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Stephen Schochet

 

 

 

Bob Hope Stories

by Stephen Schochet

 

Once, when he was a little boy in England, Leslie Hope (he later renamed himself Bob Hope after a race car driver he idolized) wanted to pick an apple off a tree. Symbolic of his career, he didn't want just any apple but the highest one possible. He lost his balance, fell and permanently changed the shape of his nose.

His big break in Hollywood was getting the part Jack Benny turned down in the Paramount Studios film The Big Broadcast of 1938. The director Mitchell Leisen could not stand the star of the film, the ornery W.C. Fields, whose on set antics included getting too soused to do the required scenes, flubbing his lines and screaming for his lawyer. Leisen found Hope much more cooperative, although Bob was a nervous ham in front of the camera. Desperate to be a more traditional leading man like Fred Macmurray, Hope begged Paramount to pay for a nose job but they refused. In Big Broadcast he got to sing "Thanks For The Memories" which along with his ski nose became two of Hope's trademarks.

For his radio show, when Hope found out that one of his competitors, Jack Benny, hired two writers for $1,000 a week, Bob in turn employed ten writers for $100 a week each and hated paying. At times he would gather the staff at the bottom of a stairwell and toss their paychecks down as paper airplanes. The scribes got used to their boss interrupting intimacy with their wives by calling their houses very late at night to go over new material. For their part, the writers created the Hope movie character, egomaniacal, womanizing and cowardly, with the last trait not being true.

Hope's relationship with his film partner Bing Crosby was love-hate. In one of their early Road to movies made at Paramount Studios, two endings were filmed in which each of the leading men ended up with Dorothy Lamour, to see which result audiences preferred. Cinema goers overwhelmingly chose Bing, which annoyed Hope, who got his costar back by constantly reminding him that he wore a toupee. In one scene both men were sharing a room and about to settle down for some shuteye; Bing refused to take his hat off. No amount of coaxing from Paramount executives could get Crosby to change his mind; he did not want to hear Bob's toupee barbs. Hope later said the greatest acting performance he ever gave was smiling when he served as Master of Ceremonies while Bing won his Academy Award for playing a priest in Going My Way (1944).

In the late 30s, Bob Hope made fun of veterans on his radio show. Performing at army bases was a way to bring up ratings. Then came World War II with Hope and a number of other stars recruited by the government for a war bond selling, victory caravan tour. Unlike many of the pampered celebrities who complained about the cramped quarters on their shared train, the ex-vaudevillian Hope was exhilarated by the travel. It was no problem for him to go overseas to entertain the troops.

At first Hope found America's homesick young fighting men to be the easiest audience he ever faced. Jokes that would die in the states would get uproarious laughter from the troops. In the beginning Hope stayed out of combat areas, but then he reasoned that those in actual battles needed him the most. Hope became addicted to the to the danger of flying in planes that might get shot down and performing in places that had recently been attacked. But the comedian was greatly moved by the injuries he saw in hospital wards, and quietly helped set up several of the soldiers he met in their own businesses after the war ended. Later Bob could not understand the Vietnam situation, getting in trouble when he repeatedly suggested we should bomb the enemy into submission. Hope's love for the troops stayed constant, even in Nam when some of the drafted enlisted men booed him.

Hope got along great with all the Presidents he met, whether he agreed with them or not. He once said that Roosevelt laughed so hard at his jokes he almost voted democrat. He loved telling the story about a marine in World War II who was disappointed that he had not killed a Japanese soldier. At the edge of a jungle he tried to smoke them out, by shouting," To hell with Hirohito!" It worked, a Japanese soldier came out and shouted," To hell with Roosevelt!" But the marine lowered his weapon," Darn it, I can't shoot a fellow Republican."

 

 

 

Author Stephen Schochet is a professional tour guide in Hollywood who years ago began collecting little known, humorous anecdotes to tell to his customers. His new book isHollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies! The book contains a timeless treasure trove of colorful vignettes featuring an amazing all-star cast of icons including John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn, and many others both past and contemporary. Tim Sika, host of the radio show Celluloid Dreams on KSJS in San Jose has called Stephen, “The best storyteller about Hollywood we have ever heard." Buy the Kindle version today..

 

 

 

 

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