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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Comedian Bob Hope dies
 Bob and Dolores Hope in 1998

Legendary entertainer Bob Hope has died, just weeks after celebrating his 100th birthday.

The comic and film actor, regarded as one of the United States' greatest stars, celebrated his centenary in May.

He died of pneumonia in his sleep late on Sunday at his home in Toluca Lake, California, with his family at his bedside, his publicist said.

His sense of humour stayed with him until the end. When his wife of 63 years, Dolores, asked him where he wanted to be buried Hope quipped: "Surprise me!"

US President George Bush led the tributes, saying: "Today America lost a great citizen.

"Bob Hope made us laugh. He lifted our spirits. Bob Hope served our nation. We will mourn the loss of a good man."

President Bush also thanked him for entertaining "thousands of troops from different generations".

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the Queen, who met Hope many times, was "very sad" to hear the news and would be sending a private message to his widow, Dolores.

BOB HOPE
Bob and Dolores Hope
Born 1903, London
Moved to US aged four
Became stage, radio and film star in 1930s
Starred in more than 70 films, including "Road" series with Bing Crosby
Television specials ran from 1950-95
Entertained troops from World War II to first Gulf War
Given more than 2,000 awards
Hosted 18 Oscars ceremony - but never won one for acting
In May, birthday celebrations were held around the US and around the world - but, with failing eyesight and hearing, Hope was not well enough to attend them.

The performer was born in London but moved to the US aged four and became known as the "king of the wisecrack".

He became one of the US' favourites through more than 50 films - including the "Road" movies with Bing Crosby - plus television and radio shows.

He hosted more Academy Award ceremonies than anyone else, and was known for entertaining troops from World War II to the first Gulf War.

HAVE YOUR SAY
A man of many talents who brought smiles to millions across the world
Jason, USA

On Hope's 100th birthday, the President Bush established the Bob Hope American Patriot Award for civilians showing "extraordinary love of their country".

Other birthday celebrations had included the release of 101 balloons, the naming of a Bob Hope Square in Hollywood and Bob Hope day in 35 US states.

Hope is said to have joked to his family: "I'm so old, they've cancelled my blood type."

His wife of 69 years, Dolores, is 94.

Bob Hope visits US troops in South Vietnam on Dec 25 1964

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

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

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.

His fame grew on stage, radio and screen, and Hope became a close friend of presidents, including Kennedy, Nixon, Ford and Reagan.

He built up a personal fortune of an estimated $200m (123m).

He is in the Guinness Book of Records as the most honoured entertainer in history after receiving more than 2,000 awards.

They included the Congressional Medal of Honour from President Kennedy and an honorary knighthood from the Queen in 1998.

He will be remembered by a lot of veterans for the work he did during the war
Dame Vera Lynn
British wartime entertainer
But he never received the one he most wanted - an Oscar for acting.

Introducing the ceremony in 1968, he joked: "Welcome to the Academy Awards. Or as it's known in my house - Passover."

More than 89,000 pages of his jokes - most of them by a team of almost 100 writers - are preserved in the new Bob Hope Gallery at the US Library of Congress.

Five years ago false reports that Hope had died reached US Congress when Arizona Republican Bob Stump told colleagues: "It is with great sadness I announce that Bob Hope has died."

But Bob Hope's daughter, Linda, immediately denied the report, saying: "It's not true, he's happily having his breakfast."

UK wartime entertainer Dame Vera Lynn said Hope would be greatly missed.

"It's a period that meant a lot to so many people and he will be remembered by a lot of veterans for the work he did during that time," she said.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Higham
"He became a symbol of American comedy"


US President George Bush
"Today America lost a great citizen"



SEE ALSO:
Bush leads tributes to comic
28 Jul 03  |  Entertainment


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