This article is from the November 2017 Issue of Forever Young

 FYng Nov 2017 Feature


By Tom Morrow

Bob Hope was an actor, singer, vaudevillian, dancer, athlete and author. He is best remembered as a wise-cracking comedian. He’s so fresh in many minds that it’s difficult to wrap around the thought that he’s been gone for almost a decade and a half.

Leslie Townes Hope was four-years old when his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, from suburban London, where he was born May 29, 1903. It was an inauspicious start for the man who would become one of the world’s most famous entertainers for most of the 20th century.

During a career that spanned some 80 years, he appeared in more than 70 feature films, including a series of “Road” movies and long-time friend, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour (who often was befuddled by the on-camera ad-libs between the two buddies), hosted the Academy Awards a record 19 times, appeared on stage and television, and wrote 14 books. The song “Thanks for the Memories” became his signature song.

Hope began his show-business life on stage in the early 1920s and moved on to radio in the ‘30s with his one-liners and rapid-fire delivery of jokes.

His Hollywood debut was with Paramount Pictures in the 1938 film The Big Broadcast of 1938, which also starred comic W. C. Fields.

Hope also is remembered for his travels to entertain U.S. military personnel. He made 57 tours for the USO between 1941 and 1991.

His first USO show was May 6, 1941, at March Field near Riverside, Calif. He entertained troops during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War as well as American military men in the Iran–Iraq War and the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.

During the Vietnam War, Hope’s pro-troop stance made him a target of criticism and he had trouble convincing some performers to join him because of anti-war sentiment. So he recruited his own family members. His wife, Dolores, sang from atop an armored vehicle during the Desert Storm tour, and his granddaughter, Miranda, appeared with him on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean.

In 1943, John Steinbeck, then a war correspondent, wrote: “When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered, Bob Hope should be high on the list. This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people.”

A 1997 act of Congress signed by President Bill Clinton named Hope an “Honorary Veteran.” He remarked, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime, but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most is the greatest honour I have ever received.”

In 1985, he was presented with the Life Achievement Award at The Kennedy Center Honors.

Then in 1998, when he was appointed an honourary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, he quipped:

“I’m speechless. Seventy years of ad-lib material and I’m speechless.”

Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003, joining a small group of notable centenarians in the field of entertainment. To mark this event, the intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles was named “Bob Hope Square.” Hope maintained his self-deprecating sense of humour with, “I’m so old, they’ve canceled my blood type.”

Two months later -- on the morning of July 27 -- Hope died of pneumonia at his home in Toluca Lake, Calif.

When asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, Hope had told his wife, “Surprise me.” He was interred in the Bob Hope Memorial Garden at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles. In 2011, he was joined by his wife, who died four months after her 102nd birthday.

(Tom Morrow’s books are available at and on Kindle.)
Mature Life Features