People have called Bob Hope the “Entertainer of the 20th Century,” and he was no less than a titan of Old Hollywood. But behind the scenes of Hope’s family-friendly career is a life of rivalry, scandal, and very dirty little secrets. Without further ado, draw back the curtains and let these hidden facts about Bob Hope entertain you…
1. He Had A Completely Different Name
Bob Hope’s name wasn’t actually Bob Hope; he was born Leslie Townes Hope in London in 1903. Hope may have taken on the name “Bob” as a tribute to the popular racer Bob Burman—but there is a sadder theory. Growing up, children would tease him by calling him “Hope, Leslie” until it sounded like “Hopeless,” spurring the name change.
2. His Home Life Was Rough
Hope came from modest beginnings, being the son of a stonemason and a light opera singer in a large family of seven boys. In 1908, the family picked up and moved to the United States for a better life, and Hope helped to support them by taking on a series of odd jobs, including working as a busker. But a life-changing event was just around the corner.
3. He Got Into A Horrific Accident
While making money for his family, Hope worked with one of his brothers as a lineman, clearing trees from power lines. That’s when disaster struck. One day, Hope was on a tree when it began falling to the ground with him in it. Although he swung from underneath it, narrowly avoiding a potentially fatal accident, he didn’t walk away unscathed…
4. He Got Plastic Surgery
As Hope crashed to the ground, he busted up his moneymaker—his face—and only came to in the hospital. His facial injuries were so bad that the staff refused to give him mirror for three whole weeks. In the end, though, it might have been the best thing to happen to him: After reconstructive surgery, his visage became even more handsome and memorable than before.
5. He Was A Drop-Out
With his looks set, Hope started to pursue stardom with a obsessive grit. The teenager even dropped out of school, feeling that it would only hold him back, and became a successful vaudeville dancer. With the likes of popular comedian Fatty Arbuckle attending his shows, it wasn’t long before Hollywood came knocking…except that wasn’t a good thing.
6. He Hated His Own Work
Hope’s first appearance on the silver screen was in 1934’s Going Spanish. It couldn’t have gone worse. Just about everyone panned the film, including Hope himself. Notorious bank robber John Dillinger was at large when it premiered, and Hope quipped after the film’s release, “When they catch Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice.” But Hope was about to make his mark.
7. He Was In An Iconic Series
By the 1940s, Hope’s career took off in both film and radio, and he became became a major box office draw with Road to Singapore. Acting alongside Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, Hope went on to make six more “Road to…” films that would cement his place among the Hollywood legends. And just as you’d expect, Hope was downright naughty on set…
8. He Caused A Fight On Set
While on the set of Road to Singapore, Hope might have been having too good a time with it. One day, the actor started a giant soap suds fight with co-stars Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. While this was fun for them, the director was utterly incensed, since it meant the crew had to spend hours redoing their costumes and make-up.
9. He Made A Frenemy
Hope and Crosby always had a friendly rivalry going on together, and liked to joke about it frequently. Hope once famously said, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Bing, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me. And that’s the way we go through life—doing nothing for each other!’” Yet behind the scenes, the story was much more complicated.
10. He Had A Nemesis
Hope and Crosby were supposedly as close as brothers—but there was a dark side to their friendship. The two legends often fought, and as their egos grew, so did the conflicts. Not only was Crosby aloof on set, the pair reportedly rarely hung out in private. Apparently, Hope even once confessed that he “simply didn’t like Bing and, at times, detested him.”
Still, that’s not even the worst surprise when it comes to Hope.
11. He Had A Secret Wedding
Just before he made it big in Hollywood, Hope headlined with the vaudeville performer Louise Troxell. Soon after, the sparks were flying between them off stage, and the pair married in secret on January 25, 1933. At 30 years old, Hope might have felt he was ready to settle down and start a nice, quiet family. Only, that’s not what happened at all.
12. He Was Unfaithful To His Wife
Shortly after Hope and Troxell’s wedding, a new girl named Dolores Reade joined their vaudeville troupe. She turned out to be Hope’s undoing. A busty Ziegfeld beauty and a heck of an entertainer in her own right, Reade caught the very married Hope’s eye the minute she walked in the joint, and they struck up an affair. Spoiler: This is going nowhere good.
13. He Had A Bitter Breakup
Suddenly, Hope and Troxell’s marriage was over almost as soon as it began. The couple officially called it quits in November 1934, although very few people had known about their wedding in the first place. Reade and Hope, meanwhile, had been carrying on a public dalliance for months. And it gets even more twisted than that.
14. He Claimed He Was A Bigamist
See, while Hope and Troxell got divorced in November 1934, there was a snag: Hope claimed he married his new flame Dolores Reade months before that date, in February. So, according to Hope’s own testimony, America’s most beloved and wholesome entertainer was a big ol’ bigamist. Hold onto your hats, though: There’s one more stop on this crazy train.
