On this Day in Movie History, May 29, 1903: Bob Hope Was Born

It was on this day, May 29, 1903, comedian/entertainer/actor Bob Hope (Leslie Townes Hope) was born. An English-born American comedian and actor, Hope appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television and movies. He was also noted for his work with the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO shows entertaining American military personnel.

Born in Eltham, London, England, the fifth of seven sons, the Hope family emigrated to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, and passed inspection at Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. Bob Hope became a U.S. citizen in 1920 at the age of 17.

From the age of 12, Bob Hope worked at a variety of odd jobs at a local boardwalk. He would busk, doing dance and comedy patter to make extra money. He entered many dancing and amateur talent contests (as Lester Hope), and won prizes for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. Hope also boxed briefly and unsuccessfully under the name Packy East (after the popular Packey McFarland), once making it to the semifinals of the Ohio novice championship.

In 1938 Paramount Pictures signed Hope for the film The Big Broadcast of 1938, also starring W. C. Fields. During a duet with Shirley Ross as accompanied by Shep Fields and his orchestra, Hope introduced the song later to become his trademark, “Thanks for the Memory”, which became a major hit and was praised by critics. Hope became one of Paramount’s biggest stars, and would remain with the studio through the 1950s.

As well as an actor, Hope was both a world-class singer and dancer, introducing many major songs during the course of his career, including the Oscar-winning “Buttons and Bows” in The Paleface (1948), his biggest hit song by far, and he matched James Cagney’s bravura dancing during the tabletop showdown sequence in The Seven Little Foys (1955).

Hope starred in fifty-two theatrical features altogether between 1938 and 1972, not to mention cameos and short films, and frequently stated that his movies were the most important part of his career.

Linked with Bing Crosby for the seven “Road” pictures from 1940 to 1962 and countless stage, radio, and television appearances together, this informal pairing was important to Hope’s career. While Crosby had already been a hugely popular singer and movie star for years, Hope’s screen career became white hot after the 1940 release of Road to Singapore. It stayed that way for over two decades continuing until Cancel My Reservation (1972), Hope’s last theatrical starring role. This pairing became so linked in public perception that it became difficult to think of either without the other even though they actually pursued separate careers. They had planned one more movie together, The Road to the Fountain of Youth, until Crosby’s demise abruptly intervened.

In 1941, after America’s entrance into World War II, Hope began performing for U.S. troops abroad; he would play shows for more than a million American servicemen by 1953. Some 65 million people watched him perform for troops in Vietnam on Christmas Eve in 1966, in his largest broadcast.

Hope also became a legend for his countless TV specials, which he would perform over the course of some five decades. He hosted the Academy Awards ceremony a total of 18 times, more than any other Oscars host.

1894 – Beatrice Lillie (Gladys Lillie) (actress: On Approval, Thoroughly Modern Millie; died Jan 20, 1989)

1914 – (Walter) Stacy Keach Sr. (actor: The Parallax View, High Velocity, Fighting Back, Armed and Dangerous, The Rockford Files, Bonanza, Longstreet, Maverick; father of actors Stacy and James Keach; died Feb 13, 2003)

1921 – Clifton James (actor: Lone Star, The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, The Man with the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die, David and Lisa, Cool Hand Luke, Lewis & Clark, City of Angels)

1942 – Kevin Conway (actor: Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy, The Quick and the Dead, Gettysburg, One Good Cop, Home Boy, Rage of Angels, Paradise Alley, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Other People’s Money, Of Mice and Men, When You Comin’ Back – Red Ryder?)

1944 – Helmut Berger (actor: The Damned, Dorian Gray, The Godfather, Part 3)

1947 – Anthony Geary (actor: General Hospital, High Desert Kill, Scorchers, Night of the Warrior, Crack House, UHF)

1958 – Annette Bening (actress: Richard III, The American President, Love Affair, Bugsy, Postcards from the Edge, The Grifters, Valmont, The Great Outdoors, Mars Attacks!, American Beauty)

1963 – Lisa Whelchel (actress: The Facts of Life, Where the Red Fern Grows: Part 2, Twirl, The Double McGuffin)

Mark your calendar for September 29th, exactly four months now from this day will be the day that the Jackson Film Fest takes the stage at the historic Michigan Theater, Jackson, Michigan and presents our inaugural film fest.

It would be an honor if all of our readers were in attendance on that day. 

Please follow this blog for further information.


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