When comedian, film star, soft-shoe hoofer, and presidential-golfing buddy Bob Hope ascended to that big country club in the sky at the age of 100 (!) in 2003, his earthly send-off wasn’t all that he might have, well, hoped. His landmark status in entertainment history was undisputed. But the praise was threaded with sighs of regret that Hope had outlived his era. His Republican conservatism; his chumminess with business tycoons, generals, and politicians; the impersonal ticker-tape rat-a-tat of his punch lines—they had dated his appeal terribly. But Hope’s insouciance, the swing and swivel of his intros and ad-libs, is evergreen. To honor the 80th anniversary of the U.S.O., this exhibition, assembled by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, takes “Ol’ Ski Nose” out for a retrospective spin of the khaki circuit, presenting a trove of film footage, vintage photos, souvenir programs from the Hollywood Victory Caravan, and war memorabilia. —James Wolcott
A companion show, “The Gift of Laughter,” covers Hope’s post–W.W. II career as a TV variety host, Academy Awards M.C., and U.S.O. ambassador.
So Ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and World War II was featured in the January 30, 2021 issue of Air Mail. Read on