Made with WWII Army trouser pants
America’s greatest military entertainer during World War II (Bob Hope, that is), who couldn’t stop entertaining US troops for almost 50 years after the war, was not originally an American. Born Leslie Townes Hope in a London suburb in May 1903, Bob Hope came to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family when he was four years old. A few years after becoming a US citizen in 1920, he was a vaudeville performer appearing under the more masculine name Lester. But Lester becomes Les, and in 1929, perhaps feeling that Les Hope was not exactly inspiring, he changed his name again. “Bob—it seemed more down-to-earth—just like his audience,” wrote biographer Lawrence J. Quirk. “Bob Hope it would be.”
Hope’s five-decade career “covering the bases,” as his biographer William Faith describes it—some 60 tours from Korea to Vietnam to the Persian Gulf—began almost by accident. We weren’t even at war then. It was early May 1941 when his radio producer, Albert Capstaff, urged him to take The Pepsodent Show out of its Hollywood studio and do a live broadcast from March Field in nearby Riverside.
Hope didn’t see the point. Why not just bring the soldiers to the studio? Capstaff told him they numbered in the thousands. He didn’t mention his ulterior motive: his own brother was one of the soldiers. In the end, a group that included Hope’s mustachioed sidekick Jerry Colonna, announcer Bill Goodwin, and singer Frances Langford, who recently had replaced Judy Garland on the show, made the trip to March Field.
If nothing else, Hope figured, the show would provide welcome publicity for his upcoming summer movie, Caught in the Draft, but he was completely unprepared for what he found: “an audience so ready for laughter, it would make what we did for a living seem like stealing money.” He wrote later that “laughs came from simple harebrained foolishness, reluctant heroism, and even blatant cowardice set against a climate of high seriousness.” Source: America in WWII