Some 35 U.S. states declare it to be Bob Hope Day on this day in 2003, when the iconic comedic actor and entertainer turns 100 years old.
In a public ceremony held in Hollywood, city officials renamed the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Avenue–famous for its historic buildings and as a central point on the Hollywood Walk of Fame–Bob Hope Square. Several 1940s-era U.S. planes flew overhead as part of an air show honoring Hope’s longtime role as an entertainer of U.S. armed forces all over the world. Hope, who was then suffering from failing eyesight and hearing and had not been seen in public for three years, was too ill to attend the public ceremonies. Three of his children attended the naming ceremony, along with some of his younger show-business colleagues, including Mickey Rooney.
One of the leading talents on the vaudeville scene by the 1930s, the London-born, American-raised Hope met his future wife (of nearly seven decades), the nightclub singer Dolores Reade, while he was performing on Broadway in the musical Roberta. They married in 1934, and four years later Hope launched his own radio program, The Bob Hope Show, which would run for the next 18 years. One of the country’s most popular comics, Hope had a successful film career largely thanks to the series of seven “Road” movies he made with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, including Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946) and Road to Rio (1947).
In 1941, after America’s entrance into World War II, Hope began performing for U.S. troops abroad; he would play shows for more than a million American servicemen by 1953. Some 65 million people watched him perform for troops in Vietnam on Christmas Eve in 1966, in his largest broadcast. Hope also became a legend for his countless TV specials, which he would perform over the course of some five decades. He hosted the Academy Awards ceremony a total of 18 times, more than any other Oscars host.
Dubbed “Mr. Entertainment” and the “King of Comedy,” Hope died on July 27, 2003, less than two months after his 100th birthday celebration. He was survived by Dolores, their four adopted children–Linda, Anthony, Nora and Kelly–and four grandchildren.