Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hope by, Richard Zoglin

Bob Hope was arguably the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century. His life spanned almost the entire century (May 29, 1903 - July 27, 2003) and he mastered every entertainment medium.  He was one of the top draws in vaudeville as a song and dance man and later as an emcee. He stared in several major Broadway plays by major producers and introduced standards by great American composers such as Jerome Kern and Cole Porter. He had the Number 1 rated radio program for much of the early 1940's and remained in the top five the entire decade.  He ranked among the top box office draws in then 1940's and was the Number 1 earner in 1949. He had the top television program in the 1950's and his Christmas specials aired on television every year from 1950 until 1994.  His 1970 special from Vietnam was viewed by 46.6 percent of all televisions in the United States - only the finales of Dallas, M*A*S*H, and Roots eclipsed that rating.  Plus, his monologues in vaudeville and on the radio essentially invented stand-up comedy.

Hope also defined celebrity for the generations to come. His hosting of the Oscars raised it from an industry event to a nationally broadcast capstone of the year in film that is analyzed, dissected, and bet on by people even outside the industry. He was a tireless self-promoter of himself and his movies, but, with his USO tours and other actions, gave back to his fans and drew attention to charitable causes.

He was also a shrewd businessman, investing largely in California real estate, negotiating large guaranteed contracts for himself, and was one of the first to see the potential of using television to run advertisements for movies.

Unlike many celebrities, he didn't drink or use drugs. He gave almost all his time and attention to his fans, but was cold and remote with his family. He was generous to servicemen and people he met, but could be miserly and cruel to those who worked for him. He was married to his wife Delores since 1934, but had several long running affairs.

Richard Zoglin's biography Hope does an excellent job capturing the life and times of Bob Hope. It details almost everything Hope did in his long life, but doesn't provide much insight into Hope's personality or his raison d'ĂȘtre. Given Hope's relationship to his family, this is not surprising.

It is a very well researched and written book that I recommend for any fan of Hope or anyone interested in the history of the entertainment industry.

Thanks for the Memory.

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