15. He Had A Fake Marriage
In the end, Hope and Reade would stay together for a whopping 69 years. Except there is one jaw-dropping problem. In the end, Hope may never have married Dolores Reade. Records show the comedian lied through his teeth about their February union, and there are zero photos and no marriage certificate anywhere in evidence.
Most damning of all, Hope had a performance in New York the night he claimed he married Reade in Pennsylvania. Jesus. What else was this man hiding? Answer: A LOT.
16. His Life Looked Perfect…
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Hope’s life still looked ideal. After enough drama to last a lifetime, he settled right into his marriage with Reade, fake or not. The pair both had strong faiths, and they adopted a brood of four children to complete their picture-perfect life. Seriously, it was like The Brady Bunch up in here. Until, that is, you looked closer.
17. He Had A Harem
The public knew Hope as a stand-up family man, but industry insiders knew him much differently. Surprise, surprise: The man who hoodwinked two women into marriage wasn’t so faithful. Actually, he wasn’t faithful at all. As one insider wrote, whenever the superstar went to a hotel, “outside his room were three, four, five young, beautiful girls, waiting to be picked by him to come in.”
Hope was flirting with disaster…and disaster flirted right back.
18. He Had A Secret Rendezvous Spot
In 1949, Hope began an affair with the up-and-coming actress Barbara Payton, even setting her up with a Hollywood apartment so he could come and go from her bed at all hours of the night. But Payton, like many a starlet before her, was starved for attention and kept demanding more gifts and more favors from the veteran actor. Cue ominous music.
19. His Mistress Betrayed Him
Fed up with his play thing, Hope eventually broke things off with Payton, though he made sure to pay her off to keep her quiet. Her reaction was the definition of “spiteful.” Unable to seal her lips, the actress signed up for a 1956 tell-all interview in Confidential magazine, spilling the beans about her affair with Hope. And that wasn’t the only confession she made…
20. He Was Tabloid Fodder
Payton was out for blood in her interview, and she painted a grim portrait of the sunny comedian. According to the starlet, Hope wasn’t an American everyman, but instead “a mean-spirited individual with the ability to respond with a ruthless vengeance when sufficiently provoked.” Unfortunately for Payton, Hope’s response was nothing short of chilling.
21. He Knew How To Be Cruel
Although Hope must have been beside himself when Payton’s interview came out, he hadn’t survived so long in Hollywood without picking up a few tricks for dealing with attention-seekers, and he knew just what to do. He ignored her. Without Hope commenting, poor Barbara’s splashy confessions made barely a ripple in Tinseltown, and his secrets remained safe a while longer.
22. He Had Another “Mrs. Hope”
By the 1950s, Hope was getting more than a little sloppy about his extramarital affairs. At the beginning of the decade, he’d started a dalliance with his co-star Marilyn Maxwell, and the pair were all but shouting their lust from the rooftops. People would see them checking into cheap motels together, and industry insiders saw her around so much, they took to calling her “Mrs. Bob Hope.”
23. He Served His Country
Throughout his career, Hope was heavily involved with the United Service Organizations, entertaining the brave men and women in uniform from WWII all the way through to the 1990s. Hope’s support of the troops was so outsized that the US Congress made him an “Honorary Veteran.” But even here, he was one tough customer.
24. He Didn’t Like Cry Babies
Hope wanted to ensure that he only brought laughter and joy to the men and women serving. In fact, when touring with other performers for USO, Hope made one bizarre rule. He demanded that no one cry in front of the troops, particularly when they visited them in hospital. Except one day, a miracle forced him to break his own rule.
25. He Performed A Miracle
While Hope was visiting injured men in the hospital, he passed by the bed of a wounded soldier who had been in a months-long coma. Suddenly, with Hope standing by his bedside, the man awoke and exclaimed, “Hey, Bob Hope! When did you get here?” The actor teared up and had to leave the hospital room so the solider couldn’t see him bawling his eyes out.
26. He Was Demanding
Hope didn’t get to the top of the Hollywood pecking order by being a nice guy, and he made disturbing demands. The actor required all of his comedy writers to submit 20 jokes a day, five days a week, to his home. If they failed to bring the goods for two consecutive weeks, Hope would fire them without a second glance. Ouch.
27. He Mixed Business And Pleasure
Hope cheated so much, some of his affairs can’t really be called affairs; they were more like long-term relationships. While hosting the 1961 Miss World competition, Hope crowned Rosemarie Frankland as the winner and then quickly took her on as his mistress. They were together for 30 years, and many considered Frankland “the great love of his life.”
