#ClassicFilmReading: Hope, Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin

Talk about getting this in under the wire, eh? 

I always look forward to the Classic Film Reading Challenge that Raquel hosts every summer (would you believe me if I already have three books on my short list for next year's challenge?) and I always love to end with a book 'of the times', so for my final book this summer, we're examining Bob Hope's century. 

Bob Hope is an interesting entertainer, and in many ways, seems to have summed up his century. Think of the historical events he lived through and the quips he made along the way. 

Richard Zoglin's biography is more than just an examination of the comedian, it's an attempt to put him in context of how he once represented the best of Hollywood but then became a relic who might've overstayed his welcome (how else do you go from darling who tours the bases during the Second World War to controversial provocateur on the wrong side of the Vietnam War without being shaped by the time?). How do you go from cool to uncool?

I can't say that I'd sit here and call myself a Bob Hope fan; I don't source out his movies or anything—barring Bachelor in Paradise, which I love—but when I think of people who shaped what Hollywood's first century is, he'd certainly be on the list. 

Zolgin's biography traces Bob Hope's life from small English village (I had no clue he was born in the UK) to vaudeville star, to Broadway star, radio, Hollywood, television, perennial Oscar host, USO tours and so on, and the grip this man had on the popular culture was absolute. It does lump in the years quite closely; decades take up a single chapter towards the end of his life, and events that seem like they might merit a closer look get glanced over (like my beloved Bachelor in Paradise, but that might be a biased gripe). 

There isn't much in the way of dishy gossip here, so instead I'm going to share some of my favourite Bob Hope zingers (and he apparently kept them alphabetized by subject in a fireproof vault in his house, "Fairs, Fans, Finance, Firemen, Fishing..."): 
  • About his first movie, Going Spanish: "When they catch Dillinger they're going to make him watch it twice."
  • At the 1939 Oscars, about the table full of statues: "Looks like Bette Davis's garage.
  • At the 1940 Oscars (his first time as host): "What a wonderful thing, this benefit for David O. Selznick. [Gone with the Wind was the big winner that year]
  • At the 1941 Oscars, about the table full of statues: "What's the matter, did Selznick bring them back?"
  • At the 1941 Oscars, about how the winners weren't revealed in the newspaper beforehand for the first time: "When the last envelope was sealed, Price Waterhouse had to open it again to let Sidney Skolsky out." 
  • At the 1945 Oscars, lifting up youngster Margaret O'Brien so she could reach the microphone and give a speech: "Would you hurry up and grow please?"
  • At the 1953 Oscars, the first time they were televised: "There was a rumor going around last year that I might win an Oscar. But nobody paid any attention, so I stopped spreading it." 
  • About the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton affair: "I don't know how the picture [Cleopatra] is, but I'd like to make a deal for the outtakes." 
  • At the 1968 Oscars: "Welcome to the Academy Awards. Or as it's known at my house, Passover."
  • At the 1975 Oscars: "I think The Godfather: Part II has an excellent chance of winning. Neither Mr. Price or Mr. Waterhouse has been heard from in days." 
  • At Ronald Reagan's 1981 Inaugural Ball: "Reagan has been rehearsing for the Inaugural all week—he wanted to do it in one take."
Ultimately, I found this biography to be an informative overview of who Bob Hope was but it didn't really connect me to the man himself. 

And that's it from me for the 2022 #ClassicFilmReading challenge! See you next summer—and wish me luck as I source all the books on my shortlist throughout the winter!


  1. haha I love that you're already building a reading stack for next year! I'm not much of a Bob Hope either and didn't become one after reading the book. But I did enjoy the insights especially why he was as famous as he was. (And I was disappointed to read that he didn't have a rich inner life. I thought all entertainers did?!). Thanks for your review!


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