He was the nation's most-honored comedian. Bob Hope has died at the age of 100. His longtime publicist says Hope died on Sunday night of pneumonia, while surrounded by his family at home in Toluca Lake, California.
Hope was a star in vaudeville, radio, television and film---most notably a string of "Road" movies with longtime friend Bing Crosby. For decades, he took his show on the road to military bases around the world, boosting the morale of servicemen from World War Two to the first Gulf War.
He was admired by his peers, and generations of younger comedians. Woody Allen called Hope "the most influential comedian for me."
Hope earned a fortune, gave lavishly to charity and was showered with awards---so many that he had to rent a warehouse to store them.
Bob Hope is survived by his wife of 69 years, Dolores. They have four children, Linda, Anthony, William Kelly and Honora.
The Early Years
Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England in 1903. He came to the United States with his family when he was four and settled in Cleveland. He changed his name from Leslie to Bob when classmates ridiculed his English name.
Hope helped his family by selling newspapers and working in a shoe store, a drug store and a meat market. He also worked as a caddy and developed a lifelong fondness for golf. Hope boxed under the name Packy East and tried a semester in college before he veered into show business.
By 1930, Hope had reached vaudeville's pinnacle---The Palace. He played leading parts in such Broadway musicals as "Roberta" and "Ziegfeld Follies." He was also working regularly in radio. Later he teamed with Bing Crosby in seven "Road" pictures, and starred in other movies like "Cat and the Canary" and "My Favorite Blonde." He made 53 films from 1938 to 1972.
In 1950, Hope launched a successful career in television. Even 40 years later, he could be counted on to pull in respectable ratings. He appeared more than 20 times at the Academy Awards, first on radio and then on television.
Bob Hope started playing to the troops well before the United States entered World War Two, and he became a fixture in military shows for decades to come. Hope tried to enlist, but was told he could be of more use as an entertainer. He played his first camp show at California's March Field in 1941, seven months before Pearl Harbor. He eventually lost count of the number of military shows he gave.
His traditional Christmas tours began in 1948, when he went to Berlin to entertain G-Is involved in the airlift. His wife once said it was like every one of the troops was his "kid brother." His 1966 Vietnam Christmas show, when televised, was watched by an estimated 65 million people, the largest audience of his career. Hope at first was hawkish on Vietnam---but later, he said he was praying for peace. He said at the time he'd seen too many wars.
His views opened a gap between the comedian and young Americans opposed to the war. He was sometimes heckled by young people in his audience.
In 1990, he traveled to the Persian Gulf to entertain troops preparing for war with Iraq. Because Saudi Arabia bans female entertainers, he had to leave Marie Osmond and the Pointer Sisters behind in Bahrain.
The president of the United Service Organizations says Hope came to symbolize the idea that "America cared for and supported its troops."
It's easy to see why Bob Hope was considered the most-honored comedian in America.
His awards include scores of honorary degrees and special Oscars for humanitarian causes and service to the film industry.
He also won the George Peabody Award, the National Conference of Christians and Jews Award, and the Medal of Freedom from President Johnson.
On his 100th birthday this year, he was too frail to take part in public celebrations---but was said to be alert and happy. The fabled intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was renamed Bob Hope Square, and President Bush established the Bob
Hope American Patriot Award.
The Navy named a 950-foot-long support ship after him, and the Air Force dedicated a cargo plane as "The Spirit of Bob Hope." As his 95th birthday approached, the Library of Congress announced it was creating the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment.
Bob Hope is getting both private and public sendoffs. His daughter says his burial will be private. That ceremony will be followed with a memorial service and tribute on August 27th.
Linda Hope says family members were all around when her father died. She says she couldn't ask for a more beautiful and peaceful time -- and she says he left with a smile on his face.
Bob Hope died just two months after his 100th birthday. He was too frail to take part in public celebrations, but was said to be alert and happy---and overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection.
Daughter Linda says the private Bob Hope was just like his public persona. She says he'd try out his jokes on his family---and he said they were a tough audience.
Police blocked off several streets around the home where Bob Hope died in the Toluca Lake area outside Los Angeles. There had been heavy traffic, including people attempting to drop off flowers.
Security guards are keeping reporters outside the main gate of the Hope home. News helicopters are hovering overhead, and media
satellite trucks are lining the street.
Sixty-three-year-old Bob Hill stood on a corner across from Hope's home---holding an American flag and a sign that read: "Thank you, Bob Hope, for the memories. U.S. Forces." Hill is an Army veteran. He had met the entertainer at a nearby Bob's Big Boy restaurant where Hope often had breakfast.
President Bush Remembers
President Bush says not only did Bob Hope make America laugh, he was a "great citizen." The president paid tribute to the entertainer just before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Pittsburgh.
He says Hope "lifted our spirits." Bush says the veteran entertainer will especially be remembered by thousands of veterans from different generations who saw his
war-time shows. President Bush told reporters: "We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul." He also called Hope a "good man."
The Entertainment Community Remembers
Former talk show host Johnny Carson says in a statement that Hope was "the best loved, most admired and most successful entertainer in all of history. He is quite simply irreplaceable."
Woody Allen calls Hope "the most influential comedian for me," and says Hope inspired a generation of younger comics. Last year, Allen called Hope an "organic" part of the world---and said he couldn't imagine a world without him.
Comedian Phyllis Diller says Hope was at home on stage. She says that's where he "really lived." She once said no one could ever match what Hope did in his career, which she calls "historic."
