Bob Hope and his Famous Christmas Shows-Giving So Much More than Entertainment

By George Khoury

It is an empty world without Bob Hope in it. A success in vaudeville, radio, Broadway, films, live shows and television Bob was actually British-born but his photo is next to the dictionary definition for “patriotic American.”

By 1908 the family had moved to Cleveland, Ohio and in 1920 he became a U.S. citizen. Knocking the entertainment circuit with various partners, he developed a smooth song and dance and comedy routine. Friends told him that he was funnier than any partner he had so Bob went dropped all other partners.

From 1934 until 1936 Bob made comedies for fledgling film companies in New York. In 1938 Bob signed with Paramount and took a part in The Big Broadcast of 1938 which starred W.C. Fields. Bob starred in fifty-two films between 1938 and 1972. But is is his wartime entertainment shows that have long endeared him to our hearts. Hope first show during a war took place in September 1939 while onboard the RMS Queen Mary. He went to the captain and asked to be allowed to calm down nervous who had wartime jitters.

His first USO show occurred May 6, 1941 at March Field in California. He traveled the world entertaining troop from World War II, Korean War, to the Vietnam War and then the Lebanon Civil War, The Iran and Iraq war and the Persian Gul War. His service lasted fifty years and earned him awards and the undying love of all Americans. During WW II, John Steinbeck was a war correspondent. He observed in 1941: “This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people.”

During WW II, Bob went overseas six times and logged in over a million miles. Hope was one of the earliest entertainers to want to go to Vietnam. At 61 years old he got his wish. He brought his show to the war in December 1964. The best way to appreciate Hope and those from the shows is to hear from former GIs.

“In 1969 I had just returned to Cu Chi base from an extended stay in the hospital. I had good timing, the Bob Hop show was in camp. Tht show did me a lot of good, and for a while there was no war. A very brave man, that Bob Hope. He is greatly missed, but also fondly remembered.”

“I attended the ’67 show at Cam Ranh Bay. Sat so far back, it was hard to see, but that didn’t matter, 43 years later, I was closer, thanks to You Tube. They don’t make ‘em like ol’ Ski Nose anymore. RIP, Bob. Vets don’t forget.”

“I was at Cam Ranh Bay also in ’67 at the show. Do you remember when they sang, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” There was not a dry eye. Take care. God bless and glad you made it home.”

“I will always have tears in my eyes when I remember singing, “Silent Night.’ I will always be grateful for what they brought and the courage it took for them to do it. He had our back.”

During his last filmed show televised Vietnam Christmas in 1972. Hope read a voice over narration as the footage showed the crowds at his Long Bihn show. Then the shots shifted to the way it currently looked-overgrown with weeds and empty. “Well this is how it looks now… this is how it should be…all those happy, smiling beautiful faces are gone. But most of them are really where they belong, home with their loved ones.”

Bob Hope went to his final curtain call July 27, 2001. His lovely partner and wife, Dolores followed in 2003.

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