28. He Was A Strategic Lover
So how did Bob Hope manage to keep his dirty laundry out of the public eye? It’s actually an ingenious answer. Hope paid his publicists with more than just cash, and he carried on a (you guessed it) affair with his PR maestro Ursula Halloran. In turn, Halloran made sure not a word of his nighttime activities got published. Yet these violent delights have violent ends.
29. He Was Almost Mauled To Death
While filming their sequel Road to Utopia, Hope and Crosby were meant to have a scene with a tame bear. It went wrong right from the start. The bear was supposed to lay down next to Hope, but instead it sniffed and growled at him. Both stars refused to return to set with the animal, despite the trainer’s protestations that it was safe. Sadly, they were right to worry: The next day, the bear tore off its trainer’s arm.
30. His Wife Knew All His Secrets
It’s hard to imagine that Hope could carry on all of these affairs without his family knowing. Well, as it turns out, they did know. In a 1978 interview, a reporter asked his wife Dolores Reade if she believed Hope was 100% “true-blue.” Reade answered, “I doubt it. I think he’s perfectly human and average and all that.” Not so sure about “average,” Dolores.
31. He Suffered A Huge Shock
Hope and Bing Crosby worked together for decades in the “Road to…” film franchise, but their friendship came to a tragic end. In 1977, the two were planning to join forces again on yet another “Road to…” film when Crosby passed away unexpectedly. Despite their possibly prickly relationship, Hope was so distraught at the loss of his friend that he couldn’t sleep for days.
32. He Was Witty
Having toured extensively with USO, Hope was no stranger to danger, and had stepped into active combat zones armed with nothing but his wit. At the height of the tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, Hope set off to the Motherland. Upon returning, he quipped about his great vacation, “We had a very successful trip to Russia. We made it back.”
33. He Was A Sugar Daddy
Hope may have had scores of lovers, but he almost never forgot about his paramours. Indeed, he even continued to support his first (possibly only) wife Louise Troxell even while he was with Dolores Reade. The entertainer sent his ex a tidy sum of money for the rest of her life, which is a deal I definitely wouldn’t turn down.
34. He Was Addicted To Intimacy
Long after most men would have retired to their rocking chair in an assisted living community, Hope was still chasing down women. Get this: The actor kicked off yet another affair when he was in his 80s. This time he skipped out on the chorus girls and picked up with one of his writers, Sandy Vinger. But it seems like Hope had lost his touch…
35. His Ex Got Revenge
Not surprisingly, Hope’s affair with Vinger didn’t last too long—he was, after all, a husband, a father of four, and super freaking old. But it did not end happily. After their split, Vinger sued Hope for breach of contract, claiming that the geriatric actor had agreed to support her for the rest of his life; they settled out of court. Talk about going out with a bang.
36. He Had The Longest Happily Ever After
With a 69-year union, Hope’s marriage to Dolores Reade lasted longer than anyone could have possibly expected—and longer than anyone in Hollywood could match. While most Tinseltown marriages end as tabloid fodder in just a few years (or days), Hope and Reade held the record for the longest Hollywood marriage of all time until recently.
37. There Was One Thing He Never Got
Believe it or not, Bob Hope never won an Oscar. In fact, the “Entertainer of the 20th Century” never got so much as an nomination, even after he had hosted the Academy Awards a ridiculous 19 times. One of those times, Hope hit back at his Hollywood “friends” with a real zinger. “We’re all here to celebrate Oscar,” he said, “or as he’s known at my house, The Fugitive!”
38. He Was Funny In Every Language
Despite never clinching that competitive Academy Award, Hope was still famous…maybe too famous. The actor once commented that the only place where he could stroll around incognito was in the People’s Republic China. But even then, someone recognized him from one of his films before the Chinese Revolution. I want to feel bad…but I don’t.
39. He Almost Ran For President
Bob Hope was so popular, people often suggested he should run for president. Yet even though First Lady Nancy Reagan referred to him as America’s “favorite clown,” he was never interested. As Hope once quipped, “I thought about it. But my wife said she wouldn’t want to move into a smaller house.” But that didn’t mean Hope kept out of the Oval Office entirely…
40. He Advised The White House
In 1948, a seemingly unpopular Harry S. Truman was facing re-election, and he’d only got the job in the first place after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s passing. To Truman’s shock, he actually won the vote, and received some sage advice from Bob Hope in the process. In a one-word congratulatory telegram, Hope told the president to “Unpack.”
41. He Had An Obsessive Hobby
Hope was famously golf-crazy, and he might be the only Hollywood actor who can say that he beat Tiger Woods in a round of golf. Still, Woods had a significant handicap: He was a toddler. Hope and the soon-to-be-legendary golfer made an appearance together on The Mike Douglas Show in 1978, when Woods was just two years old.
