For five decades, comedian, actor, singer, dancer, and entertainer Bob Hope (1903–2003) traveled the world performing before American and Allied troops and putting on morale-boosting USO shows. Dear Bob . . . : Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondence with the G.I.s of World War II tells the story of Hope’s remarkable service to the fighting men and women of World War II, collecting personal letters, postcards, packages, and more sent back and forth among Hope and the troops and their loved ones back home.
Soldiers, nurses, wives, and parents shared their innermost thoughts, swapped jokes, and commiserated with the “G.I.s’ best friend” about war, sacrifice, lonely days, and worrisome, silent nights. The Entertainer of the Century performed for millions of soldiers in person, in films, and over the radio. He visited them in the hospitals and became not just a pal but their link to home. This unforgettable collection of letters and images, many of which remained in Hope’s personal files throughout his life and which now reside at the Library of Congress, capture a personal side of both writer and recipient in a very special and often emotional way. This volume heralds the voices of those servicemen and women Hope entertained and who, it is clear, delighted and inspired him.
The New-York Historical Society celebrates the golden age of comedy with So Ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and World War II, on view through September 5, 2021. The special exhibition highlights the legendary performer and his unique role during World War II entertaining troops overseas and it features artifacts, films, and rare photographs to illustrate how Hope helped lift spirits both abroad and on the home front with his USO and radio shows during a dark time in American history.
A companion exhibition, The Gift of Laughter, delves into Hope’s varied career after World War II as a USO entertainer, television star, and Academy Award host demonstrating the many hats worn by comedians influenced by Hope from the forward-looking modern post-war era and beyond.