Friday, September 7, 2012

The Elusive Bob Hope Mystery

Doris Day and Bob Hope
Bob Hope and his South Pacific partners, songstress Frances Langford, comedian Jerry Collonna, not to mention Patty Thomas and vaudevillian Barney Dean, made a number of trips overseas to entertain troops. The exact number has not been official because every account offers a different number (but the general statistic is 199.) Since July 27 happens to be the anniversary of Bob Hope's death, it seems only fitting to acknowledge the service he provided to so many American troops. In 1941, he was awards an Oscar for his “contribution to humanity,” in giving a record-breaking 562 benefits in two years.

“I was born with a sense of timing and coordination,” Bob Hope later recalled. A master of the gag and ad-libbing, star of stage, screen and radio, the inimitable showman also produced two bestsellers, They’ve Got Me Covered and I Never Left Home. The latter of which brought us highlights of his amazing experiences from his U.S.O. tours through the jungles and islands of the South Pacific. The American people received these great civilian-soldiers enthusiastically, and were so grateful for the straight link they provided with their boys overseas. Bob Hope was essentially a “showman.” He was at his best when he was singing songs and cracking jokes that mean home and heart to millions of service boys.

Both telegrams courtesy of Jerry McKeown.

After reading the first telegram, this one is ironic.

On radio, Hope took advantage of the medium to entertain troops through the Command Performance programs, and on rare occasion, promoted his efforts in the hopes that radio listeners would be inspired to do their part in the cause. On June 21, 1945, NBC offered a broadcast of Bob Hope, Jerry Colonna and Patty Thomas making plans to leave for their sixth U.S.O. tour. Just days before, on June 5, the final episode of The Pepsodent Show was broadcast from the first Carrier Command, Sedalia Army Air Command near  Kansas City, Missouri. Bob Hope announced he was spending the summer on another tour, and before the episode closed, dreamed that he was being court-martialed after flying over "The Hump" in China. 

When he returned to America, Bob Hope was a guest on the September 2, 1945 broadcast of We, The People, discussing his tour through Germany, now that the war was over. 

On October 4, 1948, Bob Hope was among a celebrity lineup (consisting of Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Dinah Shore, Harold Peary, Jack Benny, Larry Adler, George Montgomery and Gregory Peck), for ABC's The Waking Giant, a radio special celebrating the post-war re-activation of the U.S.O.

Bob Hope and his writers. (Photo courtesy of Jerry McKeown)
For the November 19, 1950 broadcast of The Big Show, Bob Hope delivered a comedic monologue about entertaining the U.S. troops in Korea. Other assorted Bob Hope guest spots noteworthy of listening to is the October 12, 1944 broadcast of The Kraft Music Hall, starring Bing Crosby, in which Hope thanked Bing for entertaining the troops. Crosby had recently returned from his trip, and wanted to express the same satisfaction Hope received from the American G.I.s. (All of The Pepsodent Show broadcasts from 1944-45, by the way, originated from various naval bases and military air fields, with Hope and the cast entertaining troops here at home.)

All of the radio broadcasts described above exist in recorded form and are worthy of seeking out for entertainment, and a reminder of how busy the entertainer was, between a weekly radio program, movie roles and an occasional magazine article.

Now the mystery...
Bob Hope also took time to promote his 1944 book, I Never Left Home, a sparkling account of what he saw and did on his first overseas U.S.O. entertainment junket to Europe and Africa. It sold over 1.5 million copies and was promoted many times over the radio. The most popular was the January 8, 1945 broadcast of The Lux Radio Theater, when an adaptation of the book was dramatized, with Bob Hope, Tony Ramano and Jerry Colonna in the cast. The radio script was written by Sanford Barnett. What remains a mystery (temporarily as we're still digging into an archive) is who wrote the radio script for The Cavalcade of America that quietly promoted the same book?

A Bob Hope 78 released through Capitol Records.

Episode #405  “REPORT FROM THE PACIFIC”  Broadcast October 16, 1944
Jerry Collonna (as himself); Richard Crenna (the soldier and Wally); Barney Dean (as himself); Frank Graham (Blue Water and the narrator); Tom Holland (voice #1 and voice #3 and Doc); Bob Hope (as himself); Bob Jellison (man #4 and Maurie and voice #5); Frances Langford (as herself); Dorothy Lovett (the Red Cross girl); Eddie Marr (voice #7 and voice #2 and voice #4); Frank Martin (Ferguson and man #2 and Slim); John McIntire (Reyes and man #1); Tyler McVey (Gus and man #3 and the dentist); Franklin Parker (voice #6 and voice #8); and Patty Thomas (as herself).
Producer: Jack Zoller
Director: Jack Zoller
Program Announcer: Walter Huston
Commercial Announcer: Gayne Whitman
Music Composer: Robert Armbruster
Music Conductor: Robert Armbruster

Photo taken during actual Cavalcade of America performance!

The writer of this script remains unknown, but it’s believed Bob Hope or his staff of writers hammered the typewriter keys, because the script still remains copyrighted 1943 by Bob Hope Productions. DuPont does not own the rights to this script, and the only existing copies of the script at the Library of Congress and DuPont archives fail to cite the script writer on the cover. What is clear is the mention of Hope's latest book, and the fact that incidents dramatized for this episode were adapted from the book. Perhaps one day soon we'll solve this mystery.