(1903–2003), the popular actor and comedian of vaudeville, radio, film and television
fame, also known for the many USO tours he led to entertain American troops, Hope was honored with more than 1,500 awards. Among them five special Oscars in 1941, 1945, 1953, 1960, and 1966. Between 1940 and 1978 he hosted the Academy Awards a record 17 times. Born in Eltham, England, to stonemason William Henry Hope and aspiring concert singer Avis Townes Hope, Bob spent the first few years of his life there before moving with his family to Cleveland in March 1908 where they settled in the Doan’s Corners neighborhood. He attended Fairmount Elementary School, Fairmount Junior High and East High School, dropping out at 16 to pursue a boxing career under the name Packy East, quitting after his defeat in the semifinals of the Ohio Novice Championships.
As a child he displayed an aptitude for music and dance, winning several Charlie Chaplin imitation contests. He took dancing lessons at Sojack’s Dance Academy on Central Avenue, where he soon found himself teaching classes. He sold newspapers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, served as delivery boy for Heisey’s Bakery and Standard Drugstore, worked as a taffy puller at Humphrey’s store, sold shoes at Taylor’s Department Store and flowers at LUNA PARK, and worked at his brother Fred’s stall at the CENTRAL MARKET, and briefly as a lineman for the Cleveland Illuminating Company. In 1922, Hope convinced then girlfriend Mildred Rosequist to become his dance partner, and the pair enjoyed some success on the local vaudeville circuit.
Though Hope’s career kept him in California for the majority of the time, he maintained close ties to Cleveland throughout his life. He went into business with his older brother Ivor, founding Hope Metals Products (1814 East 40th Street) in 1940, and was one of 10 investors who purchased the CLEVELAND INDIANS in 1946. He performed at CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL STADIUM in honor of Cleveland’s 175th Anniversary in 1971, singing “Thanks for the Memory” at the last baseball game played at Municipal Stadium in October 1993, and served as Grand Marshal of Cleveland’s Bicentennial Parade (Parade of Lights) in 1996. In honor of his 100th birthday (2003), the city renamed the theater district section of East 14th Street as Bob Hope Way/Memory Lane. Hope was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences several times throughout his career as well as by several U.S. presidents.
Photo of Bob Hope rehearsing for this first starring television role in the television special Star Spangled Revue, 1950
Bob Hope with Fanny Brice as “Baby Snooks.” New York: Murray Korman, ca. 1936. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (49)