“You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.” Bob Hope, one of the greatest entertainers the world has ever seen, cracked that one-liner shortly before his one-hundredth birthday. He died not long after passing the century.
He would joke about anything, even his imminent death. “I’m so old they’ve cancelled my blood-type,” he cracked. “I do benefits for all religions – I’d hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality.”
Bob Hope left a rich legacy. By the time of his death in 2003 he had appeared in more than 75 films, starred in almost 500 TV programmes and 1,000-plus radio shows. He toured tirelessly to entertain the US Armed Forces in countries all over the world. He received countless honorary degrees and awards – everything from the Medal of Freedom to a British knighthood.
Born in Eltham, England, the fifth of seven sons of a stonecutter and an aspiring actress, he moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was four. At age twelve he won a Charlie Chaplain imitation contest. It was a hint of what lay ahead for the young entertainer.
He had a burning desire to become a star and he achieved it the hard way. After school he took a job as a shoe salesman and augmented his meagre wage by singing and cracking jokes in local restaurants. He even took to the boxing ring for three fights before deciding it was easier throwing punch-lines than punches.
He developed a vaudeville act and it was while road-tripping from one theatre to the next that he developed his quick-fire comedy wisecracking style. His brash performances led first to Broadway and then to Hollywood where he made it to the silver screen with The Big Broadcast of 1938. He dueted with Shirley Ross in the Oscar-winning number Thanks for the Memory which afterwards became his signature theme song.
In 1940 he teamed up with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in The Road to Singapore, a film which launched the uproarious and successful “Road” series which featured the trio at their comic best.
Golf was his way of relaxing and he and Crosby were good amateur golfers. Each year he hosted the Bob Hope Classic and the tournament, now known as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, is still played by tour pros today.
Let me leave you with just a few of Bob’s classic one-liners.
- If you watch a game it’s fun. If you play it its relaxation. If you work at it its golf.
- Zsa Zsa Gabor got married as a one-off and it was so successful she turned it into a series.
- A James Cagney love scene is one where he lets the other guy live.
- When they asked Jack Benny to do something for the actors’ orphanage he shot both his parents and moved in.
- Kids are wonderful but I like mine barbecued.
- I grew up with six brothers. That’s how I learned to dance – waiting for the bathroom.
- I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything till noon. That’s when it’s time for my nap.
- People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.