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Bob Hope was a entertainer and comic actor, known for his rapid-fire delivery of jokes and for his success in virtually all entertainment media.
Bob Hope - The USO (0:54)
Watch a short video about Bob Hope and the creation of the USO.
Watch a short video about Bob Hope and his thoughts on entertaining American soldiers during World War II.
Watch a short video about Bob Hope and his first times visiting American soldiers during World War II.
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He was one of the top film stars throughout the 1940s, with such hits as 1947's western spoof The Paleface. Hope was often called upon to use his superior ad-lib skills as the host of Academy Awards. While he never won an Academy Award for his acting, Hope received several honors from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the years.
While his film career began to ebb in the 1950s,
Hope enjoyed a new wave of success on the small screen. He starred in his first television special on NBC in 1950. His periodic specials became a long-standing feature on the network, managing to earn impressive ratings with each new show over a 40-year time span. Nominated several times over the years, Hope won an Emmy Award in 1966 for one of his Christmas specials.
During World War II, Hope began to regularly take time out of his film and television career to entertain American soldiers. He started out with a radio show he did at a California air base in 1941. Two years later, Hope traveled with USO performers to bring the laughs to military personnel overseas, including stops in Europe. He also went to the Pacific front the following year. In 1944, Hope wrote about his war experiences in I Never Left Home.
While he and his wife Dolores had four children of their own, they spent many of their Christmases with the troops. Vietnam was one of his most frequent holiday stops, visiting the country nine times during the Vietnam War. Hope took a break from his USO efforts until the early 1980s. He resumed his comedic mission with a trip to Lebanon in 1983. In the early 1990s, Hope went to Saudi Arabia to cheer on the soldiers who were engaged in the First Gulf War.
Hope traveled the world on behalf of the country's servicemen and women, and received numerous accolades for his humanitarian efforts. His name was even placed on ships and planes. Perhaps the greatest honor, however, came in 1997: U.S. Congress passed a measure to make Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. military service for his goodwill work on behalf of American soldiers.
By the late 1990s, Hope had become one of the most honored performers in entertainment history. He received more than 50 honorary degrees in his lifetime, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center in 1985, a Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1995 and a British knighthood in 1998. The British-born Hope was especially surprised by the honorary knighthood, saying, "I'm speechless. Seventy years of ad-lib material and I'm speechless."
Around this time, Hope donated his papers to the Library of Congress. He handed over his joke files, which he had kept in special file cabinets in a special room of his Lake Taluca, California home. These jokes—accumulating more than 85,000 pages of laughs—represented the work of Hope and the numerous writers that he kept on staff. At one point, Hope had 13 writers working for him.
In 2000, Hope attended the opening of the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In the following years, he became increasingly frail.
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The United Service Organization was founded in 1941, as a way to provide morale to service members through entertainment. Hollywood was happy to promote its patriotism (and its stars), and sent entertainers to combat zones, often in danger, to perform for the troops. From Marilyn Monroe to Stephen Colbert, many of the biggest names in showbiz have put on shows for the American service members around the world. Check out these famous USO entertainers.
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