Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope in London on May 29th 1903. Three years later, Hope’s father moved the family to Cleveland, Ohio. Upon his arrival in America his name was changed to Bob.
From an early age, Hope showed a big interest in the performing arts. Growing up, he was given singing lessons by his mother, who was an opera singer. At the age of 6, he won a Charlie Chaplin imitation contest and in high school, he learned to tap dance. Throughout his teens, Hope participated in any activity he could that involved entertaining people and he won numerous amateur talent contests.
Bob Hope started his professional career after moving to New York in the 1920’s. There he had a number of walk-on parts on Broadway, which eventually led to larger roles in the 1930’s. After appearing in numerous plays with his partner George Byrne, such as The Sidewalks of New York and Smiles, Hope decided to go solo. He played the vaudeville circuit, and formed his own company.
Hope returned to Broadway with Ballyhoo, a 1932 musical. In 1933, he appeared in Roberta, where he met his (soon to be) wife, Dolores Reade. And in 1935 he was in the Broadway hit Ziegfeld Follies.
In 1938, Bob was given his own radio show. As a result of it, he was asked by Paramount Studios to appear in the film The Big Broadcast. In the movie, he sang “Thanks for the Memory,” which went on to become his trademark song.
A new phase of his career began in 1940, when he set out on the Road to Singapore, the first of the seven blockbuster ‘Road’ films Bob Hope starred in with Bing Crosby.
By the early 1940’s Hope had become a household name across the United States. He will always be remembered for his dedication to entertaining the troops. From 1941 through 1990, Bob brought his USO Shows to the soldiers stationed everywhere from North Africa to Vietnam.
He was a triple-threat superstar of radio, film and television. Such a performer could not be overlooked by Ed Sullivan, who invited Hope to his show several times throughout the show’s run.
Bob Hope appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on September 26th 1948, a few months after the show premiered on CBS when it was called “Toast of the Town.” After that, he returned to the show another 6 times to perform his classic vaudevillian brand of comedy filled with witty one-liners.
One of his appearances took place in England, where The Ed Sullivan Show was being filmed. On this occasion, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were filmed playing golf. His last appearance on the show was on September 20th 1970, where he was given an award for “Outstanding Entertainer of the Year.”
Bob Hope’s career lasted for more than 70 years and his entertainment persona was evident in every decade of the 20th century. From impersonating Charlie Chaplin when he was a kid to his signature USO tours to celebrating 60 years with NBC in 1996. He received more than 50 honorary degrees in his lifetime, and was a recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 1985. For his continued contributions to the industry he was given five special Academy Awards.
In May of 2003 he celebrated his 100th birthday joking: “I’m so old they’ve cancelled my blood type.” A few months later, on July 27th, he passed away.
Bob Hope’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show of June 26th 1955 is available on “Ed Sullivan’s All Star Comedy Special” DVD.