sun report following Hope’s death.

"That was given out by managers who knew nothing about how much Mr. Hope had," he said.

That paper also reported that Hope owned at least 28 pieces of California real estate with an assessed value of $10.3 million.

So how much did Hope really own? Will we ever know? Is it any of our business? Maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to know that talent and perseverance helped the American dream come true for one child with humble beginnings.

The Humanitarian: Philanthropy and patriotism distinguish a national treasure.

He sang a little, he danced a lot, and he told jokes nonstop. He triumphed in vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies and TV. He became a self-made multimillionaire back when that really meant something.But it’s not what Bob Hope achieved for himself that set him apart from other entertainers. It’s what he did for others. He gave of his time and his money, and he put himself on the line.

The tradition that earned Bob Hope more honor and gratitude from his fellow Americans than anything other aspect of his multifaceted life began in Southern California in 1941 and continued for half a century, circling the globe.

In the spring of 1941 the winds of war were blowing, although Pearl Harbor was several months away. Albert Capstaff, the producer of Hope’s top-rated radio show, suggested leaving the NBC studios and doing a
live remote broadcast from March Field in Riverside, Calif.

“I could hear the sound that 2,000 joke-hungry servicemen could make – all laughing and applauding,” Hope wrote later. “This was an offer I couldn’t resist.”

He and his writers tailored the show to the occasion with gags like: “What a wonderful welcome you gave me. As soon as I got in the camp, I received a 10-gun salute – or so they told me on the operating table.”

The servicemen loved it. The home audience loved that the servicemen loved it. The sponsors loved that the home audience loved it. For five years, all but nine episodes of The Pepsodent Show originated at military installations.

In 1943, he took his troupe of “gypsies” – Frances Langford, Tony Romano, and Jack Pepper – on his first Christmas trip overseas to England, Africa, Sicily, and Iceland. War correspondent John Steinbeck saw him at one of those shows and wrote admiringly about it for the New York Herald Tribune.

“He gets laughter wherever he goes from men who need laughter,” Steinbeck wrote. “It is hard to overestimate the importance of this thing and the responsibility involved,” and finally, “There's a man for
you -- there is really a man.”

Hope made the cover of Time that summer, with a tagline that read “First in the hearts of servicemen.”

In 1944, Hope made “the Pineapple Circuit” of South Pacific combat zones, logging over 30,000 miles and gave more than 150 performances. He visited France and Germany in the final year of the war.

He did his first overseas Christmas show in 1948 during the Berlin Airlift, at the urging of the Secretary of the Air Force. His wife, singer Dolores Hope, helped him entertain the troops that year. These holiday shows became an annual tradition through 1972.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented Hope with the Congressional Gold Medal for “outstanding service to the cause of Democracy throughout the world.” His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, awarded Hope a Presidential Medal of Freedom, noting that "with his gifts of joy to all the American people, he has written his name large in the history of our times."

Hope’s characteristic response: "Thank you, Mr. President. I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it."

As controversy heated up over military actions in Southeast Asia, Bob Hope found himself in the center of the storm. As a friend of political and military leaders and an advocate of decisive action to bring the war to a speedy end, he drew the ire of those who urged a withdrawal. But many overseas continued to welcome his appearances.

“I want to thank you for all you have done or attempted to do on our behalf,” wrote Capt. Frederic Flom, USAF, in February 1973, near the end of his 6½-year captivity in North Vietnam. “There have been many a dark & lonesome night when we have felt all but forgotten. It thrills our hearts & makes us glow with pride to learn that the American people have not forgotten us, & that a celebrity such as yourself has active concern.”

In 1983, Hope went to Beirut to entertain troops. Four years later, he presented shows in the Persian Gulf and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. In 1990, he made his last overseas trip, visiting troops preparing for Desert Storm.

“Stealth bomber, that's a big deal,” he said. “Flies in undetected, bombs and flies away. Hell, I've been doing that all my life."

The Navy in 1997 christened the USNS Bob Hope, the first of a new class of large cargo ships, and the Air Force dedicated a new C-17, the Spirit of Bob Hope. That same year, President Bill Clinton signed an unprecedented congressional resolution making Hope an honorary veteran. Hope called it The Immigrant: A poor English boy named Hope begins the voyage of the century.

On the day of Bob Hope’s burial, U.S. flags flew at half-mast by presidential decree. It seemed an unusual tribute to a comedian, but a fitting one for a true American icon who buoyed the country’s spirits in troubled times and brought laughter to those who needed it most.

“Bob Hope, like Mark Twain, had a sense of humor that was uniquely American, and like Twain, we'll likely not see another like him," said veteran entertainer Dick Van Dyke.

Golf partner of presidents, recipient of some of this nation’s highest honors – no one could have predicted such a destiny for a small boy named Leslie Townes Hope as he got off the boat in 1907 to begin life in a foreign land.

“I left England at the age of 4 when I found out I couldn’t be king,” Hope later quipped. In fact, his father, William Henry Hope, a struggling English stonemason, came to this country first and settled in Cleveland before sending for his wife and children.

The family continued to have trouble making ends meet. Avis Hope took in boarders to supplement her husband’s unreliable income, but Leslie, the fifth of seven boys, learned to rely on his own resources. At age 6, he got a job as a newsboy for the Cleveland Plains Dealer. Later, he worked as a soda jerk, a shoe salesman and a delivery boy in his brother Fred’s meat market. He would also find more colorful ways of
earning money.

His Welsh mother, once an aspiring concert singer, taught young Leslie to sing, a skill he put to use on trolley rides to Cleveland’s Luna Park to collect change from fellow passengers. At the park, he would challenge people to race him for money. He made additional money as a pool hustler, and was caught once stealing tennis balls from a sporting-goods store.

“We'd have been called juvenile delinquents only our neighborhood couldn't afford a sociologist," Hope said.

School proved a trial for young Les Hope, whom his peers taunted by transposing his first and last name and calling him “Hopeless.” He became something of a scrapper, and entered the world of amateur boxing at 16. He competed as Packy West, but he would later say, “I called myself Rembrandt Hope, because I spent so much time on the canvas.”

Sensing he could have greater success in show business than in pugilism, Hope took lessons from a professional hoofer, King Rastus Brown and teamed – professionally and personally – with Mildred Rosequist, a young  department-store model. They danced locally, somewhat grandiosely billing themselves as the Cleveland Castles, after the famed dancing couple Vernon and Irene Castle. Rosequist’s mother squashed any dreams of stardom when she learned of Hope’s intent to take her daughter on the road.

After stints as a laborer with the Cleveland Illuminating Company and the Chandler Motor Car Company, Hope, now calling himself Lester, became a dance instructor. His card read: “LESTER HOPE will teach you to DANCE -- Buck and Wing Eccentric -- Soft Shoe -- Waltz Clog.”

