Well, May has arrived, which means that it’s time to “announce” my Screen Team for the month: Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! (What’s that? You figured that out from reading this post’s title? Well, that’s just cheating!) 😉 As I’d mentioned before, I am no longer doing these series of screen teams/stars of the month as a blogathon, but I’m certainly open to anybody else interested in joining in if they so choose!
Table Of Contents
Quick Film Career Bio
Birth: May 29, 1903
Death: July 27, 2003
Leslie Townes Hope was born on May 29, 1903 to William Henry Hope and Avis Townes in Eltham, London in the U.K. A few years later, the Hope family emigrated to the United States, where they took up residence in Cleveland, Ohio. As a kid, Bob did a number of odd jobs to help bring in some extra money, but he really found his niche as a performer, famously winning a talent contest with his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin in 1915. He briefly toyed around with the idea of being a boxer, but instead went into vaudeville as part of a dance team with his girlfriend at the time. He worked with different partners and different acts, until he was given the opportunity to emcee a show, where he realized he was funnier on his own. He enjoyed some success on Broadway, particularly with the show Roberta.
He did some shorts for both Educational Pictures and Warner Brothers, but none of them really made much of a mark. With his success on Broadway, though, he found himself with a new audience via radio. Hollywood came a-calling, mainly through Paramount Pictures, who cast him in The Big Broadcast Of 1938 (1938) (which also included Dorothy Lamour in the cast). While the film itself wasn’t that memorable, his duet with Shirley Ross, “Thanks For The Memories,” became a hit and essentially became Bob’s theme song, not only for his radio show but for many of his future endeavors. Paramount kept putting Bob to work in different movies, while he tried to work on his screen persona (which really started to take shape with the following year’s The Cat And The Canary). However, it would take being re-teamed with Dorothy Lamour and being cast opposite Paramount’s big star, Bing Crosby in Road To Singapore (not to mention all the ad-libbing that was involved) to turn Bob into one of the studio’s biggest stars. Throughout the remainder of the 1940s (and beyond), Bob continued to enjoy success with more Road films, the My Favorite series that started with My Favorite Blonde (1942), and the Paleface films. The fifties found him continuing to do comedies, but he also attempted to prove his acting abilities with a few dramatic parts. However, with his increasing focus on TV and changing audience tastes, his film career started to peter off in the 1960s, with his last starring role being in the 1972 film Cancel My Reservation.
In the early part of World War II, Bob Hope did a special performance for some troops at California’s March Field. Having always preferred the genuine laughs from a live audience, he now found himself with a lifelong mission of performing for American troops through the USO (United Service Organizations). He recorded some of his radio shows in front of servicemen, and when he made the switch to television in the fifties, he continued the practice (especially during wartime). It had its ups and downs (especially during the Vietnam War), but he continued to appear in television specials up through the 1990s (along with a few guest appearances on various TV programs). He finally retired in the latter part of the 90s, with his health starting to fail him. He celebrated his 100th birthday in May 2003, before he passed away from a bout with pneumonia on July 27, 2003.
Birth: December 10, 1914
Death: September 22, 1996
On December 10, 1914, Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton was born to Carmen Louise and John Watson Slaton in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a teenager of about 14 or 15, she left high school with the intention of working as a secretary to help support her mother and herself. She started entering beauty pageants, and was crowned Miss New Orleans in 1931. She and her mother relocated to Chicago, IL where she briefly worked as an elevator operator. After an audition, she was hired to sing with Herbie Kaye’s orchestra. This led to her working both onstage and on the radio for a few years. At one point, she was making an appearance at the Clover Club in Los Angeles, California, when a representative of Paramount Pictures saw her there. She was given the opportunity to do a screen test, and so Paramount Pictures hired her, with her making an uncredited appearance in College Holiday (1936).
