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Hollywood comedian Bob Hope passes away

Last updated on: July 28, 2003 21:54 IST

Legendary Hollywood comedian Bob Hope died of pneumonia on Monday at his home in Toluca Lake in California, less than two months after turning 100.

Known as 'the master of the one-liners', he took some of Hollywood's most beautiful stars to entertain troops in every war in which the United States was involved, but was untouched by gossip or scandal.

His longtime publicist Ward Grant said Hope's family was at his bedside when he passed away.

The nation's most-honoured comedian, a millionaire many times over, was a star in every category open to him -- vaudeville, radio, television and film, most notably a string of Road movies with longtime friend Bing Crosby.

For decades, he took his show on the road to bases around the world, boosting the morale of servicemen from World War II to the Gulf War.

President George W Bush condoled the death of Hope and said, "We'll mourn the loss of a good man."

Film critics have noted that he perfected the one-liner, peppering audiences with a fusillade of brief, topical gags.

"I bumped into Gerald Ford the other day. I said, 'Pardon me.' He said, 'I don't do that anymore'." (That was a reference to Ford's presidential pardon of his predecessor Richard M Nixon, who had to quit the White House in disgrace after the Watergate scandal.)

Hope poked fun gently, without malice, and made himself the butt of many jokes. His golf scores and physical attributes, including his celebrated ski-jump nose, were frequent subjects: "I want to tell you, I was built like an athlete once - big chest, hard stomach. Of course, that's all behind me now."

Hope earned a fortune, gave lavishly to charity and was showered with awards, so many that he had to rent a warehouse to store them.

He headlined in so many war zones that he had a standard joke for the times he was interrupted by gunfire: "I wonder which one of my pictures they saw?"

On his 100th birthday, he was too frail to take part in public celebrations, but was said to be alert and happy -- and overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection. The fabled intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was renamed Bob Hope Square, and President Bush established the Bob Hope American Patriot Award.

He was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England, the fifth of seven sons of a British stonemason and a Welsh singer of light opera. The Hopes emigrated to the US when he was 4 and settled in Cleveland.

They found themselves in the backwash of the 1907 depression.

The boy helped out by selling newspapers and working in a shoe store, a drug store and a meat market. He also worked as a caddy and developed a lifelong fondness for golf. A highly competitive golfer, he later shot in the 70s and sponsored the Bob Hope Golf Classic, one of the nation's biggest tournaments.

T V Parasuram in Washington
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