HOPE: ENTERTAINER OF THE CENTURY.
This book from Simon & Schuster is a hefty tome, running 576 pages including the index. The book's substantial length, along with the holiday season, meant that I took considerably longer to read it than the average book. That said, HOPE wasn't as long as the same publisher's Barbara Stanwyck biography which I reviewed last year -- that one was 1044 pages!
Hope, who lived a century, was a star in multiple mediums: vaudeville, Broadway, movies, radio, and television, including regularly hosting the Academy Awards. A man of few interests outside of work, Hope's life was largely devoted to his career, along with his decades-long mission to boost the morale of the American military by traveling all over the world to entertain the troops. All this is chronicled in detail by the author, including Hope's gradual slide as he continued to perform past the age when it would have been wise to call it day.
HOPE is a very readable book, though perhaps it could have been a bit more concise; there are some passages which are redundant, such as mention of his affair with Barbara Payton. Conversely, Hope's film THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATE (1944) rates only a passing mention. Some editing tweaks here and there, pruning this and adding that, might have improved the book in this regard, and given the length of both the book and Hope's life, I would have enjoyed it if there were more than 16 pages of illustrations.
Perhaps more significantly, while no one can deny Hope's many accomplishments, the author does engage in hyperbolic descriptions; in his introduction Zoglin asserts that Hope was "the most important entertainer of the century...one could argue, without too much exaggeration, that he was the only important entertainer." It does not diminish Hope's record to point that out yes, this is exaggeration. In some cases the author would have done better to merely present the facts and let the reader draw the conclusions.
The above, however, are minor criticisms in the interest of being thorough. HOPE is a well-researched and informative book on a key figure in 20th century entertainment. The author's research dug up interesting nuggets, such as Hope's first marriage; he was also unable to find a record of Hope's marriage to his wife of nearly 70 years, Dolores. Curiously, Hope's marriage to Dolores was said to have taken place before the date he was divorced from his first wife.
Zoglin presents a fair picture of a man with faults, including his infidelity to Dolores, balanced with many positive attributes, such as his love for members of the military and his attention to his fans.
Most importantly, Zoglin chronicles the length and breadth of Hope's storied career, and in so doing has created a valuable historical record, not simply of Hope but of the evolution of entertainment in the last century.
A personal side note: My husband was present in 1997 for the dedication of the C-17 The Spirit of Bob Hope at McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, California. Bob and Dolores Hope were both there to receive a very appropriate tribute from the U.S. Air Force, honoring Bob for all the miles he had traveled over the decades to support the troops.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster, as well as Turner Classic Movies, for providing a review copy of this book.