Legendary entertainer Bob Hope has died at the age of 100, a family spokesperson said today (July 28). Hope died of pneumonia last night in Los Angeles at 9:28 p.m. with his family at his side, spokesman Ward Grant said.
Hope, who was born in England, was the ultimate comedian, a master of timing who turned the one-liner into an art form and became a national institution. His career, which included stints as a amateur boxer, minstrel in black face and dancer, spanned seven decades, in which he starred in five mediums: vaudeville, radio, stage, movies and television.
The devoted American was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, Kent, England, the fifth of seven sons of a stonemason. His father moved his family to Cleveland, when Hope was three to work on a church there.
Virtually running his own joke factory by employing almost 100 writers, Hope was able to draw on a collection of hundreds of thousands of jokes that specialized in sexual double entendres, gags about his ski-slope-shaped nose and lines that paid homage to his decided lack of humility and willingness to con anyone.
Hope was one of the first superstars and one of the 20th century’s greatest comedians. He also pioneered with Bring Crosby of one of Hollywood’s most enduring genres — the buddy movie. Crosby and Hope became one of the screen’s great couples in a succession of “Road” movies beginning with 1939’s “Road to Singapore,” which was originally a serious drama called “The Road to Mandalay” that was turned into a comedy first for George Burns and Gracie Allen and then for Jack Oakie and Fred MacMurray, all of whom turned it down.
The comedian became known to generations of fans via his appearances for U.S. troops around the world, many of which were broadcast as TV specials by NBC. He also became a longtime fixture of the annual Academy Awards, hosting or co-hosting the Oscars a record 18 times from 1939 through 1977.
Beginning in the mid-’40s, Hope appeared as a guest on albums by contemporaries such as Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. In 1994, he and his wife Dolores released a collection of seasonal material titled “Hopes for the Holidays.”
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