Bob Hope was a British-born American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and a truly versatile artist. With a career spanning nearly 80 years, Hope appeared in over 70 films and shorts, including a series of “Road” movies co-starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. In addition to hosting the Academy Awards fourteen times (more than any other host), he appeared in many stage productions and television roles and was the author of fourteen books. The song “Thanks for the Memory” is widely regarded as Hope’s signature tune.
Celebrated for his long career performing United Service Organizations (USO) shows to entertain active service American military personnel—he made 57 tours for the USO between 1941 and 1991—Hope was declared an honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces in 1997 by the act of the U.S. Congress.
The Guinness Book of Records called him the most honored entertainer ever. And during his 1993 televised birthday celebration, when he turned 90, General Colin Powell saluted Hope “for his tireless USO trouping”, which was followed by onstage tributes from all branches of the armed forces. General William Westmoreland spoke about his loyalty to the GI throughout the gritty Vietnam years. And bandleader Les Brown, who was with him during many of his tours, mentioned that his band “had seen more of Hope’s [butt] in the last forty years than any of Hope’s immediate family.”
During the Vietnam War years, he gave a number of high-rating television specials and sensed that the media had given him a broad endorsement for continuing on his GI mercy missions. Soon after his Christmas show in Saigon in 1967, he learned that the Vietcong had planned a terrorist attack at his hotel against him and his entire troupe, missing him by ten minutes. He was later “mystified,” writes Faith, “and … increasingly intolerant of the pockets of dissent. Draft-card burnings on college campuses angered him…” “Can you imagine,” Hope wrote in a magazine article, “… that people in America are burning their draft cards to show their opposition and that some of them are actually rooting for your defeat?” In the spring of 1973, Hope began writing his fifth book, The Last Christmas Show, which was dedicated to “the men and women of the armed forces and to those who also served by worrying and waiting.” He signed over his royalties to the USO.