Bob Hope Biographies

Posted by Steven Lewis on December 15, 1998 at 23:36:48:

The New Yorker, Dec. 21, 1998 issue, contains a 16-page biography of Bob Hope by John Lahr (son of the Cowardly Lion). Included in the article are many quotes about Bob from his former employees and some surprisingly bittersweet statements from two of his children. Among the references to Bing:

Hope was so undone by Crosby's death that, for the first time in his life, he cancelled a performance. "I met him at the airport," Elliott Kozak, then Hope's manager, recalls. "I drove him home. He was a basket case. I'd never seen him cry."

Hope frowned on Bing's drinking [in reality, Bing's drinking problem ended before he met Hope]; Bing looked askance at Hope's philandering. "Bing was a man with an education," says Hal Kanter, who wrote for both stars, separately and together. "He had a good vocabulary and spoke with good grammar.... He used to poke fun at Bob's lack of it. Bob, I think, resented it. He almost assiduously went around trying to improve himself," Kanter adds, "Whatever Bing had, Bob wanted."

Among the other things that Hope envied were Bing's Academy Award for acting and his reputation as a romantic leading man. This offscreen ambivalence added emotional vigor to their amiable onscreen jousting ....

Those who have read Arthur Marx's The Secret Life of Bob Hope and Lawrence Quirk's The Road Well Traveled will not find any new revelations here. More than anything, this bio provides additional evidence for some of the controversial aspects of these two earlier biographies, including the disdain that some of Hope's writers felt toward him and his numerous extra-marital affairs, which Dolores seems to have 'accepted' a la Hillary.

The recent biographers of Hope seem to include all the salacious gossip anyone will dish up to them regardless of its improbability. Rumor-mongering sells books and tabloids. It's an easy way to fill the pages. It saves one from doing serious research. In the end the definitive biography of Bob Hope has yet to be written. At least for Bing the wait for the definitive biography may soon be over. Gary Giddins' many years of research on the Old Groaner should result in a printed text on the bookshelves by the end of 1999.

Posted by Doug Marr on December 08, 1999 at 23:32:14:

About 2 months ago; I started to read a newly acquired book on Bob Hope and it had been printed in 1999 and authorized !. In it, there were terrible statements about Bob & Bing's friendship. I was so disgusted, I did not bother to finish the book! Now I was not born yesterday; but I had never read or heard this kind of thing before? Has anyone read this book? Was their friendship just commercial? Perplexed on the Prairies!

Posted by Glenn T. on December 09, 1999 at 11:22:01:

In Reply to: Bob Hope Authorized Biography posted by Doug Marr on December 08, 1999 at 23:32:14:

You neglected to mention the name of the book.

There have been many "authorized" books about Bob Hope "written" by Hope and two un- authorized bios that I know of. In one written by Groucho Marx's (or is it Marxes) son Arthur (who wrote for Hope) Bob admits to having a one-nighter with a transvestite performer in his early vaudeville days. How's that for lurid!

I would venture a guess that two friends, who live and work in a volatile business like show business can't have a few ups and downs over the course of 40 years. But I'm sure those ups and downs have to be blown up a bit to sell books.

When I first met Hope (quite briefly, always too briefly) in the late 70's, I offered my sympathies for the death of Bing and he said thank you in a way that seemed sincere.

Unless something comes from the mouth of the person that was in the room I take any of that stuff for what it is, second hand. Ever play telephone as a kid?

Posted by Steven Lewis on December 09, 1999 at 12:13:08:

In Reply to: Re: Bob Hope Authorized Biography posted by Glenn T. on December 09, 1999 at 11:22:01:

The urge to get a book quickly to the printers and to maximize sales drives many an author to substitute rumors and gossip for rigorous research. The sons of both Bert Lahr and Arthur Marx have written books about Bob Hope in recent years. Neither books were "authorized." On the other hand, "authorized" doesn't necessarily guarantee honesty or good scholarship either. Bing's "authorized" biography by Thompson contains numerous errors and gaps. Even Gary Crosby claimed that his authorized biography, which was issued under his name, came out harsher than he intended, apparently because the real author (Firestone) and the publisher wanted the book further sensationalized to maximize sales.

Fortunately for Crosby fans we have Gary Giddins at work on Bing's biography. Some have complained because Giddins has taken so long to finish his biography. I would much rather Giddins take the time to produce a definitive bio than do a sloppy job as we have seen in so many recent bios of Bing. Giddins has a long track record of thoroughness and scholarly research; he's a genuine historian who has an appreciation for Bing's contributions, temperament and the era in which Bing flourished. The recent news that Giddins' bio of Bing will be issued in two volumes gives proper recognition to the importance of Bing to 20th century American popular culture.

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