Hope met Lloyd “Lefty” Durbin while teaching dance, and a new act was born. In 1924 they appeared in a show headlined by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who helped them get a place with Hurley’s Jolly Follies, a small-time road show. It looked like a lucky break for the two young vaudevillians, but their luck didn’t last. Durbin fell ill and died the next year, and Hope returned to Cleveland.

It didn’t take Hope long to find a new partner and try again. He and George Byrne toured for six months in 1926 as a supporting act for headliners Daisy and Violet Hilton, 18-year-old Siamese twins who told anecdotes, played saxophone and clarinet duets, and danced with Hope and Byrne.

In 1927, the two men heard from a choreographer who had seen their act and wanted them to audition for a new musical, The Sidewalks of New York. That October, Hope and Byrne found themselves dancing with Ruby
Keeler in a certified Broadway hit.

A few days later, they were fired. The producers had decided the show had more dancers than it needed. Hope and Byrne became once more small-time vaudevillians playing second-rate houses. It could have been
a crushing blow, but Hope remained determined to transform himself into something more – and he would succeed spectacularly.

The Comedian: Laughter makes a young man's dreams come true.

Lester Hope had reached the big time, if only briefly. Now he had to find a way to get there again. During an engagement at a small theater in Indiana, the manager asked Hope to announce coming attractions. Hope adlibbed a few jokes, the audience laughed, and a stand-up comic was born. He soon set out to conquer Chicago, but Chicago put up a fight.

“Before long, I was in debt. I had holes in my shoes, and I was eating doughnuts and coffee," Hope recalled years later. “And when I met a friend who bought me a meal, I had forgotten whether to cut a steak with a knife or drink it out of a spoon."

Hope eventually landed a three-day gig as a master of ceremonies. Audiences responded so well, three days became six months. Hope decided the name “Lester" didn’t suit his new career. His new business cards read: "Bob Hope: Monology and Eccentric Dancing."

In 1929, Hope signed a three-year contract to tour the prestigious Orpheum circuit. Realizing he needed new material, Hope enlisted gag writer Al Boasberg, who had worked with George Burns and Jack Benny.Some of their jokes challenged the tastes of the day, incorporating double entendre and political humor. Audiences generally responded well, although a Boston censor noted in his report, "act needs a lot of watching."

Hope returned to Broadway in 1932 in a revue called Ballyhoo, but it was in the 1933 musical Roberta that the 30-year-old comedian became a star on the Great White Way.

Enjoying a night out with song-and-dance man and future U.S. Senator George Murphy, Hope visited the Vogue club and heard 24-year-old Dolores Reade sing “Paper Moon." He became a regular, escorting her home nightly, and they married a few months later. Finally, Hope found a partnership that would last. Dolores Hope was at her husband’s side at the end of his life, 69 years later.

Hope enjoyed more Broadway success, culminating in 1936 appearances with Eve Arden in Ziegfeld Follies and Ethel Merman in Cole Porter’s Red, Hot and Blue! That might have satisfied another former dance instructor from
Cleveland, but Hope turned his back on Broadway forever in search of greater fame and fortune.

While performing his variety act at New York City’s Capitol Theater in 1932, he had appeared on The Capitol Family Hour, a radio show hosted by Major Edward Bowes. He performed on various shows over the next few years as a guest and as a host, leading to The Pepsodent Show in 1938.

Hope hired a gaggle of professional gagmen for the series. They put together a 90-minute script each week, which Hope would try out in front of a live audience before whittling it down for the 30-minute broadcast. He employed more than 100 writers during his career, contributing to what eventually became an 85,000-page collection of jokes, but Hope put the zest in the zingers.

“Watch any stand-up comic today -- Hope is part of the DNA," said Larry Gelbart, who wrote for Hope in the late '40s and '50s. "It's that brash, fast-talking, fill-it-in-after-you-get-the-laugh, keep-talking-so-that-the-act-seems-to-keep-going style that he perfected."

NBC brass fretted over political jokes that seem quite time by today’s standards, and management seriously considered canceling the show after receiving complaints about racy material. But enough people enjoyed the humor to put Hope at the top of the ratings for most of the next decade, and a national poll of radio critics named Bob Hope as the No. 1 entertainer in 1941. As another home-entertainment medium grew to threaten radio’s primacy, however, Hope set out to conquer it as well.

Hope appeared on the first commercial West Coast television broadcast in 1947 and on Ed Sullivan’s show two years later, but he made his big splash in 1950 as host of Star Spangled Revue, a high-budget extravaganza with guests including Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dinah Shore.

“This is Bob Hope telling all you girls who have tuned me in -- and I wanna make this emphatic -- if my face ain't handsome and debonair, it's just the static," he began.

More than 280 NBC specials would follow in the next 47 years, most scoring top-10 ratings with a familiar mix of comedy and musical numbers.

“When vaudeville died, television was the box they put it in,” Hope once said. Although other entertainers made the transition from vaudeville to TV, none thrived in the new medium as well or as long as did Hope, thanks
to the enduring power of laughter.

The Movie Star: Film gives a versatile peformer his greatest fame and frustration.

What went through Bob Hope’s mind that day in 1930 as he settled into the Pathé Studios screening room? Perhaps he remembered his experience as an 11-year-old boy, winning the money to buy his mother a new stove by impersonating the most popular film star of the day, Charlie Chaplin. Perhaps he reflected on his more recent accomplishments, knocking ’em dead in a coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. No wonder a Hollywood agent had called him during a Los Angeles engagement to arrange a screen test. We know one thing he thought about: the glamorous future that awaited him.

Then, the film started. As Hope watched himself on the screen, his dreams crumbled.

“I'd never seen anything so awful,” he said later. “I looked like a cross between a mongoose and a turtle. I couldn't wait to get out of the place. I wanted to run all the way to Salt Lake, our next booking, clasp vaudeville to my bosom, and say, "Honest, Dear, nothing happened. That movie wench didn't touch this precious thing we have.” He couldn’t believe how badly he came across on film: that voice, those mannerisms, and – worst of all – that beak. “My nose hit the screen 10 minutes before I did.”

But three years later, while appearing in Roberta on Broadway, he got an offer to make six short pictures. Each would take three days to film at a studio in Queens, and he could get back to Broadway for the play each night. Filming each would take only three days at a studio in Queens, giving him time to get back to Broadway each night.

In his first film, Hope played a man traveling through the South American village of Los Pochos Eggos during a festival in which you can do or say anything to anyone, as long as you sing them a song afterward. After completing it, Hope bumped into newspaper columnist Walter Winchell on the streets of Manhattan.

“Winchell asked me how the film was and I told him that when the cops catch Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice," Hope said. When the film’s producer saw the comment the next day, he canceled Hope’s contract, but a new deal for a series of low-budget quickies for Warner Bros. followed quickly.

