Born: May 29, 1903 Eltham, London, England, UK
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Bob Hope worked in five different mediums — vaudeville, radio, stage, movies and television — and became a star in each won. He was just as well-known for his Road movies with pal Bing Crosby as he was for his USO tours for troops that went from World War II to the Gulf War.
He was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, a borough of London, England. His family moved to the U.S. when he was four, and he changed his name to “Bob” after being teased by schoolmates.
He started off boxing but later joked “I was on more canvases than Picasso.” He began a vaudeville song and dance routine and began to dabble in comedy as well. After conquering the vaudeville circuit, Hope made the move to Broadway in the 1930’s and appeared in shows like Roberta, Ziegfeld Follies and Red, Hot and Blue. He met Dolores Read while performing in Roberta and the pair were married in 1934.
The stage work led him to radio. After doing his own show for Pepsodent he headed to Hollywood. His first film, The Big Broadcast of 1938, introduced audiences to his trademark song “Thanks for the Memory.”
Over the years he made dozens of films. The most famous of those were the seven Road pictures that he made with Bing Crosby. The crazy flicks laid the blueprint for the buddy pictures we see today. Though Hope received five special Oscars® he often joked that he never received one for his acting. He didn’t hold a grudge though, appearing at the Academy Awards over 20 times, most often as host.
He started his television career in 1950. His specials earned huge ratings all the way up to the 1990’s.
Hope was also known for entertaining U.S. troops as part of the USO tours. His first performance for the U.S. military took place in May, 1941, seven months before the country entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He began his traditional Christmas shows in 1948 when he entertained troops involved in the Berlin airlift. Many felt that Hope was a hawk when it came to the Vietnam war and this caused a rift with younger audiences who would often heckle him. Hope later said that he was “just praying they get an honorable peace so our guys don’t have to fight. I’ve seen too many wars.” The troops loved Hope and his performances in war zones and he received much recognition from them, including a Navy support ship christened the USNS Bob Hope, and an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III called “The Spirit of Bob Hope.”
Once joking that “Only in Hollywood could a meatball make so much gravy”, he amassed a fortune, including real estate holdings in California’s San Fernando Valley, Palm Springs and Malibu. He and his wife were involved in many charities and Hope received much recognition for that work as well. He had scores of honorary degrees; special Oscars for humanitarianism and service to the film industry; the George Peabody Award; the National Conference of Christians and Jews Award; and the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson.
Bob Hope died from pneumonia on July 27, 2003. He is survived by his wife, Dolores, and their four adopted children, Linda, Anthony, Nora and Kelly.
Thanks for the memories.
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