Leslie T. Hope

From Ohio History Central
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Bob Hope receiving an Honorary Oscar

Leslie Townes Hope, better known as Bob Hope, was born on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England. In 1908, Hope's family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Bob Hope officially became an American citizen in 1920. During his lifetime, Hope emerged as one of the leading comedians and actors in the United States.

Hope developed a love of show business at a young age. He performed on the boardwalk in Cleveland and also competed in several talent competitions. He became especially well known for his impersonation of actor Charlie Chaplin. Hope also spent some of his youth at the Boys' Industrial School near Lancaster, Ohio. This institution was for boys who had gotten into trouble with law enforcement officials. As an adult, Hope donated sizable sums of money to the institution, claiming that his time there caused him to lead a better and more honorable life.

In 1925, Hope became a Vaudeville star, performing across the United States. Hoping for a movie career, in 1930, he participated in a screen test, which he failed, in Hollywood. He then moved to New York City, New York, where Hope acted in several Broadway plays. It was at this time that Hope adopted the stage name "Bob." Purportedly he did this because some critics referred to him as "Hopelessly," mocking his birth name of Leslie.

By the mid 1930s, Hope had returned to Hollywood, where he starred in a series of movies. Most of his early films failed to attract much attention from moviegoers, but by the late 1930s, he had emerged as a major star. Among Hope's more famous movies were The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938), Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946), Road to Rio (1947), My Favorite Brunette (1947), Road to Bali (1952), and The Road to Hong Kong (1962). Hope premiered the song "Thanks for the Memories" in The Big Broadcast of 1938, which became his theme song for the remainder of his career. During the 1930s, Hope also began to perform on national radio programs and also on television, once this medium appeared. For most of his radio and television careers, he worked for the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), and viewers especially liked his various Christmas specials.

During his career, Hope also was a major supporter of United States soldiers. He traveled overseas more than sixty times to entertain the troops in conjunction with the United Service Organizations (USO). Hope performed for troops during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. To honor Hope's efforts, in 1997, United States President Bill Clinton signed a bill making Hope an "Honorary Veteran."

Hope also was well known for his love of sports. As a young man, he had worked as a golf caddy, starting his life-long infatuation with golf. He also briefly boxed, fighting under the pseudonym "Packy East." Later in life, Hope also was partial owner of the Cleveland Indians, a Major League Baseball team, and of the Los Angeles Rams, a National Football League team. Hope died on July 27, 2003, approximately two months following his one hundredth birthday.

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