During his eight-decade career, Bob Hope (1903-2003) was the only performer to achieve top-rated success in every form of mass entertainment: vaudeville, Broadway, movies, radio, television, popular song and personal appearances, including his annual USO Christmas military tours and hosting the Academy Awards more times than anyone else.
A comedy innovator, Hope invented the topical monologue that later became a late-night TV staple and comedy tropes like talking while backing up. He refined a spontaneous, conversational, improvisational style of comedy as a vaudeville master of ceremonies that created a blueprint for acerbic standup comics.
Written, directed and produced by John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary), American Masters: This is Bob Hope… presents a candid look at a remarkable life with unprecedented access to Hope’s personal archives, including writings voiced by Billy Crystal and clips from Hope’s body of work to reveal a gifted individual who recognized the power of fame, embraced its responsibilities and handled celebrity with extraordinary wit and grace, becoming a model for public service in Hollywood.
American Masters: This is Bob Hope… premieres nationwide beginning November 25 on PBS (check local listings). The unabridged director’s cut of the film, featuring over 35 minutes of additional footage, will be available to stream the same day via Passport for PBS station members (contact your local PBS station for details) at pbs.org/americanmasters and on PBS OTT apps. This version premieres nationwide Friday, December 29 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).
“Alongside an examination of Bob Hope’s extraordinary career achievements is a portrait of a gifted man with enormous personal contradictions,” says filmmaker John Scheinfeld. “Even in the longer cut, I barely scratched the surface of his huge impact and influence.”
American Masters: This is Bob Hope… features new interviews with Woody Allen, Dick Cavett, Margaret Cho, daughter Linda Hope, Kermit the Frog, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Conan O’Brien, Tom Selleck, Brooke Shields, Connie Stevens and biographer Richard Zoglin (Hope: Entertainer of the Century). Edited to evoke the fast, fun pace of Hope’s classic monologues, clips include highlights from numerous TV specials, his Pepsodent radio shows and classic films like The Cat and the Canary, My Favorite Blonde, his iconic Road pictures with Bing Crosby, and The Big Broadcast of 1938 featuring his signature song “Thanks for the Memory.”
The unabridged director’s cut also features Hope’s 1930s comedy shorts and delves further into his radio and TV career, USO tours and charity work. It will be available on DVD January 9, 2018, from PBS Distribution and is also available as part of Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection DVD box set on November 14 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, a Critics’ Choice Documentary Award, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, the Inspiring Woman web series, educational resources and In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive: previously unreleased interviews of luminaries discussing America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.
American Masters: This is Bob Hope… is a production of Crew Neck Productions and American Masters Pictures. John Scheinfeld is writer, director and producer. Dave Harding, Richard Gurman, Richard Zoglin and James Hardy are producers. Peter S. Lynch, II is editor and co-producer. Michael Kantor is American Masters series executive producer.
Major support for This is Bob Hope… is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and Roslyn Goldstein. Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional support is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Judith and Burton Resnick, Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, and public television viewers.
The filmmakers and American Masters would like to thank our advisors for their time and expertise in making this documentary: James Baughman, Thomas Doherty, Michael Frisch, Kristine Karnick, Laurence Maslon, Clayton Koppes, Robert Snyder and Kathryn Fuller-Seeley.