Mostly Credited As: Bob Hope
Sometimes Credited As: Robert Hope
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby
Bob Hope & Bing Crosby
Hope and Crosby
Hope & Crosby
Birth Name: Leslie Townes Hope
Date Of Birth: May 29, 1903 (Age 100)
Country Of Birth: United Kingdom
Birth Place: Eltham, London, England
Date Of Death: July 27, 2003
Cause Of Death: Pneumonia (Toluca Lake, CA)
Height: 5' 10" (1.77 m)
What can anyone say about the man who may be the most popular entertainer in the history of Western civilization? Having conquered every conceivable medium, he approaches the twenty-first century with characteristic energy and enthusiasm, although age has slowed him up somewhat in recent years. He began his show-business life as a vaudeville comedian, and his machine-gun delivery of jokes quickly earned him the nickname "Rapid Robert." Hope worked his way to Broadway by the early 1930s, and made numerous comedy shorts in New York studios through mid-decade, including a generally mediocre series for WarnerVitaphone. A radio regular, he was starring on "The Pepsodent Show" by 1938; that same year he made his feature-film debut in Paramount's The Big Broadcast of 1938 in which he and Shirley Ross sang the wistful "Thanks for the Memory," which became (and remains) his signature tune. Paramount knew it had a hot property, and kept Hope busy in such light fare as College Swing, Thanks for the Memory (both 1938), Some Like It Hot (no relation to the Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon-Marilyn Monroe film), and Never Say Die (both 1939) before dusting off and retailoring the old barnstorming thriller The Cat and the Canary (1939) for him. In that film, playing a wisecracking ham actor whose scaredy-cat antics and topical references delighted movie audiences, Hope delivered what could be called his prototypical performance, delineating a screen persona that served him well for more than 30 years.P>Cat's success led to another chiller, The Ghost Breakers (1940), which reunited him with Cat costar Paulette Goddard. That same year he joined forces with crooner Bing Crosby and sarong-clad siren Dorothy Lamour in Road to Singapore a modest program picture that became a sleeper hit, due in no small way to Hope's easy rapport with Crosby and their breezy, often ad-libbed repartee. Over the next two decades they found themselves on the respective roads to ...Zanzibar (1941), ...Morocco (1942), ...Utopia (1945), ...Rio (1947), ...Bali (1952), and ...Hong Kong (1962), each outing screwier than the last. Hope and Crosby also made frequent cameos in each other's solo starring films, and carried on a genial bantering "feud" for years.
Other Hope hits during the 1940s include Caught in the Draft, Louisiana Purchase, Nothing But the Truth (all 1941), My Favorite Blonde (1942), Let's Face It, They Got Me Covered (both 1943), The Princess and the Pirate (1944, the first of many period pictures brightened by Hope's anachronistic, contemporary references), Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), My Favorite Brunette (1947), and a blockbuster Western spoof, The Paleface (1948), which introduced an Oscar-winning song ("Buttons and Bows") and spawned a sequel, Son of Paleface in 1952.
Hope made his first TV special for NBC in 1950, beginning an uninterrupted, fourdecade-plus run on that network. His film work during the 1950s, while still entertaining, wasn't quite up to his 1940s output, although he did broaden his appeal by taking occasional dramatic roles.Fancy Pants (1950, the first of several comedies that paired him with Lucille Ball), The Lemon Drop Kid, My Favorite Spy (both 1951), Here Come the Girls (1953), The Seven Little Foys (1955, a straight role as vaudevillian Eddie Foy, Sr.), That Certain Feeling, The Iron Petticoat (both 1956), Beau James (1957, another dramatic role, as scapegrace New York mayor Jimmy Walker), Paris Holiday (1958), Alias Jesse James (1959), The Facts of Life (1960), Bachelor in Paradise (1961), Critic's Choice and Call Me Bwana (both 1963) all have elements to recommend them, even if they are inferior to Hope's 1940s vehicles.
As he grew older (and devoted more of his life to TV work and entertaining U.S. troops in the Far East), the quality of his starring films deteriorated rapidly, resulting in such lame comedies as A Global Affair (1964), I'll Take Sweden (1965), Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966), Eight on the Lam (1967), The Private Navy of Sergeant O'Farrell (1968), How to Commit Marriage (1969, opposite fellow TV icon Jackie Gleason), and Cancel My Reservation (1972, mercifully his final starring feature). He did contribute a very Hope-like cameo to the Chevy Chase-Dan Aykroyd comedy Spies Like Us (1985). He spent many years as the host of the annual Academy Awards ceremonies ("Or as it's known at my house, Passover," he once quipped, though in fact he did receive four honorary Oscars). Hope has written (or, at least, is credited with writing) several humorous memoirs, including "I Never Left Home," "Have Tux-Will Travel," "I Owe Russia $1200," "Don't Shoot, It's Only Me," and "The Last Christmas Show." His wife, Dolores, sometimes appears with him on his TV specials, and his granddaughter, Leslie, has acted in a few films, including It Takes Two, Talk Radio (both 1988), and Men at Work (1990).
Copyright © 1994 Leonard Maltin