By 1937, Hope’s successes on Broadway and in radio had Hollywood’s attention. When Jack Benny turned down a role in The Big Broadcast of 1938, Paramount gave the part to Hope.

W.C. Fields and Martha Raye had top billing, but Hope stole the show in a duet with Shirley Ross. That Academy Award-winning song, “Thanks for the Memory," became inextricably linked with Hope, who trotted it out in hundreds of radio shows, TV specials and live appearances, often with jokey lyrics tailored to the occasion. Leo Robin’s original words, however, told a bittersweet tale of two ex-lovers looking back at their relationship. Hope smoothly crooned his part while conveying the right degree of sadness behind his smile. It was a poignant, memorable moment in an otherwise mediocre comedy.

"What a delivery, what a song, what an audience reception," Damon Runyon raved in his newspaper column.

Following his initial success, Hope appeared in five forgettable films in 1938 and 1939 before costarring with Paulette Goddard in the suspense-comedy hit The Cat and the Canary. This film marked the emergence of the definitive character that Hope would play again and again throughout his film career: the wisecracking, vainglorious coward. The New York Times had this to say:

“Some of his lines are good (“I’m so scared even my goose pimples have goose pimples”) and some are bad (“Let’s drink Scotch and make wry faces.”) Good and bad profit alike from the drollery of Mr. Hope's comic style. It is a style so perfidious we think it should be exposed for the fraud it is. Mr. Hope's little trick is to deliver his jests timidly, forlornly, with the air of a man who sees no good in them. When they are terrible, as frequently they are, he can retreat in good order, with an `I told you so' expression. When they click, he can cut a little caper and pretend he is surprised and delighted too. It's not cricket, but it is fun."

Goddard and Hope teamed up again for 1940’s The Ghost Breakers, a successful follow-up, but that same year saw the start of a more-enduring cinematic match-up.

The script for this next film began life as a drama, but Paramount had two contract writers reshape it for George Burns and Gracie Allen. When they turned it down, the studio offered it to Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray. Finally, the studio gave it to Hope and another contract player, a crooner by the name of Bing Crosby. Hope and Crosby had shared a bill at New York City’s Capitol Theater in 1932 and started a comic feud that carried over into guest spots on each other’s radio shows as well as live appearances.

To broaden the film’s appeal, the studio added Dorothy Lamour, an actress whose roles in such films as The Jungle Princes and Her Jungle Love already had earned her fame as the “Sarong Girl.” She had also appeared as Hope’s fiancée in Broadcast.

The movie became a hit and gave the world one of the most famous musical-comedy teams in film history. Hope and Crosby’s rapport sustained them through several sequels.

"The Road shows were rummage sales of stuff out of vaudeville, burlesque -- marvelously shoddy masterpieces of farce and fantasy, stitched together with clichés and adlibs," said Time magazine in 1977.

“I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham,” Lamour said toward the end of her life.

Hope starred in three feature films in 1941. That was the first year the Motion Picture Herald listed him among the 10 biggest box-office draws in the nation, where he would place consistently for the next 12 years.

The 1944 Samuel Goldwyn Technicolor extravaganza The Princess and the Pirate ranks among his best comedies and features a memorable cameo by Crosby. “How do you like that!” Hope exclaimed in a typical aside to the
audience. “I knock myself out for nine reels and some bit player from Paramount comes over and gets the girl. That's the last film I do for Goldwyn."

Hope introduced an Oscar-winning song for the second time in his career when he warbled “Buttons and Bows” to Jane Russell in 1948’s The Paleface. The western spoof proved Hope’s biggest commercial success to that point and inspired a sequel, Son of Paleface, in which he and Russell were joined by Roy Rogers and Trigger.

"I was once asked who was my favorite kisser from all my leading men," Russell recalled recently. "I said, 'Bob Hope of course! Those soft flabby lips - you just melted right into them.' He then followed me on stage and said, 'I wasn't even trying!'"

Hope showed his audience a different side in 1952’s The Seven Little Foys.

“Hope can now hold up his head with Hollywood's dramatic thespians as for the first time in his career, Hope isn't playing Hope on screen. He's acting and doing a commendable job,” gushed the New York Daily News.


At the same time, Hope returned to his song-and-dance roots for one of the film’s most memorable scenes, a tabletop soft-shoe with James Cagney as George M. Cohan.

In 1957’s Beau James, Hope again received critical praise for a dramatic turn, this time as Jimmy Walker, an entertainer who became mayor of New York. But his 50 comedies, not counting short subjects and cameos, are what fans remember most fondly and where he made the greatest impact. Woody Allen credits Road to Morocco for inspiring his own long career in film.

"There are a number of films where he's allowed to show his brilliant gift of delivery, his brilliant gift of comic speech,” Allen wrote. “He had a very breezy attitude, he was a great man with a quip. Those one-liners and witticisms, they're just like air, he does them so lightly."

Though Hope never won an Academy Award for an acting role, he handed out many of the statuettes in his 27 appearances at the ceremony, most as host. “I'm very happy to be here for my annual insult,” he once said.

In fact, he did receive five honorary Oscars and the affection and respect of his peers. At 1993’s ceremony, host Billy Crystal told some of Hollywood’s brightest stars they had a legend in their midst. The camera turned to Hope and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Perhaps he thought back to a day in 1930, when he sat in a darkened room and dreamed of a moment like this.

The Tycoon: With fame came a vast fortune, but its true extent remains unknown.

Bob Hope knew the value of money. He had experienced the lack of it firsthand.\

"Looking back at my Cleveland boyhood, I know now that it was grim going," he wrote in Bob Hope, My Life in Jokes. "But nobody told us Hopes it was grim. We just thought that’s the way things were. We had fun with what we had. We ate regularly, although sometimes when we’d eaten everything on the table, we sat there staring hungrily at each other."

At 20, Hope was happy to be touring small Midwestern towns as part of a musical-variety show and splitting $45 a week with his partner. Six years later, he was playing first-rate venues for $450 a week. A couple of years later, starring on Broadway, he got the chance to do six short films for $2,500 apiece. Then came radio shows, and a feature-film contract for $20,000 a picture. By the mid-'50s, he reportedly earned $500,000 per film and $100,000 per TV special. At the rate he worked, that should have made him rich by anyone’s standards, not considering fees from personal appearances or licensed merchandize such as the Adventures of Bob Hope comic book that ran for 15 years. Not least, Hope had one-third ownership of all the Road movies, which still play on late-night TV around the world.

