Celebrities: Bob Hope
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Bob Hope's Life and Career
Bob Hope (1903-2003) devoted his life to making people laugh. Well-known for his many television appearances, he also found success on the live stage, in radio shows, and in motion pictures. He became one of the most honored and beloved performers of the 20th century.
Leslie Townes Hope was born on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England. He moved to the United States when he was only four years old and lived in Cleveland, OH, with his parents and six brothers. In 1920, he was granted U.S. citizenship by virtue of his father's naturalization. Hope enjoyed the spotlight, even at an early age: As a boy, he often entertained friends and family with his amusing impression of actor-comedian Charlie Chaplin.
In his teens, he tried amateur boxing under the name of Packy East, but he decided to pursue other employment when he "was not only being carried out of the ring, but into the ring." Hope's natural talent for singing and dancing eventually led to touring on the vaudeville circuit. In the early stages of his career, he teamed up with several dancing partners, but he received the best audience feedback when adding jokes to his act and so he decided to try it alone as a comedian and master of ceremonies. Hope reached the pinnacle of vaudeville success in 1931 and 1932, playing the venerable Palace Theatre in New York City.
In 1932, Hope got a part in the Broadway musical revue Ballyhoo. The next year, he gained major recognition playing the amiable, wisecracking Huckleberry Haines in the Broadway production of Roberta. During this time, he met and married singer Dolores DeFina, a marriage that lasted the rest of his life. On stage, he sang to Eve Arden in the 1936 Ziegfeld Follies, introducing the song "I Can't Get Started" by Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke. His performance in Follies led to another successful role in Red, Hot, and Blue (also in 1936), with Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante. Hope made guest appearances on several radio shows in the early and mid-1930s, and in 1938 he began headlining his own NBC program, The Pepsodent Show. This highly-rated series featured an opening monologue of topical jokes -- the influence of which can still be seen on late-night television talk shows.
Hope impressed audiences and producers in his first major film role, as Buzz Fielding in The Big Broadcast of 1938. With his co-star Shirley Ross, he performed what would become his theme song: "Thanks for the Memory." Hope was given a film contract with Paramount Pictures and went on to star in more than 50 feature films, including Road to Singapore and six more pictures in the Road series with Bing Crosby. Over the years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Hope with two special awards (1940 and 1944), two honorary awards (1952 and 1965), and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (1959).
In April 1950, Hope headlined an Easter Sunday television special for NBC -- "Star Spangled Revue" -- a live broadcast from New York. For nearly five decades following that, he hosted nearly 300 comedy-variety TV specials for NBC and made hundreds of guest appearances on other shows. He was master of ceremonies for more Academy Awards(R) presentations than anyone else, including the first live telecast on March 19, 1953 and the first color broadcast in 1966. Hope died at his home in Toluca Lake, CA, on July 27, 2003, two months after his 100th birthday.
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