Comedian Dick Van Dyke is comparing Bob Hope with writer Mark Twain. He says they both had a sense of humor that was "uniquely American."
Talking to reporters in 1993, comedian and talk show host Jay Leno said Hope was the most famous person of his time. Comedian
In a 1998 interview, actor Tom Hanks said Hope's death would be the end of an era. He called Hope ``the only true immortal'' left.
Actor Tony Randall once said Hope told him never to tell dirty jokes, because it was too easy to get a laugh with off-color humor---and tougher to follow it up with a funny clean joke.
At the Academy Awards
Some of the most memorable lines from the Academy Awards have come from the quick wit of Bob Hope.
Hope appeared more than 20 times on the shows as host, co-host
or presenter. He liked to joke about his own failure to win an Oscar---though he won several honorary awards over the years.
In 1953, he said "I like to be here in case one of these years they'll have one left over." In 1968, he greeted the stars with, "Welcome to the Academy Award, or as it's known at my house, Passover."
Hope also liked to tease the stars.
When he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1960, Hope joked that he felt out of place, "like Zsa Zsa Gabor at a PTA meeting."
His "Signature" Song
"Thanks for the Memory." That's Bob Hope's signature song---and it's been associated with him since his first feature film, "The Big Broadcast of 1938." The lyrics are about faded love---and it became an instant hit.
In the movie, the song is a duet with an actress who plays one of Hope's ex-wives. They take a bittersweet look back at their failed marriage:
Thanks for the memory
Of rainy afternoons
Swingy Harlem tunes
Motor trips and burning lips
And burning toast and prunes.
How lovely it was.
The song's composer and lyricist won accolades---and an Oscar.
The British are mourning the death of native son Bob Hope.
Hope left his native England when he was four, but was proud of his roots. Former colleagues say he never lost touch with his birthplace. News of Hope's death at age 100 topped evening news broadcasts there.
His book "I Never Left Home" referred to England. Longtime Hope publicist Ward Grant says the comedian got back there as often as possible to play golf, to do shows and
fund-raisers, and to visit.
In 1998, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth the Second in recognition of his contribution to film, to song and to the entertainment of troops.
Bob Hope was a frequent guest at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. He also visited the city's military installations and the Air Force Academy.
Bob Hope was a part owner of what was then KOA radio and television in Denver from 1952 to 1968. He even showed up for the dedication of the television station's new studios in 1959.
And Hope would sometimes appear on one of the station's programs. Retired engineer George Sollenberger says Hope's visits always made station employees tense, but Hope himself was relaxed and friendly.
Hope also made a 1988 appearance at the old Lowry Air Force Base for a fund-raiser.
On the Big Screen
Bob Hope's most devoted admirers say his TV specials had nothing on his movies. Hope starred in 53 movie comedies over a 34-year period, including the classic 'Road" pictures with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.
Woody Allen is a big Bob Hope fan -- and he says Hope was much funnier in the movies than on TV. Allen says Hope had a brilliant gift of delivery and comic speech. He writes that Hope's one-liners are just like air---he does them so lightly.
Hal Kanter, who wrote a half-dozen of Hope's movies, remembers the physical side of his comedy. Kanter says Hope could get tremendous laughs just reacting to things, without saying a word.
Feature films with Bob Hope:
Bob Hope perfected the one-liner, peppering audiences with a barrage of brief, topical gags.
One example: "I bumped into Gerald Ford the other day. I said,
`Pardon me.' He said, `I don't do that anymore.'"
Hope often made himself the butt of many jokes. His golf scores and his distinctive sloping nose were frequent subjects: He said: "I want to tell you, I was built like an athlete once---big chest, hard stomach. Of course, that's all behind me now."
When Hope started a monologue, it was almost as though the world was conditioned to respond. Even if the joke was old or flat---he was Bob Hope and he got laughs. He liked to say "audiences are my best friends. You never tire of talking with your best friends."
He headlined in so many war zones that he had a standard joke for the times he was interrupted by gunfire: "I wonder which one of my pictures they saw?"
If you need a good laugh, you can have a look at about a half million of Bob Hope's jokes at the Library of Congress. For years, Hope's gags have been stored in a fireproof vault by his California home. But at the regal library in Washington you just touch a computer screen to search through some 85,000 pages of his jokes, indexed by subject. Some even have Hope's penciled-in notes.
Hope loved topical humor, but many gags are still timely. Ten years before the 9/11 attacks, Hope used this one: "I don't understand terrorists. How could anyone get
so angry, so worked up about anything? I mean outside of golf."
The jokes are the work of more than a hundred writers who worked for Hope.
Some one-liners from Bob Hope's joke file, on display at the Library of Congress. The following are from December 1953:
"You should have seen the Christmas cards I got this year. I got one card from Marilyn Monroe with a picture of her in a bathing suit. What a picture! You know how George Washington looks straight ahead on a two-cent stamp. Well, on this envelope, he kept peeking over his shoulder."
"I wouldn't exactly say that Hollywood Boulevard is crowded with Christmas shoppers ... but when I was driving, I put my arm out to make a turn and when I took it back in, it was gift-wrapped."
"But the crowds were very friendly ... honestly ... it was the pleasantest mob I ever lost a tooth in."
"It's so crowded in Los Angeles these days ... if you get a sunburn you have to go to Glendale to peel."
"My brother was a musician. His favorite was small combinations. He used to hum while he broke them open."
"Eisenhower admitted the budget can't be balanced and McCarthy says the communists are taking over. You don't know what to worry about these days ... whether the country will be overthrown or