Hope not only earned a great deal of money, he invested it well. He and Bing Crosby bought shares in Texas oil wells and struck it rich – richer, that is. Hope used the profits to buy 10,000 acres of farmland in the San Fernando valley. Hope reportedly kept a jar of oil from his first well at the Toluca Lake home he and his wife bought in 1940 for $35,000. The home, on 6 acres, has kennels, hothouses, a pool, a poolhouse, a rose garden, a one-hole golf course and a walk-in, fireproof joke vault.

Bob and Dolores Hope also acquired property in Palm Springs and its environs. The investment would benefit both, as the Hopes’ glamour drew more people to the desert and boosted property values.

“Thunderbird Ranch was my dude ranch and made it into a country club and we were selling lots at the club and not doing very well,” recalled former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert. “Then Bob Hope came out and bought a lot, and Bing Crosby came out and bought a lot, and then everybody was running like hell to buy lots. We sold out in no time the minute Bob Hope came out there.

Hope would accumulate many other holdings over the years.

“Every time I found a piece of land, it turned out Bob Hope owned it,” Bogert says. “He knew the value of every damn piece of land he owned. He was smart as a whip.”

The Hopes but their first Palm Springs home in 1941 and added another in 1946. In the 1970s they began to build a castle fit for a land baron and his lady. Designed by John Lautner, the huge, round hillside mansion with its black, domed roof makes a striking impression.

“When they come down from Mars, they’ll know where to go,” Hope quipped when he first saw the model.

Besides an eagle’s-eye view of Hope’s desert domain, the 25,000-square-foot house has a 100-foot-long pool, a billiard room, a dining room that seats 20, a small chapel, and a 60-foot-wide skylight. It has six bedrooms and 9.75 bathrooms, according to property records. Its assessed value is $4.6 million.

A 1967 Time magazine article reported Hope owned “8,000 acres in Palm Springs, 4,000 to 5,000 acres near Phoenix, more than 7,500 acres in Malibu” and more. In 1983, Forbes listed Hope as one of the 400 richest Americans, estimating his wealth at $200 million. Hope adamantly denied that he was that rich, and after weeks of research Forbes found only abuot 8,000, much of it undevelopable. The magazine lowered its estimate to $115 million. Family publicist Ward Grant discounted that figure, according to a Desert Sun report following Hope’s death.

"That was given out by managers who knew nothing about how much Mr. Hope had," he said.

That paper also reported that Hope owned at least 28 pieces of California real estate with an assessed value of $10.3 million.

So how much did Hope really own? Will we ever know? Is it any of our business? Maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to know that talent and perseverance helped the American dream come true for one child with humble beginnings.

The Humanitarian: Philanthropy and patriotism distinguish a national treasure.

He sang a little, he danced a lot, and he told jokes nonstop. He triumphed in vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies and TV. He became a self-made multimillionaire back when that really meant something.But it’s not what Bob Hope achieved for himself that set him apart from other entertainers. It’s what he did for others. He gave of his time and his money, and he put himself on the line.

The tradition that earned Bob Hope more honor and gratitude from his fellow Americans than anything other aspect of his multifaceted life began in Southern California in 1941 and continued for half a century, circling the globe.

In the spring of 1941 the winds of war were blowing, although Pearl Harbor was several months away. Albert Capstaff, the producer of Hope’s top-rated radio show, suggested leaving the NBC studios and doing a
live remote broadcast from March Field in Riverside, Calif.

“I could hear the sound that 2,000 joke-hungry servicemen could make – all laughing and applauding,” Hope wrote later. “This was an offer I couldn’t resist.”

He and his writers tailored the show to the occasion with gags like: “What a wonderful welcome you gave me. As soon as I got in the camp, I received a 10-gun salute – or so they told me on the operating table.”

The servicemen loved it. The home audience loved that the servicemen loved it. The sponsors loved that the home audience loved it. For five years, all but nine episodes of The Pepsodent Show originated at military installations.

In 1943, he took his troupe of “gypsies” – Frances Langford, Tony Romano, and Jack Pepper – on his first Christmas trip overseas to England, Africa, Sicily, and Iceland. War correspondent John Steinbeck saw him at one of those shows and wrote admiringly about it for the New York Herald Tribune.

“He gets laughter wherever he goes from men who need laughter,” Steinbeck wrote. “It is hard to overestimate the importance of this thing and the responsibility involved,” and finally, The Immigrant: A poor English boy named Hope begins the voyage of the century.

On the day of Bob Hope’s burial, U.S. flags flew at half-mast by presidential decree. It seemed an unusual tribute to a comedian, but a fitting one for a true American icon who buoyed the country’s spirits in troubled times and brought laughter to those who needed it most.

“Bob Hope, like Mark Twain, had a sense of humor that was uniquely American, and like Twain, we'll likely not see another like him," said veteran entertainer Dick Van Dyke.

Golf partner of presidents, recipient of some of this nation’s highest honors – no one could have predicted such a destiny for a small boy named Leslie Townes Hope as he got off the boat in 1907 to begin life in a foreign land.

“I left England at the age of 4 when I found out I couldn’t be king,” Hope later quipped. In fact, his father, William Henry Hope, a struggling English stonemason, came to this country first and settled in Cleveland before sending for his wife and children.

The family continued to have trouble making ends meet. Avis Hope took in boarders to supplement her husband’s unreliable income, but Leslie, the fifth of seven boys, learned to rely on his own resources. At age 6, he got a job as a newsboy for the Cleveland Plains Dealer. Later, he worked as a soda jerk, a shoe salesman and a delivery boy in his brother Fred’s meat market. He would also find more colorful ways of
earning money.

His Welsh mother, once an aspiring concert singer, taught young Leslie to sing, a skill he put to use on trolley rides to Cleveland’s Luna Park to collect change from fellow passengers. At the park, he would challenge people to race him for money. He made additional money as a pool hustler, and was caught once stealing tennis balls from a sporting-goods store.

“We'd have been called juvenile delinquents only our neighborhood couldn't afford a sociologist," Hope said.

School proved a trial for young Les Hope, whom his peers taunted by transposing his first and last name and calling him “Hopeless.” He became something of a scrapper, and entered the world of amateur boxing at 16. He competed as Packy West, but he would later say, “I called myself Rembrandt Hope, because I spent so much time on the canvas.”

Sensing he could have greater success in show business than in pugilism, Hope took lessons from a professional hoofer, King Rastus Brown and teamed – professionally and personally – with Mildred Rosequist, a young  department-store model. They danced locally, somewhat grandiosely billing themselves as the Cleveland Castles, after the famed dancing couple Vernon and Irene Castle. Rosequist’s mother squashed any dreams of stardom when she learned of Hope’s intent to take her daughter on the road.

After stints as a laborer with the Cleveland Illuminating Company and the Chandler Motor Car Company, Hope, now calling himself Lester, became a dance instructor. His card read: “LESTER HOPE will teach you to DANCE -- Buck and Wing Eccentric -- Soft Shoe -- Waltz Clog.”

