Comedian, Actor, Entertainer. Legendary comic performer whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1990s. One of the most beloved in American History, he has earned over 2,000 awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2 honorary Oscars, 2 Emmys, the National Medal of Arts (received from President Bill Clinton), 58 honorary degrees, and was knighted (honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. He has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, more than any other actor. He was famous for his USO Shows, where he entertained United States troops in every major conflict from World War II to the 1991 Gulf War. For his long career and efforts, he had been awarded a total of 5 special Academy Awards. He was named an honorary veteran of World War II by an act of Congress in 1997. He is the holder of two Guinness Book of Records: Most Honored Entertainer, and Entertainer with the longest running contract with a single network (NBC - 61 years). His signature song "Thanks for the Memories" was first sung in the film "The Big Broadcast of 1938" (1938). Born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, near London, England, he was the fifth of seven sons born to William Henry Hope and Avis Townes Hope. His English father was a stonemason, and his Welsh mother was an aspiring concert singer. In March 1908, he immigrated with his parents to Cleveland, Ohio. He reportedly changed his name to Bob, when his early classmates teased him over his first name. He became a United States citizen in 1920 and, after a variety of jobs, including boxer (under the name Packy East), dancer, and comedian on vaudeville, he worked for a while on Broadway, and made a number of comedy shorts in New York during the early 1930s. He starred on the radio show "The Pepsodent Show" in 1938, and made his first feature film debut that year, "The Big Broadcast of 1938" in which he and Shirley Ross sang "Thanks for the Memories," a tune that would become his signature theme song. He continued making films all through his career, but some became notable in the public's memory, including a series of "Road" films, starting with the "Road to Singapore" (1940) with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, which became a hit. Several additional "road" films were made, including "Road to Zanzibar" (1941), "Road to Morocco" (1942), "Road to Utopia" (1945), "Road to Rio" (1947), "Road to Bali" (1952), and "Road to Hong Kong" (1962). He tried writing films, but stopped at his first, "Paris Holiday" (1958), and produced four films, two in the late 1950s and two in 1976. Although continuing to make movies, Hope began a television career in 1950, with his first special, a run that would go for the next 40 years. He has worked in films and on TV with many of the industry greats, including Bing Crosby, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, George Burns, Jackie Gleason, and even had a cameo on "Spies Like Us" (1985), with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. Beginning in May 1941, Hope became involved with the United Services Organization (USO), and organized entertainment to the troops during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, giving it up only in 2001. He even organized entertainment for the troops between the wars, and served as the USO Entertainment Coordinator from 1941 until 2001, finally relinquishing his position to Wayne Newton. Because of his overwhelming patriotic stance, he was made an honorary veteran by an Act of Congress in 1997, and was given an honorary knighthood (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976. Queen Elizabeth also made him an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 1998, in recognition of his contribution to film, song, and to the entertainment of troops.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
1909–2011 (m. 1934)