One Hundred Years of Hope

By | December 22, 2018

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Bob Hope/ image from Wikipedia

Leslie Townes Hope, better known as Bob Hope, was born on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, near London, England. He spent his early years there, where his father worked as a stonemason. The family moved to the United States, to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1907. Hope had six brothers and his family struggled financially. In an effort to relieve some of the burden, he worked various jobs including working as a shoe salesman and an amateur boxer, before moving on to pursue a career in entertainment.

His mother, a former Welsh concert singer, supported his aspirations, as did his teenage girlfriend, Mildred Rosequist, with whom he took dance lessons and formed an act which they performed in local vaudeville theaters. He also developed a two-man dance routine with his friend, Lloyd Durbin, who later died of food poisoning. After Durbin’s death, Hope partnered with George Byrne, with whom he would make his first Broadway appearance in The Sidewalks of New York. Hope’s first major stage role was in the musical Roberta (1933), which allowed him to demonstrate his comedic timing. During this time, Hope met singer Dolores Reade and the two were married in 1934. He continued to flex his comedic muscles during the mid-1930s with The Ziegfield Follies of 1936, before turning to radio in 1937.  He eventually got his own Tuesday night radio show and continued to be a popular radio performer until the mid-1950s despite branching out into other mediums.

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The comedic Bob Hope/image from PBS

His first significant role in a feature film was in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938). It was in this film that he first sang his trademark song, “Thanks for the Memory” with Shirley Ross. The next year, he starred in a horror-film spoof called The Cat and the Canary, the first of many films in which Hope would play his signature character type – a smart aleck coward with false bravado. Hope performed the character type so well that he became one of few actors to become successful by playing unlikeable characters. This film also starred Paulette Goddard who would work with Hope again in another horror-film spoof called The Ghost Breakers in 1940.