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The Bob Hope Show

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Jack Benny and Rosemary Clooney participate in a lousy sketch (Jack’s word, not mine) on Bob Hope’s April 13, 1954 show.

Hope in 1978

Bob HopeKBEKCSGKSS, born Leslie Townes Hope, (May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003) was an English-born American comedian and actor who appeared on Broadway, in vaudeville, movies, television, and on the radio. He was noted for his numerous United Service Organizations (USO) shows entertaining American military personnel—he made 57 tours for the USO between 1942 and 1988. Throughout his long career, he was honored for this work. In 1996, the U.S. Congress declared him the “first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.”

Over a career spanning 60 years (1934 to 1994), Hope appeared in over 70 films and shorts, including a series of “Road” movies co-starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. In addition to hosting the Academy Awards fourteen times, he appeared in many stage productions and television roles, and was the author of fourteen books. He participated in the sports of golf and boxing, and owned a small stake in his hometown baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. He was married to Grace Troxell from 1933 until 1934 and to Dolores Hope from 1934 until his death.

Broadcasting – Main article: Bob Hope television appearances

Jerry Colonna and Bob Hope as caricatured by Sam Berman for NBC’s 1947 promotional book

Hope’s career in broadcasting began on radio in 1934. His first regular series for NBC Radio was the Woodbury Soap Hour in 1937, a 26-week contract. A year later, The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope began, and Hope signed a ten-year contract the show’s sponsor, Lever Brothers. The show became the top radio program in the country. Regulars on the series included Jerry Colonna and Barbara Jo Allen as spinster Vera Vague. Hope continued his lucrative career in radio through to the 1950s, when radio’s popularity was overshadowed by television.

Hope’s brother producing his early 1950’s show

Hope did many specials for the NBC television network in the following decades, beginning in April 1950. He was one of the first people to use cue cards. The shows were often sponsored by General Motors(1955–1961), Chrysler (1963–73), and Texaco (1975–1985).   Hope’s Christmas specials were popular favorites and often featured a performance of “Silver Bells” (from his 1951 film The Lemon Drop Kid) done as a duet with an often much younger female guest star (such as Olivia Newton-JohnBarbara Eden, and Brooke Shields), or with his wife Dolores, with whom he dueted on two specials. Hope’s 1970 and 1971 Christmas specials for NBC—filmed in Vietnam in front of military audiences at the height of the war—are on the list of the Top 46 U.S. network prime-time telecasts. Both were seen by more than 60 per cent of the U.S. households watching television.

Hope with James Garner (1961)

In 1992, Hope made a guest appearance as himself on The Simpsons, in the episode “Lisa the Beauty Queen” (season 4, episode 4).   Towards the end of his career, eye problems left him unable to read his cue cards.   His 90th birthday television celebration in May 1993, Bob Hope: The First 90 Years, won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special.   In October 1996 Hope announced that he was ending his 60-year contract with NBC, joking that he “decided to become a free agent.”   His final television special, Laughing with the Presidents, was broadcast in November 1996, with host Tony Danza helping him present a personal retrospective of presidents of the United States known to the comedian. The special received poor reviews.   Following a brief appearance at the 50th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1997, Hope’s last TV appearance was in a 1997 K-Mart commercial directed by Penny Marshall.

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