When I was a child and we bought out first television set, they were showing old Bob Hope movies and that was when I fell in love with his movies. When he had his television shows I was a regular viewer. He was always a great comedian.
Born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, London on May 29, 1903, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1907 and Bob became a United States citizen. He boxed professionally under the name Packy West before going into vaudeville as a comedian in the early 1920s. Bob Hope went on to become one of the world's most beloved performers. His Pepsodent Show, which premiered on NBC in 1938, was one of radio's biggest hits for a dozen years. He made a series of successful "Road" movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour from 1940 to 1962. He made countless TV appearances since 1950. He had also devoted much time and energy entertaining American troops all over the world. Hope was given a special Academy Award on five occasions, won the Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1985)and was accorded Honorary Knighthood (1998)by Queen Elizabeth II. He also sponsored the Bob Hope Desert Classic, an annual golf event for charity. At age 100, Hope passed away on July 27, 2003.
Hope was born in Eltham, London, England, the fifth of seven sons. His father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer who later worked as a cleaning woman. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, then Whitehall and St George in Bristol, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in 1908. The family emigrated to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, and passed inspection at Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. Hope became a U.S. citizen in 1920 at the age of seventeen. In a 1942 legal document, Hope's legal name is given as Lester Townes Hope. His name on the Social Security Index is also listed as Lester T. Hope. His name at birth as registered during the July–August–September quarter in the Lewisham district of Greater London was also Leslie Towns (sic) Hope.
From the age of 12, he worked at a variety of odd jobs at a local boardwalk. He would busk, doing dance and comedy patter to make extra money (oftentimes on the trolley to Luna Park). He entered many dancing and amateur talent contests (as Lester Hope), and won prizes for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. He also boxed briefly and unsuccessfully under the name Packy East (after the popular Packey McFarland), once making it to the semifinals of the Ohio novice championship.
In 1918 at the age of 15 he was admitted (as Lester Hope) to the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster, Ohio. Formerly known as the Ohio Reform School, this was one of the more innovative, progressive institutions for juvenile offenders. As an adult, Hope donated sizable sums of money to the institution.
Silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle saw one of his performances with his first partner, Lloyd "Lefty" Durbin, and in 1925 got the pair steady work with Hurley's Jolly Follies. Within a year, Hope had formed an act called the Dancemedians with George Byrne and the Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins who had a tap dancing routine. Hope and his partner George Byrne had an act as a pair of Siamese twins as well, and both danced and sang while wearing blackface, before friends advised Hope that he was funnier as himself. In 1929, he changed his first name to "Bob". In one version of the story, he named himself after racecar driver Bob Burman. In another, he said he chose Bob because he wanted a name with a friendly "Hiya Fellas!" sound to it. After five years on the vaudeville circuit, by his own account, Hope was surprised and humbled when he and his partner (and future wife) Grace Louise Troxell failed a 1930 screen test for Pathé at Culver City, California.
As Hope entered his ninth decade, he showed no signs of slowing down and continued appearing in numerous television specials. He was given an 80th birthday party in 1983 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. which was attended by President Ronald Reagan. In 1985, he was presented with the Life Achievement Award at the Kennedy Center Honors. He was presented with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award in 1997 by Nancy Reagan. The following year, Hope was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Upon accepting the appointment, Hope quipped, "I'm speechless. 70 years of ad lib material and I'm speechless".
Nancy Reagan presents Hope with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, 1997At the age of 95, Hope made an appearance at the 50th anniversary of the Primetime Emmy Awards with Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. Two years later, Hope was present at the opening of the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress has immortalized Bob Hope's life with two major exhibitions - 'Hope for America: Performers, Politics and Pop Culture' and 'Bob Hope and American Variety'.
Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003. He is among a small group of notable centenarians in the field of entertainment, which include: Irving Berlin, Hal Roach, Senor Wences, George Abbott, Adolph Zukor, Barbara Kent, Charles Lane, Gloria Stuart, and George Burns. To mark this event, the intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles, California was named Bob Hope Square and his centennial was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 states. Hope spent the day privately in his Toluca Lake, Los Angeles home where he had lived since 1937. Even at 100, Hope was said to have maintained his self-deprecating sense of humor, quipping, "I'm so old, they've canceled my blood type." He converted to Roman Catholicism and was a devout Catholic.
Hope had premature obituaries on two separate occasions. In 1998 a prepared obituary by The Associated Press was inadvertently released on the Internet, prompting Hope's death to be announced in the US House of Representatives. In 2003 he was among several famous figures whose pre-written obituaries were published on CNN's website due to a lapse in password protection.
Beginning in 2000, Hope's health steadily declined and he was hospitalized several times before his death. In June 2000 he spent nearly a week in a California hospital after being hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding. In August 2001, he spent close to two weeks in the hospital recovering from pneumonia.
On July 27, 2003, Bob Hope died at his home in Toluca Lake at 9:28 p.m. According to the Soledad O'Brien interview with Hope's grandson, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, Hope told his wife, "Surprise me." He was interred in the Bob Hope Memorial Garden at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles, where his mother is also buried.