Hope met Lloyd “Lefty” Durbin while teaching dance, and a new act was born. In 1924 they appeared in a show headlined by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who helped them get a place with Hurley’s Jolly Follies, a small-time road show. It looked like a lucky break for the two young vaudevillians, but their luck didn’t last. Durbin fell ill and died the next year, and Hope returned to Cleveland.

It didn’t take Hope long to find a new partner and try again. He and George Byrne toured for six months in 1926 as a supporting act for headliners Daisy and Violet Hilton, 18-year-old Siamese twins who told anecdotes, played saxophone and clarinet duets, and danced with Hope and Byrne.

In 1927, the two men heard from a choreographer who had seen their act and wanted them to audition for a new musical, The Sidewalks of New York. That October, Hope and Byrne found themselves dancing with Ruby
Keeler in a certified Broadway hit.

A few days later, they were fired. The producers had decided the show had more dancers than it needed. Hope and Byrne became once more small-time vaudevillians playing second-rate houses. It could have been
a crushing blow, but Hope remained determined to transform himself into something more – and he would succeed spectacularly.

The Comedian: Laughter makes a young man's dreams come true.

Lester Hope had reached the big time, if only briefly. Now he had to find a way to get there again. During an engagement at a small theater in Indiana, the manager asked Hope to announce coming attractions. Hope adlibbed a few jokes, the audience laughed, and a stand-up comic was born. He soon set out to conquer Chicago, but Chicago put up a fight.

“Before long, I was in debt. I had holes in my shoes, and I was eating doughnuts and coffee," Hope recalled years later. “And when I met a friend who bought me a meal, I had forgotten whether to cut a steak with a knife or drink it out of a spoon."

Hope eventually landed a three-day gig as a master of ceremonies. Audiences responded so well, three days became six months. Hope decided the name “Lester" didn’t suit his new career. His new business cards read: "Bob Hope: Monology and Eccentric Dancing."

In 1929, Hope signed a three-year contract to tour the prestigious Orpheum circuit. Realizing he needed new material, Hope enlisted gag writer Al Boasberg, who had worked with George Burns and Jack Benny.Some of their jokes challenged the tastes of the day, incorporating double entendre and political humor. Audiences generally responded well, although a Boston censor noted in his report, "act needs a lot of watching."

Hope returned to Broadway in 1932 in a revue called Ballyhoo, but it was in the 1933 musical Roberta that the 30-year-old comedian became a star on the Great White Way.

Enjoying a night out with song-and-dance man and future U.S. Senator George Murphy, Hope visited the Vogue club and heard 24-year-old Dolores Reade sing “Paper Moon." He became a regular, escorting her home nightly, and they married a few months later. Finally, Hope found a partnership that would last. Dolores Hope was at her husband’s side at the end of his life, 69 years later.

Hope enjoyed more Broadway success, culminating in 1936 appearances with Eve Arden in Ziegfeld Follies and Ethel Merman in Cole Porter’s Red, Hot and Blue! That might have satisfied another former dance instructor from
Cleveland, but Hope turned his back on Broadway forever in search of greater fame and fortune.

While performing his variety act at New York City’s Capitol Theater in 1932, he had appeared on The Capitol Family Hour, a radio show hosted by Major Edward Bowes. He performed on various shows over the next few years as a guest and as a host, leading to The Pepsodent Show in 1938.

Hope hired a gaggle of professional gagmen for the series. They put together a 90-minute script each week, which Hope would try out in front of a live audience before whittling it down for the 30-minute broadcast. He employed more than 100 writers during his career, contributing to what eventually became an 85,000-page collection of jokes, but Hope put the zest in the zingers.

“Watch any stand-up comic today -- Hope is part of the DNA," said Larry Gelbart, who wrote for Hope in the late '40s and '50s. "It's that brash, fast-talking, fill-it-in-after-you-get-the-laugh, keep-talking-so-that-the-act-seems-to-keep-going style that he perfected."

NBC brass fretted over political jokes that seem quite time by today’s standards, and management seriously considered canceling the show after receiving complaints about racy material. But enough people enjoyed the humor to put Hope at the top of the ratings for most of the next decade, and a national poll of radio critics named Bob Hope as the No. 1 entertainer in 1941. As another home-entertainment medium grew to threaten radio’s primacy, however, Hope set out to conquer it as well.

Hope appeared on the first commercial West Coast television broadcast in 1947 and on Ed Sullivan’s show two years later, but he made his big splash in 1950 as host of Star Spangled Revue, a high-budget extravaganza with guests including Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dinah Shore.

“This is Bob Hope telling all you girls who have tuned me in -- and I wanna make this emphatic -- if my face ain't handsome and debonair, it's just the static," he began.

More than 280 NBC specials would follow in the next 47 years, most scoring top-10 ratings with a familiar mix of comedy and musical numbers.

“When vaudeville died, television was the box they put it in,” Hope once said. Although other entertainers made the transition from vaudeville to TV, none thrived in the new medium as well or as long as did Hope, thanks
to the enduring power of laughter.

The Movie Star: Film gives a versatile peformer his greatest fame and frustration.

What went through Bob Hope’s mind that day in 1930 as he settled into the Pathé Studios screening room? Perhaps he remembered his experience as an 11-year-old boy, winning the money to buy his mother a new stove by impersonating the most popular film star of the day, Charlie Chaplin. Perhaps he reflected on his more recent accomplishments, knocking ’em dead in a coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. No wonder a Hollywood agent had called him during a Los Angeles engagement to arrange a screen test. We know one thing he thought about: the glamorous future that awaited him.

Then, the film started. As Hope watched himself on the screen, his dreams crumbled.

“I'd never seen anything so awful,” he said later. “I looked like a cross between a mongoose and a turtle. I couldn't wait to get out of the place. I wanted to run all the way to Salt Lake, our next booking, clasp vaudeville to my bosom, and say, "Honest, Dear, nothing happened. That movie wench didn't touch this precious thing we have.” He couldn’t believe how badly he came across on film: that voice, those mannerisms, and – worst of all – that beak. “My nose hit the screen 10 minutes before I did.”

But three years later, while appearing in Roberta on Broadway, he got an offer to make six short pictures. Each would take three days to film at a studio in Queens, and he could get back to Broadway for the play each night. Filming each would take only three days at a studio in Queens, giving him time to get back to Broadway each night.

In his first film, Hope played a man traveling through the South American village of Los Pochos Eggos during a festival in which you can do or say anything to anyone, as long as you sing them a song afterward. After completing it, Hope bumped into newspaper columnist Walter Winchell on the streets of Manhattan.

“Winchell asked me how the film was and I told him that when the cops catch Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice," Hope said. When the film’s producer saw the comment the next day, he canceled Hope’s contract, but a new deal for a series of low-budget quickies for Warner Bros. followed quickly.

