Born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 in London, Bob Hope and his family immigrated to America and settled in Cleveland when he was four years old. After winning several Charlie Chaplin impersonation contests, he found the courage to try his hand at vaudeville. Starting with "Songs, Patter and Eccentric Dancing," he eventually made his way to Broadway, appearing in the hit show Roberta (1933)
Several other successful Broadway shows followed, and his reputation as a comic actor led to his own radio show. When Paramount decided to continue their series of Big Broadcast movies with The Big Broadcast of 1938, they hired a great number of radio personalities, including Hope. After several comedy shorts in 1934-36, it was his first feature film, and he acquitted himself well, singing with Shirley Ross the song that was to become his theme, "Thanks for the Memories."
Hope continued in movies, participating in several minor efforts until he made The Cat and the Canary (1939), a funny horror film in which he began to perfect his special brand of comic cowardice. The movie--a reworking of Paul Leni's silent classic Cat and the Canary from 1927--was a hit, and the studio quickly cast about for more of the same. His next film was The Ghost Breakers (1940), another haunted house comedy that co-starred Paulette Goddard. Directed by George Marshall, it was considered by many critics to be one of Hope's best films.
The 1940s, Hope's richest decade in terms of hits and quality comedies, began with his first teaming with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in the original road movie, The Road to Singapore (1940). There were seven road movies in all, and the Hope-Crosby team became oneo fht emost beloved duos in all of film comedy because it seemed as if the two stars were having the time of their lives.
He was a bona-fide movie star of long duration who entered the top-10 list of money-makers in 1941 and stayed in the top 10 every single year until 1953, with hits such as Monsieur Beaucaire (George Marshall, 1945) and My Favorite Brunette (1947). In 1949, he was voted the number-one box-office star in the country, thanks to his hit comedy The Paleface (1948) with Jane Russell. In the mid-1950s Hope had become more of a television star than a film star. He died of pneumonia on July 27, 2003 at Toluca Lake, California.
--SCOTT & BARBARA SIEGEL, from
The Encyclopedia of Hollywood
A selection of Bob Hope films.
Find Bob Hope on eBay
A selection of Bob Hope in books.
A History of Horror
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