Her next film at Paramount was The Jungle Princess (1936), which was her first starring role (and the one that established her as the “Sarong Girl”). Over the next few years, she had a variety of both starring roles and supporting ones opposite some of the big stars of Hollywood (including, as I mentioned before, starring in Bob Hope’s first film, The Big Broadcast Of 1938). Like Bob, she found greater fame through the Road series (especially since she was able to spoof her image as the “Sarong Girl”), holding her own against the constant ad-libbing from her two co-stars. With the U.S. getting involved in World War II, she became a popular pinup girl for American servicemen, and volunteered to help sell war bonds (doing so well she earned the nickname “The Bond Bombshell”). She continued to do a variety of different roles at Paramount (musical, comedy and drama), through the end of the war and into 1947, before she left Paramount.
She made a few films for independent producers, but none of them were that popular with audiences. After doing the film noir Manhandled (1949), she took some time off from Hollywood to be with her second husband William Ross Howard III and their two sons. She started to make a comeback through The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) and Road To Bali (1952), but, big as those roles were, they weren’t resulting in better film offers. So, she concentrated on performing in nightclubs and on stage (with some television appearances thrown in). She came back for a cameo appearance for The Road To Hong Kong (1962) (at Bob Hope’s insistence, since Bing Crosby had wanted somebody younger for the female lead) and made a few other film appearances alongside her guest star gigs on various TV shows. From the 1970s onward, she mainly focused on TV and the stage, with her autobiography, My Side Of The Road, getting published in 1980. She continued to work into the 1990s before finally passing away after she suffered a heart attack on September 22, 1996.
My Own Feelings On Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour
Bob Hope was one of the first classic movie stars that I took a liking to. The Princess And The Pirate (1944) was the first film of his that I can remember seeing, although I didn’t really start to focus in on him until I started seeing the Road series with his co-stars Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. After watching all the films from that series in short order, I started trying out more of Bob’s solo comedies, and found them just as enjoyable. For me, he came into his own once he did The Cat And The Canary, with most of his films faring quite well up through Alias Jesse James. While I’ve enjoyed some of his films after that (during the 1960s), they were nowhere near as good as his earlier fare. I may not be quite as much of a fan as I was initially, but he was essentially my gateway drug to classic films.
Dorothy Lamour took me a bit longer to come around to. Certainly, I enjoyed seeing her in the Road films with Bing and Bob (and when she was reduced to a cameo appearance for The Road To Hong Kong, it became quite obvious to me just how necessary she was to the rest of the series). Apart from the Road series, my main exposure to her was through the films she did with Bob Hope (plus her cameo appearance in Here Comes The Groom). That’s been starting to change the last couple of years, with a few of her solo efforts starting to get released on Blu-ray (though none of her famous “sarong” films have made it to the format as of this writing). While I don’t favor her as much as I do Bing and Bob, I can’t deny that she has been interesting to see in the handful of movies that I’ve managed to find so far.
As a team, they’ve been a lot of fun together. Since they essentially started working together on Bob’s first film (Big Broadcast Of 1938), they were able to develop some chemistry early on (although it really started to kick in with Road To Singapore, their second film together). Frankly, I think they are best together in their films apart from the Road series, where they are able to show off their chemistry a lot more (as opposed to the Road series, where she’s generally caught in the middle of Bing and Bob, with a greater preference for Bing’s characters, a running joke in the series). While they apparently had some issues getting along offscreen from some of what I’ve read, it’s nice to know that at least Bob knew she was more necessary to the Road series when it came time to making The Road To Hong Kong and fought for her inclusion in the film. I do like them together (and I can say that, having essentially seen all of the movies that they did together that I know of), which is certainly one of the reasons I decided to pick them as one of my featured Screen Teams!
Bob Hope Filmography
This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from his filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of May, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of his films even beyond this month’s celebration.
Dorothy Lamour Filmography
This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from her filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of May, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of her films even beyond this month’s celebration.
Here Comes The Groom (1951) (cameo)
Entries For This Month
Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –