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Friday, April 21, 2017


If you're a certain age, the three-disc DVD set BOB HOPE SALUTES THE TROOPS (Time Life) will no doubt come as a primo slice of Grade-A nostalgia, as it did for me. 

If not, you might still have a good time stepping into the wayback machine and seeing something that was such a big part of so many people's lives for around half a century.

That's about how long Bob Hope traveled the world entertaining our troops for Christmas, starting in 1941 and lasting until Operation Desert Shield in the early 90s. 

Wherever there were American soldiers stationed far away from home during wartime, Bob and his stalwart troup of performers were there putting on a show.

Over the span of years, the faces in the crowd are always different, yet somehow the same--excited to have celebrities coming all that way just to entertain them, wildly enthusiastic for every lame joke, soft shoe dance step, or sexy girl, and often just a bit wistful at this teasing glimpse of "back home."

Bob's monologues are always corny and cheesy as all get out, but that's pretty much the appeal of these shows, especially in retrospect.  And it's all done with love and a sincere desire to both honor these soldiers and make whatever hardships they endure a bit more bearable, if only for a few minutes. 

(He doesn't neglect those who can't attend the show either, visiting military hospitals in each location.)

Bob clearly relishes the spotlight in front of such an appreciative, entertainment-starved audience, and milks every gag for all it's worth.  Who can blame him?  He's definitely getting as much of a charge out of all this as they are.

The same can be said for Bob's guest stars, some of whom probably never got quite this kind of a welcome back in the States.  These include ever-present comic foil Jerry Colonna, comedian Redd Foxx, astronauts Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong, and sports legends Johnny Bench, Rosey Grier, and Roman Gabriel.

And then, of course, there are the ladies, including Lana Turner, Jill St. John, Ann Jillian, Frances Langford, Marie Osmond, Anita Bryant, Janis Paige, Fran Jeffries, the Pointer Sisters, the Gold Diggers, Lola Falana, various beauty pageant winners, and a sizzling Ann-Margret (clearly the crowd favorite).

Naturally, Bob works just a tad more "blue" than usual for the soldiers, throwing in plenty of military in-jokes and cracks about the often inhospitable locations they're stationed in.

These gags go over like gangbusters every time, as do the endless succession of (family-TV-friendly) sexual references.  Needless to say, most of the humor in these shows is gloriously un-PC.

The first show, "Bob Hope's Christmas Cheer in Saudi Arabia" (Original Airdate: 1/12/91) is the latest one in the collection (and the only one on videotape instead of film) and features scenes from Bob's final overseas shows during Operation Desert Shield. 

These include topical references to Hussein and Khadafi and lots of jokes about sand and camels.  By this time Bob was getting on in years so it's heartwarming to see him still at it, entertaining the troops.

Other 60 and 90-minute segments in the set, which are mostly clip shows assembled from several different stops all over South Pacific and Far Eastern military bases, are "The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the World with the USO" (Original Airdate: 1/16/69), "Bob Hope: Memories of WWII", "The Bob Hope Christmas Special" (Original Airdate: 1/15/65), "The Bob Hope Christmas Show" (1/16/63), "The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the Globe with the U.S.O." (Original Airdate: 1/17/72), and "The Bob Hope Christmas Special" (Original Airdate: 1/17/73).

These earlier shows feature a relatively younger and more energetic Hope, who, along with his faithful entourage, often brave dangerous surroundings and less than reliable transportation (a propeller stops working during one airplane flight). 

Of course, such nerve-rattling events only serve to give Bob more stories and jokes with which to regail his next joyous audience.  And if you're like me, you'll greet BOB HOPE SALUTES THE TROOPS with roughly the same enthusiasm, along with that inescapable nostalgia that adds so much to its undying appeal. 

Format: DVD/3 Discs
Running Time: 395 minutes
Genre:  TV DVD/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo
Street Date: May 2, 2017
DVD SRP: $29.95

Available exclusively at Walmart

Read our original full coverage HERE


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