Introduction

Types of Entertainment

Music: Glenn Miller

Comedy: Bob Hope

Pin-ups: Betty Grable

Their Significance

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Sources

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Bob Hope
“First in the Hearts of the Servicemen”

HopeBorn Leslie Townes Hope in a London suburb in May 1903, Bob Hope was not originally a US citizen (he became one in 1920).  He came to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family when he was four years old.  In 1929, he changed his name to Bob because the nickname for Leslie was “Les” and the name “Les Hope” didn’t seem too inspiring or encouraging (7).  Hope became a successful vaudeville star in the early 1920’s, well-trained to “carry a tune, tell jokes, ad lib, read lines and contort his handsome rubbery face into a broad array of clownish responses. He was a natural who, before long, triumphed on Broadway and radio” (6).  He went on to be not only on Broadway and on the radio, but also on television and in multiple movies.  Hope’s most significant accomplishment and the one that touched the most people was his tremendous ability to entertain troops in WWII.

Hope On StageWith his wit and fast humor, Hope was able to make soldiers laugh and lift their spirits with his jokes and monologues, a true gift which was starkly contrasted by the feelings that servicemen otherwise experienced while at war: fear, homesickness, and depression, just to name a few.  Hope broadcasted a total of 144 radio shows during the war, the majority of which were from military bases. Hope would identify the base right away, opening his monologue with “This is Bob (insert location here) Hope.”

“It didn’t take Hope long to figure out how to win an audience of troops. ‘The essential element of foxhole humor, in Hope’s view, is that the GI laughed hardest when the joke was on him....' In Hope’s words, ‘[The GI] can take it. He’s laughing off the icy cold, the searing heat, the bugs and the scorpions, his fears and his frustrations.’ He also believed that the GI’s real enemies, even after war broke out, were never just the Germans or the Japanese. The enemies were boredom, mud, officers, and abstinence. Any joke that touched those nerves was a sure thing” (7).

Hope with hurt men

“The most wonderful thing about England right now is Bob Hope… He is tireless and funny, and full of responsibility, too, although he carries it lightly and gaily. There isn’t a hospital ward that he hasn’t dropped into and given a show; there isn’t a small unit anywhere that isn’t either talking about his jokes or anticipating them. What a gift laughter is!”
-Actor Burgess Meredith, summer 1943 (7)

Hope never enlisted in the army.  Because of this, at the time some questioned Hope’s courage and went so far as to suggest that he was performing for troops so that he could stay out of the army.  However, Hope was extremely hard-working and “…he brought succor to the soldiers in the dirt and consoled countless families of those who didn't make it back…he didn't limit himself to training camps and safe territories, but inched as close to the front as he was allowed, never giving himself or his staff a break” (6).

Even after his involvement in WWII, he continued to entertain troops in the wars following it.  His first performance for the troops was May 6, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, and his last in 1990 was right before the Persian Gulf War at the age of 90 (8).  In 1997, the United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) successfully worked with Congress to designate Bob Hope the first and only Honorary Veteran of the United States Armed Forces; Hope passed away in 2003.