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Although Bob Hope has been the subject of many biographies, no book yet has fully explored the comic persona he created in vaudeville and radio, brought to fruition in dozens of films from the 1930s through the 1960s, and made a lasting influence on comedians from Woody Allen to Conan O'Brien. Now, in The Road to Comedy: The Films of Bob Hope, noted film comedy authority Donald W. McCaffrey finally places Hope in his well-deserved position among the highest rank of film comedians of his era. Drawing on archival ...
Although Bob Hope has been the subject of many biographies, no book yet has fully explored the comic persona he created in vaudeville and radio, brought to fruition in dozens of films from the 1930s through the 1960s, and made a lasting influence on comedians from Woody Allen to Conan O'Brien. Now, in The Road to Comedy: The Films of Bob Hope, noted film comedy authority Donald W. McCaffrey finally places Hope in his well-deserved position among the highest rank of film comedians of his era. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with collaborators, McCaffrey analyzes each major film in depth, with due attention to particular sequences that reveal how Hope created a unique comic personality that lasted over dozens of very popular films, from the Road movies with Bing Crosby through such underrated classics as Son of Paleface, Monsieur Beaucaire, and Casanova's Big Night.
In so doing, McCaffrey introduces readers to a Bob Hope now overshadowed by his own reputation. We see here that Hope's significance has been greater than any USO appearance or television special might suggest. Because many of these movies have recently been made available on DVD—the first time in decades that they've been easily available to the general public—the volume will also serve as an excellent introduction for those wanting to see these films for the first time.
Song, Dance, and Gags: From Vaudeville to Radio
Hollywood Embraces A Song and Dance Man
Starring Hope During the War Years
There Was Hope and Hartmann
Some Hits and Misses
Neglected and Underrated Movies
The Rocky Road to Exotic Worlds
Fade Out on Movies: The Fade In of the Small Screen
Through the Decades with Hope's Films: 1934-1972
Assesment: Bob Hope's Legacy
Endnotes by Chapter
Appendix A: Bob Hope Films
Appendix B: Selected Bob Hope Awards
Appendix C: Selected Bob Hope Honors
Posted February 20, 2006
There have been a number of books written about Bob Hope, but The Road to Comedy by Donald W. McCaffrey is the first to do a thorough critical analysis of the star's film career. It's possible that many people who were born after the late 1960's make not even be aware of Hope's long film career. Bob had one of the greatest lines in history when as host of the Academy Awards one year he welcomed the guests to the awards or, 'as we call it in my home, Passover!' Classic... McCaffrey begins by tracing Hope's career in vaudeville and radio where he honed his trademark wit and timing and even covers Hope's early two-reel comedies. His first feature was in the Big Broadcast of 1938 and would set him on a movie career that would last over 30 years. McCaffrey analyzes Hopes film in various stages such as his war-time films like Old Dark House-style films Cat & the Canary and Ghostbreakers, My Favorite Blonde, and Caught in the Draft. He also explores Bob's films made with perhaps his best screenwriter Edmund L. Hartmann in classics like The Paleface, Casanova's Big Night, and The Lemon Drop Kid. McCaffrey reserves a special chapter dedicated to perhaps Hope's most famous films, the seven 'Road' pictures that he did with Bing Crosby from 1940 to 1962. As a Hope fan, I was ecstatic to see McCaffrey devote so much space to some of Hope's lesser known films. One of those was 'Thanks for the Memory' that gave Bob his signature theme music but is really a well-done comedy that rarely is seen on TV (although it is on video). McCaffrey also does a wonderful job of showing just how much influence Hope's films had on comedians and filmmakers who came after him such as Jerry Lewis, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, and Steve Martin. Perhaps the best chapter was the one dealing with Hope's legacy and some of the more common misconceptions about his films and talents. McCaffrey provides numerous examples to debunk these myths such as the one that claims Hope plays essentially the same character in every film. That myth clearly disregards his outstanding dramatic work in The Seven Little Foys. He also takes on the myth that Hope could not do physical comedy, and again provides several examples to the contrary. While many would also argue that Hope's best films were his early work of the 40's, McCaffrey points to several 1960's films like Bachelor in Paradise where Hope is still in top form. The Road to Comedy is extremely well-researched. McCaffrey provides detailed plot synopses of the films and notes on cast and crew. Research is bolstered by interviews done with those who worked with Hope including many of his writers. If I do have one complaint about the book it is that McCaffrey does come off a bit snobbish in parts. When discussing Road to Utopia, he talks about the scene where Hope & Crosby are riding a dog sled and encounter Santa Claus in his sleigh. When the boys tell Santa that they don't believe in that 'kid's stuff', he drives off, only to reveal two beauties in his sack of toys. Bob and Bing ga ga like babies. McCaffrey says the scene isn't very funny but audiences of the day and present 'like that sort of nonsense'. He also takes several shots at people like Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey as being over-actors. Despite that minor complaint, I heartily recommend the book for any Bob Hope fan. Reviewed by Tim JansonWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.