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Bob Hope: Entertainer of the Century
by Richard Zoglin
A Review by Kay McAdam
Bop Hope: entertainer of the century? – an ambitious enough opinion to entice me to pick up Richard Zoglin’s biography of the British-born stage/film/radio/television star. According to the book’s “About the Author,” Zoglin, a contributing editor and theater critic for Time, is also the author of “the definitive history” of 1970s stand-up comedy. With this list of substantial credentials and generous access to Hope’s papers, courtesy of Linda Hope and The Library of Congress, Zoglin has written one fine book, Hope: Entertainer of the Century.
Zoglin is correct:
. . . the show business world he [Hope] left behind would not have been the same without him. Every late-night talk-show host who does an opening monologue is tilling the ground that Bob Hope first plowed. Every year’s burst of Oscar frenzy . . . can be traced back. . . to Hope’s role in making the Academy Awards show an annual must-see event. The entire image-making industry that rules Hollywood . . . is an elaboration of the publicity and brand-building machinery that Hope pioneered.
Zoglin’s writing is fluid, unpretentious and admiring of its subject without overinflating or mythologizing Hope’s persona. A notorious and unabashed womanizer, Hope’s assignations, and there are many, are presented without condemnation or pseudo psychoanalysis. He was what he was: talented, flirty and flawed.
Hope’s well-publicized, decade’s worth of travel to entertain troops from Alaska to Southeast Asia were a patriotic summons to champion the cause of whichever conflict the United States was embroiled in. Although his ambassadorial veneer began to thin during the Viet Nam years, it did not stop him from logging millions of miles to support all men and women in uniform.
Entertainer of the century? I will concur with Zoglin without diminishing the pop culture status of Sinatra, Elvis, Gable, Bing, John Wayne and others. Hope’s story is more than rags-to-riches. It’s about poverty, immigration, collaboration, foresight, determination, and, of course, talent. Hope is the story of the evolution of our popular culture in the 20th century. The least we can do is say, Thanks for the memory, Bob! Awfully glad we met you, cheerio, tootle-oo.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]