Leslie Townes Hope (May 29, 1903 - July 27, 2003), best known as Bob Hope, was a famous entertainer, having appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, on radio and television, movies and in army concerts. Hope became famous with several Broadway musicals. Before becoming an actor, Hope boxed professionally under the boxing nickname of Packey East.
Hope was born in Eltham, England, as fifth of seven sons. His English father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer. The family lived in Weston-super-mare and Whitehall and St. George in Bristol before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in 1907. He became a United States citizen in 1920.
According to biographer Arthur Marx, Hope married his first wife, Grace Louise Troxell, his vaudeville partner since 1928, on January 25, 1933; they were quickly divorced. He married his second wife, reportedly on February 19, 1934, Dolores DeFina, a Bronx-born nightclub singer professionally known as Dolores Reade. They had met two months previously, at The Vogue, a Manhattan nightclub where Reade was performing. Dolores and Bob Hope had four adopted children and remained together until his death.
In his 1938 film The Big Broadcast Of 1938, he introduced the song that became his trademark: Thanks for the Memories.
Hope's turn as a movie star include the classic "Road To..." series of pictures in which he was paired with Bing Crosby and Dorthy Lamour, as well as the movie My Favorite Brunette. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honored him five times—with two honorary Oscarss, two special awards and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Bob Hope, Lackland Air Force Base, 1990
Hope was also renowned for his passion for sports. He boxed professionally, was a pool hustler, watched football and even owned part of the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Rams. Hope is mostly remembered for his passion of golf, and even played in a few PGA tour events. In honor of America's most beloved entertainer, there's even the Hope/Chrysler Classic named after him, which is now in its 44th year. He also golfed with nearly every President of the United States of America from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush.
In 1997, Hope was honored by the United States Congress with the title "Honorary Veteran of the United States Armed Forces" during an October 29 tribute. It was given him in recognition of the entertainment he provided US troops during war and peacekeeping missions.
Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003, and might rival Irving Berlin or George Burns as the most notable entertainment centenarian. In honor of Hope on his birthday, the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles, California was christened Bob Hope Square. His centennial was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 U.S. states. Hope celebrated his birthday privately in his Toluca Lake home where he had lived since 1937. Even at 100 years of age, Hope maintained his sense of humor, quipping "I'm so old, they've canceled my blood type." And according to one of Hope's daughters, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, he told his wife, "Surprise me." He died two months later of pneumonia at 9:28 PM July 27, 2003 at his home in Toluca Lake, north of Hollywood.