On this day in 1934, the legendary comic actor and entertainer Bob Hope marries Dolores Reade in Erie, Pennsylvania. Their marriage would last until Hope’s death 69 years later, making it by far one of Hollywood’s most enduring unions.
Born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 near London, Hope emigrated with his family to the United States when he was four years old. He held down a variety of odd jobs and had a stint on the amateur boxing circuit before embarking on a career in vaudeville. He began using the stage name “Bob” in 1928 and by the 1930s was one of the leading talents on the vaudeville scene. It was later revealed by Hope’s biographer that Hope was briefly married during this time, to his vaudeville partner Grace Troxell. In 1933, Hope landed his first substantial role in a Broadway production, Jerome Kern’s musical Roberta. During its run, Hope met Dolores Reade when she was performing at the Vogue Club. Born Dolores DeFina in 1909 in New York, Reade had taken her stage name (after the Broadway actress Florence Reede) at the advice of an agent. Hope, who was in the nightclub with his friend George Murphy, invited the pretty young singer to a performance of Roberta. As they later told interviewers, it was love at first sight, and the couple married in February 1934.
Four years later, Hope made his big-screen debut in The Broadcast of 1938 and launched his own radio show, The Bob Hope Show, which would run for the next 18 years. His quick-draw comic bravado, as well as his willingness to play the unsympathetic buffoon, was a huge hit with viewers and listeners alike, and by the end of the 1930s he was one of America’s top comics. Hope’s film career took off exponentially with the success of a series of seven “Road” movies he made with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, including Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946) and Road to Rio (1947).
During World War II, Hope tried to enlist in the U.S. armed forces but was told he could do more good as an entertainer. In 1941, he began visiting U.S. troops abroad. Reade traveled with him, returning to the stage to sing and perform alongside her husband. Hope would play shows in war zones all over the world, performing for more than 1 million servicemen by 1953. A televised Christmas Eve show for troops in Vietnam in 1966, in which Dolores sang “Silent Night,” drew an audience of 65 million people, Hope’s largest ever. In addition to his film and touring work, Hope was a sensation on television as well, performing in countless TV specials that reached several generations of viewers over five decades.
In May 2003, Dolores Hope was at her husband’s side as he celebrated his 100th birthday. Remembered as Hollywood’s “Mr. Entertainment” and the “King of Comedy,” Bob Hope died less than two months later. He was survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, their four adopted children–Linda, Anthony, Nora and Kelly–and four grandchildren.