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BOB HOPE: AMERICA'S ENTERTAINER

Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  None
Length:  100 Minutes
Release Date:  August 26, 2003

“There will never be another Bob Hope.”Milton Berle

Film ****

Bob Hope was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.  He spent most of his 100 years on this planet making us laugh, raising our spirits, and generally making the world a better place.  Would that we could all could go out saying the same thing.

A&E’s Biography program has been television’s standard bearer for bring us close to the people who made an impact on our world, and their special episode Bob Hope: America’s Entertainer has to be considered a landmark chapter.  It had an amazing subject to work with, and it presented that subject with all the warmth, memories and dignity it deserved.

From stage to radio, from film to television, Bob Hope tickled our funny bones.  But though he did indelible work in all of those media, he found arguably his truest calling in World War II.  Wanting to enlist, but heeding Franklin D. Roosevelt’s suggestion that he would better serve the boys by entertaining them than fighting along side him, Hope did just that.  And he continued to do it as long as time allowed him to do so.

This program is an excellent retrospective of all areas of Hope’s career, but it’s the moments he had on stage and under fire that are the most inspiring.  From the second World War to Korea, from Vietnam to the Middle East, whenever America’s service men and women were putting their lives on the line for the cause of freedom, Hope was there, bringing laughter, music, entertainment, and a message of love and support.  He had a quip for every occasion, from Vietnam (“The folks back home are behind you 50%”) to the Gulf War (“I’ve got sand in places I didn’t even know I had places”).

But it wasn’t just his stints on stage that endeared him to the military.  Bob Hope always took himself and his fellow performers into the hospitals where the carnage was sometimes disheartening, but where Hope’s presence and kind words always lifted morale.

Despite accolades and honors that recognized his achievements throughout his life, the one that mattered most to him was when President Clinton and Congress made him an honorary veteran…the first time in the country’s history that such an honor was presented to him.  Hope always said it made him proud to finally be considered one with the men and women he had considered his heroes his entire life.

Bob Hope saw many of the years of the 20th century.  His life was witness to some of mankind’s greatest leap forwards and some of its darkest moments.  Yet he never turned away from doing what he loved, and he never turned his back on those who served our country.

That’s quite a legacy he left behind; one that I don’t think will ever be matched.

Video ***

As with any documentary that encompasses footage from many decades passed, the video quality varies.  That being said, this is still an impressive offering, and the older footage from the 20s and 30s doesn’t have to look incredible really…just be there.  No complaints; the presentation is well served.

Audio **

The audio is level and competent throughout, with no spoken word problems, even with the variety of footage from different decades past.  Unspectacular by nature, but rightly suited.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Bob Hope: America’s Entertainer is a fitting tribute to a truly great American legend.  It’s a legend that will live on forever.  I only wish from the bottom of my heart that the man himself could have done so as well.