This 1972 video is called Bob Hope’s Final Vietnam Christmas Tour.
In this video, everything looked like being alright.
Looked. But is wasn’t alright. Around this military base where Bob Hope performed, the bloody Vietnam war raged.
And everything wasn’t alright with Bob Hope either.
The shocking truth about Bob Hope the bigamist actor
A SECRET first marriage, countless affairs and a childhood spent behind bars an explosive new book reveals the shocking truth about the Hollywood star.
By: Peter Sheridan
Saturday, August 16, 2014
When Bob Hope celebrated his 50th anniversary with wife Dolores, the legendary entertainer explained the longevity of their union: “I’ve only been home for three weeks in 50 years.” The marriage endured 69 years until Hope’s death at 100 but his quip was painfully close to the truth, according to an explosive new biography.
The British-born star of film, TV and stage kept his marriage alive despite a lifetime of clandestine affairs and was an often-absent husband and father to his four adopted children, claims author Richard Zoglin in Hope: Entertainer Of The Century.
“Bob Hope had affairs with chorus girls, beauty queens, singers and showbiz wannabes up into his 70s,” reveals Zoglin, “He had a different girl on his arm every night. He was still having affairs into his 80s.”
The writer exposes the shocking private life Hope spent decades concealing: his childhood behind bars in reform school, his secret first marriage to a Vaudeville star and his aloof relationship with frequent screen co-star Bing Crosby.
“He was a narcissistic, self-centred man who put career before family,” says Zoglin. “He craved applause and desperately needed to be loved. He could sleep with anyone he wanted, and he did.”
Hope found fame in films including The Cat And The Canary, The Paleface, and opposite Bing Crosby in The Road To Singapore and its five sequels. His TV specials topped ratings for many years and he entertained US troops through the Second World War and conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. He has been commemorated on stamps and had ships, bridges, museums, villages, streets and an airport named in his honour.
His marriage to nightclub singer Dolores Reade was considered one of Hollywood’s most successful and enduring, yet it was founded on a lie and may never have even been a legal marriage, the author discovered.
“Bob and Dolores always claimed that they married in February 1934 in Erie, Pennsylvania. But at that time he was secretly married to his Vaudeville partner Louise Troxell, after three years together on and off,” says Zoglin. “I found divorce papers for Bob and Louise dated November 1934, so either Bob Hope was a bigamist or he lied about marrying Dolores in February that year.
“He’d actually married Louise in January 1933 in Erie when they were travelling on the Vaudeville circuit. When he claimed he had married Dolores in Erie he was actually miles away in New York, on Broadway.
“More intriguing, there is no record anywhere of his marriage to Dolores, if it happened. And there are no wedding photos, either. But he never forgot Louise and quietly sent her money in her later years.”
Hope found fame in films often playing a wise-cracking, girl-chasing, blustering coward: a character bearing more than a passing resemblance to the real Hope.
“He had women in every port,” says Zoglin “He had affairs with Ethel Merman and Doris Day but usually it was not his co-stars but starlets that he bedded. His team of writers remember an orgy in his New York hotel room one night, with naked bodies everywhere. But some lovers were more long-term. Marilyn Maxwell became his lover in the 1950s and was with him so often people called her Mrs Hope. She wanted to marry him but Dolores wouldn’t give Bob a divorce.
“In the 1960s his lover was Welsh beauty queen Rosemarie Frankland, Britain’s first Miss World. He moved her to Hollywood, paid for her apartment and told friends she was the love of his life. Their affair lasted more than 30 years. Even in his 80s he had a long-term affair which must have been serious because his lover later sued for breach of contract claiming that Hope had promised to support her for life. The case was settled out of court.
“Dolores came to an understanding with Hope. He could play around as long as he never brought his mistresses home and never embarrassed her publicly.
“It was actually a very good marriage, except for his serial infidelity.” Yet Hope’s womanising may have been a result of a love-starved, impoverished childhood with a boozing absentee father and a mother struggling to cope with seven sons.
“His father was a neglectful alcoholic who wasn’t there much and money was tight,” says Zoglin. “He was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham in south-east London but the family moved to Weston-super-Mare, then Bristol, to smaller and smaller houses, until they moved to America when Bob was four.”
It was a troubled upbringing. He sleepwalked through city streets, so his mother tied his feet to his older brother each night. After brushes with the law, Hope dropped out of school at 15.
“He had a tough childhood, was arrested for shoplifting, branded a ‘delinquent’ and sent to reform school for seven months. He got out but broke his probation and was sent back for another year. Yet he never mentioned it in his memoirs. At 19 he was stabbed in a fight, supposedly defending a local girl from a gang. He needed a blood transfusion and stitches but never spoke about it.”
After doing a series of jobs, ranging from shoe salesman to butcher and boxer to dance instructor, Hope landed in Vaudeville, dancing with Siamese twins and in hard times on street corners for pennies, before winning his big Hollywood break in 1938. Yet with fame came more travel, keeping him from his four adopted children.
Hope’s nephew Tom Malatesta told the author: “Everything else in his life was not as important as what he was doing for a living.”
Says Zoglin: “It was hard for all his children. They felt his absence. He just wasn’t home much. And when he was home, it felt like a star visiting, rather than a loving father. He was always emotionally detached and insular. He’d never admit a mistake or say he was sorry. Fame and travel made him even more distant.”
Despite Hope making six movies with Bing Crosby, Zoglin reveals: “They were not close friends and even when living nearby they rarely socialised. Bob told a friend he simply didn’t like Bing very much.”
Dorothy Lamour, who got second billing after Crosby and above Hope in their first Road movie in 1940, came to detest both co-stars, who reduced her role in each successive film.
“Bob and Bing formed a production company in 1947 to produce sub sequent Road movies and didn’t include Lamour in the deal,” says Zoglin. “She was very upset. When the last Road movie was filmed in 1961, Bob and Bing decided Lamour was too old, even though she was younger than both of them, and hired Joan Collins instead, giving Dorothy just a small cameo. She was outraged.”
And Hope was a tough boss. “His team of writers loved him but they were on call 24/7 and had no lives of their own,” says Zoglin.
One writer had to give up his home on occasions to allow for Hope’s illicit trysts. His co star Katharine Hepburn called him “the biggest egomaniac”.
A shrewd investor, Hope owned vast land holdings, television stations, ranches, oil wells, and his own production company, making him one of America’s wealthiest men.
However, Zoglin explains: “Growing up in the Depression left him extremely tight fisted. He watched every cent. When relatives stayed at his home he sometimes charged them for using his phone.”
Hope hit his movie heyday in the 1950s and ruled over American TV for another three decades but by the 1980s his act was looking dated. Hope’s unquestioning patriotism that had won millions of American hearts when he was entertaining troops during the 1940s and 1950s earned him a legion of enemies in the 1970s as he supported the Vietnam War and poked fun at hippies and anti war protesters.
“Bob lingered too long in the limelight, continuing to make TV specials in his 80s even as his eye sight and hearing faded and he became doddery,” says Zoglin.
“He showed signs of dementia, repeating himself and asking the same question over and over. It damaged his reputation and his family had to persuade him to step down.
“But he found it hard to let go of the applause and adulation. He felt his life had no meaning without it. He’d grown up insecure in an unstable home and needed public affirmation to survive. Perhaps his womanising was a reflection of that need to be loved.”
If Hope’s infidelities were a weight on his wife’s mind, you wouldn’t know it from her golden anniversary gift to him – though it may have contained a subtle barb. Dolores gave Hope a paperweight, with the inscription: “Don’t think these three weeks haven’t been fun!”