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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
A hundred years of comedy
Bob Hope
Bob Hope is still one of the world's best-loved stars
BBC News Online takes a look back at the career of one of the most enduring entertainers in the business as he celebrates his 100th birthday.

Bob Hope was born Leslie Hope in Eltham, south London, in 1903, but the family moved to Bristol while he was a baby with the belief Hope Senior would find stable work as a stonemason.

But Britain can hardly lay claim to have moulded one of the world's most dearly-loved comic actors - the family packed up and moved to Ohio when Hope was just four.

In 1920 Bob and his four brothers were declared US citizens.

One of the star's first jobs in showbusiness was as a dancer in the Fatty Arbuckle vaudeville review in 1924, having learnt to perform in a multitude of talent shows.

He was on Broadway by the early 1930s with his partner George Byrne, but at this point the producers did not recognise Hope's potential and he was persuaded to relaunch his career on the west coast.

Bob Hope
The young Bob Hope: His family moved to the US when he was four
After building up his part as a compere in Pennsylvania he became a one-man act and once again travelled back to Broadway, wowing the critics in the musical Roberta in 1933.

It was during this time that he was introduced to the young Dolores Reade, who he married in 1934 - a partnership that has been one of the most enduring in Hollywood.

The couple's birthdays are just two days apart. With Dolores on 27 May and Bob's on 29 May, each year they celebrate together on the 28th.


Broadway productions continued and including the Ziegfield Folies and Red, Hot and Blue alongside Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante.

Hope's first major film for Paramount Pictures was the Big Broadcast of 1938, which although largely forgettable, saw him duet on Thanks for the Memory with Shirley Ross.

He went on to have string of hits with Paramount, with which he enjoyed a long relationship, including College Swing, Give Me a Sailor and Never Say Die.

Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour
Bob Hope starred opposite Dorothy Lamour in the Road To... films
The Cat and the Canary in 1939 was seen as a seminal performance but led to criticism that he stuck to a formula for many years to come.

When Hope teamed up with Bing Crosby for the Road to Singapore musical comedy it created one of the big screen's most memorable partnerships.

The Road to Zanzibar, Morocco, Hong Kong, Rio, Bali and Utopia followed in quick succession.

But it was Hope's first forays into television that really helped make him one of the most famous faces in America.

He hosted an NBC special on Easter Sunday in 1950 featuring guests Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Dinah Shore.


Although Hope refused to present a weekly TV slot he remained an NBC favourite for 60 years hosting ad hoc shows.

He also hosted the Academy Awards for several years and was given four honorary Oscars for his contribution to showbusiness.

Such was his popularity that he has befriended and entertained at least 11 presidents including Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Ford, Nixon and Clinton.

He was hailed as "America's most prized ambassador of goodwill throughout the world" when presented with the Congressional Gold Medal from President Kennedy.

Britain also honoured him with an honorary knighthood in 1998.

One of Hope's biggest commitments has been entertaining troops around the world through times of war and peace, which began with a visit to California for a radio show in front of airmen in 1941.

During World War II, Hope's radio shows were usually performed in front of military personnel at camps in the US and theatres across Europe and the South Pacific.

Bob Hope
Hope entertained the troops during war and peace time
Every Christmas he and Dolores travelled to bases around the world to present a festive broadcast and boost the morale of troops who were away from their families.


He continued to entertain the troops right up until the Gulf War of 1990 when he went to Saudi Arabia to greet the men and women involved in Operation Desert Storm.

Such was his devotion to the cause that he was given honorary veteran status in 1997 - the first person it had ever been bestowed upon.

During his career he has been given more than 1,000 awards.

Hope rarely makes public or television appearances now, his failing health keeping him away from his adoring fans.

But his influence and popularity remain as strong as ever, bringing him iconic status as one of America's greatest living actors and humanitarians.

The BBC's David Willis reports from Hollywood
"By anyone's standards it's been a remarkable career"

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