42. He Had A Bromance
Although they had a famous and legendary friendship, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had rather humble beginnings. Hope only met Crosby by chance in 1932 when he was emceeing a show where Crosby performing. Still, the pair ended up hitting it off, and were each excited by the other’s comedy chops. And thus began a beautiful bromance.
43. He Looked Like Charlie Chaplin
When Hope was still a young boy, he idolized the comedy legend Charlie Chaplin, like just about everybody else his age. But unlike everybody else, Hope tried to be Chaplin—literally. During his youth in Ohio, Hope entered a Chaplin look-a-like contest and came out with the top prize. It might have been a good omen, but Hope’s next move wasn’t.
44. He Had A Hidden Talent
It might surprise you to know that the reedy Bob Hope had a very rough hobby: Boxing. When he was a teenager, he decided to enter the ring under the professional boxing name “Packy East.” Weighing in at an astonishing 24-karats of future Oscar gold, Hope racked up three wins and one loss. Not bad for a man who spent more of his life loving than fighting.
45. He Was A Doctor
Hope might have been a clown and a high school dropout, but no one can call him uneducated. Over the course of his career, Hope racked up more than 2,000 honors and awards. As if being one of only two honorary veterans of the Armed Services wasn’t enough, Hope received his praise from academia as well, and had 54 honorary doctorates.
46. He Came Back To Life
In 1998, with Hope well into his 90s, a strange thing happened. A newspaper accidentally released a pre-written obituary for the comedian, leading the US House of Representatives to announce Hope’s death while he was, in fact, still alive. Certain congressmen—some of whom Hope had entertained while touring with USO—took the news hard. Thankfully, it was only minutes before the paper corrected the error.
47. He Had The Last Laugh
Despite falling trees, questionable marriages, a flurry of affairs, and a few close calls, Hope’s life was full of…hope. Entertaining audiences was Hope’s single focus, and he accomplished that with his wicked sense of humor. In his own words, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”
48. He Saw A Century
Just think about how much happens in a century. Computers are invented, phones become mobile, air travel turns to space flight, and the list goes on. Well, Bob Hope would have witnessed it all. He lived to be exactly 100 years old, passing less than a month after his centennial on July 27, 2003. And you can bet your bottom dollar he was full of wit and great one-liners right to the end.
49. His Humor Survived As Long As He Did
At the very end, Hope still had a joie de vivre that no one could beat. While lying on his deathbed, his wife asked him where he wanted them to bury him when he was gone. Hope had his zinger all lined up, and joked in response, “Surprise me.”
50. He Had A Special Offer
For a comedic wit like Bob Hope, late night talk shows provided the perfect opportunity to try out new material and promote upcoming films. To that end, NBC—Hope’s parent network—gave Hope an open invitation to walk onto the set of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson any time he wanted. This ended up backfiring in the most awkward way possible.
51. He Was Johnny Carson’s Most Hated Guest
Hope took up the NBC invitation in a big way, walking on the set again and again…and again. Even worse, Hope would often show up with stale, scripted gags, unwilling to engage in any of the show’s signature banter. Eventually, the inimitable Johnny Carson got so fed up, he called Hope his least favorite Tonight Show guest. Ouch. And it only got worse as Hope got older…
52. He Infuriated Johnny Carson
Hope appeared on The Tonight Show well into the 1980s, and well into his decline. The aging actor had difficulty hearing Carson’s questions, forcing the quick-witted host to stick to dreaded pre-written notes from Hope’s team. Carson’s reply was so disturbing, it’s impossible to forget. After one particularly bad show, Carson snapped to his writers, “If I ever end up like that, guys, I want you to shoot me.”
53. He Seduced A Wholesome Star
Of all Hope’s affairs, the most scandalous might have been his naughty acts with a famous “good girl” screen siren: None other than the wholesome Doris Day. According to Hope, the two had a fiery affair while touring together to raise funds for charity in 1949. But before the two stars had time to catch feelings, it ended abruptly…
54. His Wife Lashed Out
When Hope and Day returned to California from their charity efforts, the lovers got a nasty surprise. Dolores Reade—Hope’s wife, remember her?—was waiting at the airport to give her husband a nice, big, and pointed welcome home hug. Day interpreted the gesture as a shot across the bow and backed off, squelching the dalliance.
55. He May Have Been Cursed
Loving Bob Hope was a dangerous game in more ways than one. Yes, you were dealing with a serial cheater…but an eerie curse seemed to follow him around as well. Many of Hope’s mistresses passed tragically sometime their affairs ended, with Barbara Payton, Ursula Halloran, and Rosemarie Frankland all dying young from overdoses.