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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Obituary: Bob Hope
Bob Hope
Bob Hope: The original fast-talking wise-cracker

Comedian Bob Hope has died at the age of 100.

Despite being born in England, Bob Hope was the most American of comedians.

His deft delivery of the one-liner made him the best known comedian since Charlie Chaplin.

He was born Leslie Townes Hope at Eltham in south-east London in 1903, the son of a stonemason and a former concert singer.

He later changed his name to Bob, because "it sounded brisker".

"Extraordinary averageness"

When he was four, the family sailed to America, "because I knew I had very little chance of becoming king," he once quipped.

After training as a tap-dancer, he became a major star in vaudeville, the American form of music hall which was then still hugely popular.

The Hope family
The Hope family, with Bob front centre

By the onset of World War II, he had made his name in radio.

His humour, one reviewer said, was based on "a kind of strenuous averageness", which paradoxically managed to set him apart.

"With his ski-slope nose and matching chin, he looked a little funny, but he also looked normal, even personable. He seemed part of the landscape, rather than the limelight."

Hope set great store by his topical gags. A team of writers worked constantly to keep them up to date.

But he also ad-libbed. His legendary throwaway punchlines and lethal pauses were delivered with split-second timing.

Favourite with the troops

The jokes came out with a jaunty self-confidence, at the rate of five or six a minute.

His long-suffering secretary once said that in 30 years she had typed out about seven million jokes and had never laughed once.

Bob Hope was among the first performers to entertain the troops.

It was a commitment he maintained for 50 years in many theatres of battle, from World War II to the Gulf War, to huge acclaim from his audiences.

In a 'Road To...' movie with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour
The Road To... movies were huge hits

In Vietnam he replied to critics who accused entertainers of supporting war, saying, "There's nobody more anti-war than I am."

The book he wrote about his journeys sold more than half a million copies.

He gave the proceeds to charity.

Bob Hope's film partnership with Bing Crosby was unique in comedy cinema, a double-act who each had their own individual careers.

In the Road To... caper movies they vied for the favours of Dorothy Lamour.

The on-screen rapport between the two male stars continued off-stage. They often stole one another's lines during filming, to brilliant comic effect.

They both said it kept them on their toes.

Enduring marriage

Like Crosby, Bob Hope was a keen golfer and founded pro-am charity golf tournaments.

His partners included some of the 10 American presidents he counted among his friends.

Though his eyesight and hearing both began to fail, Bob Hope continued to perform into his nineties.

Dolores and Bob Hope
With Dolores: Married for more than 60 years
He recently donated 88,000 pages of comedy material, including many of his classic one-liners, to the Bob Hope Gallery of Entertainment at the Library of Congress.

Opinions about Bob Hope sharply differed. Marlon Brando called him an "applause junkie", while Woody Allen said he had a "huge well of natural joy".

Days before his 95th birthday, in May 1998, he was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen.

Bob Hope and his wife Dolores married in the mid-1930s and adopted four children. She stuck by him despite his constant womanising.

A former dancer and singer herself, she performed with him in the twilight of his career.

He relied heavily on his writing team and was once called a joke salesman.

But, as the original fast-talking wisecracker, Bob Hope inspired generations of comedians and entertained countless millions of people.

Bob Hope in formidable wisecracking form
Bob Hope shows his formidable skill as a stand-up comedian

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