By 1937, Hope’s successes on Broadway and in radio had Hollywood’s attention. When Jack Benny turned down a role in The Big Broadcast of 1938, Paramount gave the part to Hope.

W.C. Fields and Martha Raye had top billing, but Hope stole the show in a duet with Shirley Ross. That Academy Award-winning song, “Thanks for the Memory," became inextricably linked with Hope, who trotted it out in hundreds of radio shows, TV specials and live appearances, often with jokey lyrics tailored to the occasion. Leo Robin’s original words, however, told a bittersweet tale of two ex-lovers looking back at their relationship. Hope smoothly crooned his part while conveying the right degree of sadness behind his smile. It was a poignant, memorable moment in an otherwise mediocre comedy.

"What a delivery, what a song, what an audience reception," Damon Runyon raved in his newspaper column.

Following his initial success, Hope appeared in five forgettable films in 1938 and 1939 before costarring with Paulette Goddard in the suspense-comedy hit The Cat and the Canary. This film marked the emergence of the definitive character that Hope would play again and again throughout his film career: the wisecracking, vainglorious coward. The New York Times had this to say:

“Some of his lines are good (“I’m so scared even my goose pimples have goose pimples”) and some are bad (“Let’s drink Scotch and make wry faces.”) Good and bad profit alike from the drollery of Mr. Hope's comic style. It is a style so perfidious we think it should be exposed for the fraud it is. Mr. Hope's little trick is to deliver his jests timidly, forlornly, with the air of a man who sees no good in them. When they are terrible, as frequently they are, he can retreat in good order, with an `I told you so' expression. When they click, he can cut a little caper and pretend he is surprised and delighted too. It's not cricket, but it is fun."

Goddard and Hope teamed up again for 1940’s The Ghost Breakers, a successful follow-up, but that same year saw the start of a more-enduring cinematic match-up.

The script for this next film began life as a drama, but Paramount had two contract writers reshape it for George Burns and Gracie Allen. When they turned it down, the studio offered it to Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray. Finally, the studio gave it to Hope and another contract player, a crooner by the name of Bing Crosby. Hope and Crosby had shared a bill at New York City’s Capitol Theater in 1932 and started a comic feud that carried over into guest spots on each other’s radio shows as well as live appearances.

To broaden the film’s appeal, the studio added Dorothy Lamour, an actress whose roles in such films as The Jungle Princes and Her Jungle Love already had earned her fame as the “Sarong Girl.” She had also appeared as Hope’s fiancée in Broadcast.

The movie became a hit and gave the world one of the most famous musical-comedy teams in film history. Hope and Crosby’s rapport sustained them through several sequels.

"The Road shows were rummage sales of stuff out of vaudeville, burlesque -- marvelously shoddy masterpieces of farce and fantasy, stitched together with clichés and adlibs," said Time magazine in 1977.

“I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham,” Lamour said toward the end of her life.

Hope starred in three feature films in 1941. That was the first year the Motion Picture Herald listed him among the 10 biggest box-office draws in the nation, where he would place consistently for the next 12 years.

The 1944 Samuel Goldwyn Technicolor extravaganza The Princess and the Pirate ranks among his best comedies and features a memorable cameo by Crosby. “How do you like that!” Hope exclaimed in a typical aside to the
audience. “I knock myself out for nine reels and some bit player from Paramount comes over and gets the girl. That's the last film I do for Goldwyn."

Hope introduced an Oscar-winning song for the second time in his career when he warbled “Buttons and Bows” to Jane Russell in 1948’s The Paleface. The western spoof proved Hope’s biggest commercial success to that point and inspired a sequel, Son of Paleface, in which he and Russell were joined by Roy Rogers and Trigger.

"I was once asked who was my favorite kisser from all my leading men," Russell recalled recently. "I said, 'Bob Hope of course! Those soft flabby lips - you just melted right into them.' He then followed me on stage and said, 'I wasn't even trying!'"

Hope showed his audience a different side in 1952’s The Seven Little Foys.

“Hope can now hold up his head with Hollywood's dramatic thespians as for the first time in his career, Hope isn't playing Hope on screen. He's acting and doing a commendable job,” gushed the New York Daily News.


At the same time, Hope returned to his song-and-dance roots for one of the film’s most memorable scenes, a tabletop soft-shoe with James Cagney as George M. Cohan.

In 1957’s Beau James, Hope again received critical praise for a dramatic turn, this time as Jimmy Walker, an entertainer who became mayor of New York. But his 50 comedies, not counting short subjects and cameos, are what fans remember most fondly and where he made the greatest impact. Woody Allen credits Road to Morocco for inspiring his own long career in film.

"There are a number of films where he's allowed to show his brilliant gift of delivery, his brilliant gift of comic speech,” Allen wrote. “He had a very breezy attitude, he was a great man with a quip. Those one-liners and witticisms, they're just like air, he does them so lightly."

Though Hope never won an Academy Award for an acting role, he handed out many of the statuettes in his 27 appearances at the ceremony, most as host. “I'm very happy to be here for my annual insult,” he once said.

In fact, he did receive five honorary Oscars and the affection and respect of his peers. At 1993’s ceremony, host Billy Crystal told some of Hollywood’s brightest stars they had a legend in their midst. The camera turned to Hope and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Perhaps he thought back to a day in 1930, when he sat in a darkened room and dreamed of a moment like this.

The Tycoon: With fame came a vast fortune, but its true extent remains unknown.

Bob Hope knew the value of money. He had experienced the lack of it firsthand.\

"Looking back at my Cleveland boyhood, I know now that it was grim going," he wrote in Bob Hope, My Life in Jokes. "But nobody told us Hopes it was grim. We just thought that’s the way things were. We had fun with what we had. We ate regularly, although sometimes when we’d eaten everything on the table, we sat there staring hungrily at each other."

At 20, Hope was happy to be touring small Midwestern towns as part of a musical-variety show and splitting $45 a week with his partner. Six years later, he was playing first-rate venues for $450 a week. A couple of years later, starring on Broadway, he got the chance to do six short films for $2,500 apiece. Then came radio shows, and a feature-film contract for $20,000 a picture. By the mid-'50s, he reportedly earned $500,000 per film and $100,000 per TV special. At the rate he worked, that should have made him rich by anyone’s standards, not considering fees from personal appearances or licensed merchandize such as the Adventures of Bob Hope comic book that ran for 15 years. Not least, Hope had one-third ownership of all the Road movies, which still play on late-night TV around the world.

