On this day in 2003, the legendary actor-comedian Bob Hope dies at age 100 in Toluca Lake, California. Known for entertaining American servicemen and women for more than five decades, Hope had a career that spanned the whole range of 20th century entertainment, from vaudeville to Broadway musicals to radio, television and movies.
He was born Leslie Townes Hope, the fifth of seven sons, on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England. In 1907, Hope’s family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. As a young man, he began his entertainment career as a dancer and vaudeville performer. During the 1930s, he appeared in Broadway musicals, along with such performers as Fanny Brice and Ethel Merman. In 1934, Hope wed the nightclub singer Dolores Reade; the marriage would endure until his death. In 1938, Hope, who became known for his snappy one-liners, rose to national fame with his own radio show on NBC and his first feature film, The Big Broadcast of 1938.
In 1940, Hope co-starred in the box-office hit Road to Singapore with Bing Crosby. The film, about a pair of singing, wisecracking con men, was the first of seven “Road” movies the pair would make. Hope appeared in more than 50 feature films during his career. He hosted the Academy Awards 18 times, although he never won an Oscar himself, an occurrence he turned into a long-running joke. However, he did receive five special awards from the Academy, including two honorary Oscars. Hope was also a top entertainer on TV and from 1959 to 1996 he made 284 “Bob Hope specials” for NBC.
Starting with World War II, Hope began entertaining American troops at military bases around the world. His USO tours traveled to military bases during times of war (Vietnam, the Persian Gulf), as well as times of peace. He was so beloved for his work with the military for more than half a century that Congress passed a resolution in 1997 making Hope an honorary veteran. It was one of the countless honors that Hope received throughout his career. In 1998, he was granted honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth.