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Arts & Culture

AMERICAN MASTERS: This Is Bob Hope

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bob Hope performing at the "Bob Hope All-Star Tribute to Palace Theatre" in January 1978.
Courtesy of Bob Hope Legacy, LLC
Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bob Hope performing at the "Bob Hope All-Star Tribute to Palace Theatre" in January 1978.

Airs Saturday, July 6, 2019 at 7 p.m. on KPBS 2

Explore the entertainer's life with unprecedented access to his personal archives

During his eight-decade career, Bob Hope (1903-2003) was the only performer to achieve top-rated success in every form of mass entertainment: vaudeville, Broadway, movies, radio, television, popular song and personal appearances, including his annual USO Christmas military tours and hosting the Academy Awards more times than anyone else.

Bob Hope on stage entertaining the troops in Vietnam. (undated photo)
Courtesy of Bob Hope Legacy, LLC
Bob Hope on stage entertaining the troops in Vietnam. (undated photo)

A comedy innovator, Hope invented the topical monologue that later became a late-night TV staple and comedy tropes like talking while backing up.

He refined a spontaneous, conversational, improvisational style of comedy as a vaudeville master of ceremonies that created a blueprint for acerbic standup comics.

Written, directed and produced by John Scheinfeld ("The U.S. vs. John Lennon," "Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary"), AMERICAN MASTERS "This is Bob Hope..." presents a candid look at a remarkable life with unprecedented access to Hope’s personal archives, including writings voiced by Billy Crystal and clips from Hope’s body of work.

These archives reveal a gifted individual who recognized the power of fame, embraced its responsibilities and handled celebrity with extraordinary wit and grace, becoming a model for public service in Hollywood.

“Alongside an examination of Bob Hope’s extraordinary career achievements is a portrait of a gifted man with enormous personal contradictions,” says filmmaker John Scheinfeld. “Even in the longer cut, I barely scratched the surface of his huge impact and influence.”

Bob Hope with Muppets Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy for the "Bob Hope All-Star Christmas Comedy Special" in December 1977.
Courtesy of Bob Hope Legacy, LLC
Bob Hope with Muppets Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy for the "Bob Hope All-Star Christmas Comedy Special" in December 1977.

The film features new interviews with Woody Allen, Dick Cavett, Margaret Cho, daughter Linda Hope, Kermit the Frog, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Conan O’Brien, Tom Selleck, Brooke Shields, Connie Stevens and biographer Richard Zoglin ("Hope: Entertainer of the Century").

Edited to evoke the fast, fun pace of Hope’s classic monologues, clips include highlights from numerous TV specials, his Pepsodent radio shows and classic films like “The Cat and the Canary,” “My Favorite Blonde,” his iconic Road pictures with Bing Crosby, and "The Big Broadcast of 1938" featuring his signature song “Thanks for the Memory.”

Bob Hope with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in "Road to Bali," 1952.
Courtesy of Bob Hope Legacy, LLC
Bob Hope with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in "Road to Bali," 1952.

The unabridged director's cut also features Hope’s 1930s comedy shorts and delves further into his radio and TV career, USO tours and charity work.

President George Bush, President Bill Clinton, Bob Hope, and President Gerald Ford at the Bob Hope Desert Classic in February 1995.
Courtesy of Bob Hope Legacy, LLC
President George Bush, President Bill Clinton, Bob Hope, and President Gerald Ford at the Bob Hope Desert Classic in February 1995.

Watch On Your Schedule:

The full director's cut is available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Credits:

A production of Crew Neck Productions and AMERICAN MASTERS Pictures. John Scheinfeld is writer, director and producer. Dave Harding, Richard Gurman, Richard Zoglin and James Hardy are producers. Peter S. Lynch, II is editor and co-producer. Michael Kantor is AMERICAN MASTERS series executive producer.

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