Hope not only earned a great deal of money, he invested it well. He and Bing Crosby bought shares in Texas oil wells and struck it rich – richer, that is. Hope used the profits to buy 10,000 acres of farmland in the San Fernando valley. Hope reportedly kept a jar of oil from his first well at the Toluca Lake home he and his wife bought in 1940 for $35,000. The home, on 6 acres, has kennels, hothouses, a pool, a poolhouse, a rose garden, a one-hole golf course and a walk-in, fireproof joke vault.

Bob and Dolores Hope also acquired property in Palm Springs and its environs. The investment would benefit both, as the Hopes’ glamour drew more people to the desert and boosted property values.

“Thunderbird Ranch was my dude ranch and made it into a country club and we were selling lots at the club and not doing very well,” recalled former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert. “Then Bob Hope came out and bought a lot, and Bing Crosby came out and bought a lot, and then everybody was running like hell to buy lots. We sold out in no time the minute Bob Hope came out there.

Hope would accumulate many other holdings over the years.

“Every time I found a piece of land, it turned out Bob Hope owned it,” Bogert says. “He knew the value of every damn piece of land he owned. He was smart as a whip.”

The Hopes but their first Palm Springs home in 1941 and added another in 1946. In the 1970s they began to build a castle fit for a land baron and his lady. Designed by John Lautner, the huge, round hillside mansion with its black, domed roof makes a striking impression.

“When they come down from Mars, they’ll know where to go,” Hope quipped when he first saw the model.

Besides an eagle’s-eye view of Hope’s desert domain, the 25,000-square-foot house has a 100-foot-long pool, a billiard room, a dining room that seats 20, a small chapel, and a 60-foot-wide skylight. It has six bedrooms and 9.75 bathrooms, according to property records. Its assessed value is $4.6 million.

A 1967 Time magazine article reported Hope owned “8,000 acres in Palm Springs, 4,000 to 5,000 acres near Phoenix, more than 7,500 acres in Malibu” and more. In 1983, Forbes listed Hope as one of the 400 richest Americans, estimating his wealth at $200 million. Hope adamantly denied that he was that rich, and after weeks of research Forbes found only abuot 8,000, much of it undevelopable. The magazine lowered its estimate to $115 million. Family publicist Ward Grant discounted that figure, according to a Desert Sun report following Hope’s death.

"That was given out by managers who knew nothing about how much Mr. Hope had," he said.

That paper also reported that Hope owned at least 28 pieces of California real estate with an assessed value of $10.3 million.

So how much did Hope really own? Will we ever know? Is it any of our business? Maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to know that talent and perseverance helped the American dream come true for one child with humble beginnings.

The Humanitarian: Philanthropy and patriotism distinguish a national treasure.

He sang a little, he danced a lot, and he told jokes nonstop. He triumphed in vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies and TV. He became a self-made multimillionaire back when that really meant something.But it’s not what Bob Hope achieved for himself that set him apart from other entertainers. It’s what he did for others. He gave of his time and his money, and he put himself on the line.

The tradition that earned Bob Hope more honor and gratitude from his fellow Americans than anything other aspect of his multifaceted life began in Southern California in 1941 and continued for half a century, circling the globe.

In the spring of 1941 the winds of war were blowing, although Pearl Harbor was several months away. Albert Capstaff, the producer of Hope’s top-rated radio show, suggested leaving the NBC studios and doing a
live remote broadcast from March Field in Riverside, Calif.

“I could hear the sound that 2,000 joke-hungry servicemen could make – all laughing and applauding,” Hope wrote later. “This was an offer I couldn’t resist.”

He and his writers tailored the show to the occasion with gags like: “What a wonderful welcome you gave me. As soon as I got in the camp, I received a 10-gun salute – or so they told me on the operating table.”

The servicemen loved it. The home audience loved that the servicemen loved it. The sponsors loved that the home audience loved it. For five years, all but nine episodes of The Pepsodent Show originated at military installations.

In 1943, he took his troupe of “gypsies” – Frances Langford, Tony Romano, and Jack Pepper – on his first Christmas trip overseas to England, Africa, Sicily, and Iceland. War correspondent John Steinbeck saw him at one of those shows and wrote admiringly about it for the New York Herald Tribune.

“He gets laughter wherever he goes from men who need laughter,” Steinbeck wrote. “It is hard to overestimate the importance of this thing and the responsibility involved,” and finally, “There's a man for
you -- there is really a man.”

Hope made the cover of Time that summer, with a tagline that read “First in the hearts of servicemen.”

In 1944, Hope made “the Pineapple Circuit” of South Pacific combat zones, logging over 30,000 miles and gave more than 150 performances. He visited France and Germany in the final year of the war.

He did his first overseas Christmas show in 1948 during the Berlin Airlift, at the urging of the Secretary of the Air Force. His wife, singer Dolores Hope, helped him entertain the troops that year. These holiday shows became an annual tradition through 1972.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented Hope with the Congressional Gold Medal for “outstanding service to the cause of Democracy throughout the world.” His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, awarded Hope a Presidential Medal of Freedom, noting that "with his gifts of joy to all the American people, he has written his name large in the history of our times."

Hope’s characteristic response: "Thank you, Mr. President. I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it."

As controversy heated up over military actions in Southeast Asia, Bob Hope found himself in the center of the storm. As a friend of political and military leaders and an advocate of decisive action to bring the war to a speedy end, he drew the ire of those who urged a withdrawal. But many overseas continued to welcome his appearances.

“I want to thank you for all you have done or attempted to do on our behalf,” wrote Capt. Frederic Flom, USAF, in February 1973, near the end of his 6½-year captivity in North Vietnam. “There have been many a dark & lonesome night when we have felt all but forgotten. It thrills our hearts & makes us glow with pride to learn that the American people have not forgotten us, & that a celebrity such as yourself has active concern.”

In 1983, Hope went to Beirut to entertain troops. Four years later, he presented shows in the Persian Gulf and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. In 1990, he made his last overseas trip, visiting troops preparing for Desert Storm.

“Stealth bomber, that's a big deal,” he said. “Flies in undetected, bombs and flies away. Hell, I've been doing that all my life."

The Navy in 1997 christened the USNS Bob Hope, the first of a new class of large cargo ships, and the Air Force dedicated a new C-17, the Spirit of Bob Hope. That same year, President Bill Clinton signed an unprecedented congressional resolution making Hope an honorary veteran. Hope called it "the greatest honor I have ever received."

In 2000, the Palm Springs Air Museum opened a permanent exhibit featuring World War II-era photos of Hope and thank-you letters from fans.

Though his USO tours took him around the world, he didn’t forget to help out closer to home.

In 1966, he donated 80 acres of land for the development of the Eisenhower Medical Center on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. He also gave his name to the desert’s premier golf tournament, which has raised millions of dollars for the medical center and other charities.

“He played in our tournament every year before it became the Bob Hope Classic,” says Ernie Dunlevie, who has served on the event’s board of directors from the beginning. Hope had long been associated with golf, and no less than Arnold Palmer has credited him with popularizing the game. Hope’s involvement turned the tournament into a prestigious, star-studded event. Although other PGA Tour events have borne celebrities’ names, only the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic does today. “His name will stay with the tournament for as long as we have it,” Dunlevie says.

In the 1980’s, Hope again loaned his name and financial support to a good cause, and President Ronald Reagan and a host of stars honored him in a television special taped in the brand-new McCallum Theatre at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert.

“Naming a cultural center after me is like naming a monastery after Gary Hart,” Hope said.

In 1990, Hope delivered a commencement address at Palm Springs High and received an honorary diploma. In 1991, he invited Gulf War veterans from 29 Palms to a party at his hillside mansion.

In August 2003, a century’s journey ended as Bob Hope was laid to rest at a ceremony attended by 900 people, including a former U.S. president, two first ladies and a host of celebrities. The service began with an honor guard bearing the flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to represent those Hope entertained during his many USO tours.

”He was one of the truly legendary figures of the 20th century," Senator Dianne Feinstein said in her eulogy.

We won’t see another quite like him, but in his movies, in our memory, and everything else he leaves behind, Hope lives.

There's a man for
you -- there is really a man.”

Hope made the cover of Time that summer, with a tagline that read “First in the hearts of servicemen.”

In 1944, Hope made “the Pineapple Circuit” of South Pacific combat zones, logging over 30,000 miles and gave more than 150 performances. He visited France and Germany in the final year of the war.

He did his first overseas Christmas show in 1948 during the Berlin Airlift, at the urging of the Secretary of the Air Force. His wife, singer Dolores Hope, helped him entertain the troops that year. These holiday shows became an annual tradition through 1972.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented Hope with the Congressional Gold Medal for “outstanding service to the cause of Democracy throughout the world.” His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, awarded Hope a Presidential Medal of Freedom, noting that "with his gifts of joy to all the American people, he has written his name large in the history of our times."

Hope’s characteristic response: "Thank you, Mr. President. I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it."

As controversy heated up over military actions in Southeast Asia, Bob Hope found himself in the center of the storm. As a friend of political and military leaders and an advocate of decisive action to bring the war to a speedy end, he drew the ire of those who urged a withdrawal. But many overseas continued to welcome his appearances.

“I want to thank you for all you have done or attempted to do on our behalf,” wrote Capt. Frederic Flom, USAF, in February 1973, near the end of his 6½-year captivity in North Vietnam. “There have been many a dark & lonesome night when we have felt all but forgotten. It thrills our hearts & makes us glow with pride to learn that the American people have not forgotten us, & that a celebrity such as yourself has active concern.”

In 1983, Hope went to Beirut to entertain troops. Four years later, he presented shows in the Persian Gulf and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. In 1990, he made his last overseas trip, visiting troops preparing for Desert Storm.

“Stealth bomber, that's a big deal,” he said. “Flies in undetected, bombs and flies away. Hell, I've been doing that all my life."

The Navy in 1997 christened the USNS Bob Hope, the first of a new class of large cargo ships, and the Air Force dedicated a new C-17, the Spirit of Bob Hope. That same year, President Bill Clinton signed an unprecedented congressional resolution making Hope an honorary veteran. Hope called it "the greatest honor I have ever received."

In 2000, the Palm Springs Air Museum opened a permanent exhibit featuring World War II-era photos of Hope and thank-you letters from fans.

Though his USO tours took him around the world, he didn’t forget to help out closer to home.

In 1966, he donated 80 acres of land for the development of the Eisenhower Medical Center on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. He also gave his name to the desert’s premier golf tournament, which has raised millions of dollars for the medical center and other charities.

“He played in our tournament every year before it became the Bob Hope Classic,” says Ernie Dunlevie, who has served on the event’s board of directors from the beginning. Hope had long been associated with golf, and no less than Arnold Palmer has credited him with popularizing the game. Hope’s involvement turned the tournament into a prestigious, star-studded event. Although other PGA Tour events have borne celebrities’ names, only the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic does today. “His name will stay with the tournament for as long as we have it,” Dunlevie says.

In the 1980’s, Hope again loaned his name and financial support to a good cause, and President Ronald Reagan and a host of stars honored him in a television special taped in the brand-new McCallum Theatre at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert.

“Naming a cultural center after me is like naming a monastery after Gary Hart,” Hope said.

In 1990, Hope delivered a commencement address at Palm Springs High and received an honorary diploma. In 1991, he invited Gulf War veterans from 29 Palms to a party at his hillside mansion.

In August 2003, a century’s journey ended as Bob Hope was laid to rest at a ceremony attended by 900 people, including a former U.S. president, two first ladies and a host of celebrities. The service began with an honor guard bearing the flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to represent those Hope entertained during his many USO tours.

”He was one of the truly legendary figures of the 20th century," Senator Dianne Feinstein said in her eulogy.

We won’t see another quite like him, but in his movies, in our memory, and everything else he leaves behind, Hope lives.

the greatest honor I have ever received."

In 2000, the Palm Springs Air Museum opened a permanent exhibit featuring World War II-era photos of Hope and thank-you letters from fans.

Though his USO tours took him around the world, he didn’t forget to help out closer to home.

In 1966, he donated 80 acres of land for the development of the Eisenhower Medical Center on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. He also gave his name to the desert’s premier golf tournament, which has raised millions of dollars for the medical center and other charities.

“He played in our tournament every year before it became the Bob Hope Classic,” says Ernie Dunlevie, who has served on the event’s board of directors from the beginning. Hope had long been associated with golf, and no less than Arnold Palmer has credited him with popularizing the game. Hope’s involvement turned the tournament into a prestigious, star-studded event. Although other PGA Tour events have borne celebrities’ names, only the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic does today. “His name will stay with the tournament for as long as we have it,” Dunlevie says.

In the 1980’s, Hope again loaned his name and financial support to a good cause, and President Ronald Reagan and a host of stars honored him in a television special taped in the brand-new McCallum Theatre at the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert.

“Naming a cultural center after me is like naming a monastery after Gary Hart,” Hope said.

In 1990, Hope delivered a commencement address at Palm Springs High and received an honorary diploma. In 1991, he invited Gulf War veterans from 29 Palms to a party at his hillside mansion.

In August 2003, a century’s journey ended as Bob Hope was laid to rest at a ceremony attended by 900 people, including a former U.S. president, two first ladies and a host of celebrities. The service began with an honor guard bearing the flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to represent those Hope entertained during his many USO tours.

”He was one of the truly legendary figures of the 20th century," Senator Dianne Feinstein said in her eulogy.

We won’t see another quite like him, but in his movies, in our memory, and everything else he leaves behind, Hope lives.