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Sunday, November 19, 2017


Bob Hope was one of those comics who got as much mileage out of a bad joke as he did a good one (a talent shared by Johnny Carson).  In fact, he sometimes seemed to welcome audience groans so that he could do that "take" and comment about how bad the joke was.  Which, of course, got the biggest laugh!

If you're a fan of the inimitable Hope comedy style, especially as presented on all of his various television specials over the decades, you'll be able to gorge yourself on it with the colossal four-volume, 19-DVD boxed set from Time-Life, THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: THE BOB HOPE SPECIALS DELUXE COLLECTION. 

It's a dizzying mish-mash covering five decades of Bob's TV memories--39 specials and more--all in a collage of celebrity guests, comedy and musical bits, and endless one-liners--that should have you alternately laughing and groaning for days. 

The first volume, "Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials", contains 13 specials from 1956 to 1996 on six discs and embodies what those of us who grew up with these shows remember most about them.  It's pure Hope, just him getting a bunch of his old-school showbiz friends and hot (at the time) current stars together, putting his gag writers to work, and churning out hours of relentlessly corny comedy that revels in its own casual, offhand silliness.

Most of them are clip montages framed by new Hope footage, including one all-blooper show and another featuring all the ex-presidents he's rubbed shoulders with and poked goodnatured fun at over the years (several of them and their First Ladies appear on the show). 

A more youthful Bob is often juxtaposed with the later, older Bob (sometimes seemingly a bit too old to still be at it) as in his 90th birthday special.  There's also a long look at Bob's lifelong obsession with golf called "Shanks For the Memories."

One highlight is John Wayne playing a frontier Archie Bunker who doesn't want his son (Bob) marrying an Indian maiden played by Joanna "O Mighty Isis" Cameron.  Wayne, ever the good sport, shows his comedy chops here and in another comedy exchange with Bob later on. 

Perennial pal Bing Crosby, Robert Goulet, Angie Dickinson, Redd Foxx (as Santa Claus), Carol Burnette, Cyd Charisse, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason (in drag!), and the entire cast of "I Love Lucy" are among the veritable boatload of familiar faces who also appear throughout the set.

The four-disc set "Bob Hope: Entertaining The Troops" is ten shows of Hope's legendary global roadshow for our armed forces, both in and out of wartime and wherever in the world they may be, from World War II all the way to the first Gulf War.  These range from later videotaped shows to the early black-and-white filmed footage, always with a sea of eager young soldiers' faces ecstatic over this thrilling sampling of entertainment from back home.

The times and places may change, as well as the generations of both soldiers and performers (with Bob, moustachioed comic Jerry Colonna, singer Frances Langford, and bandleader Les Brown often serving as the only constants), but the shows all have a common theme and feel as these celebrities give their all for the ever-appreciative troops. 

Some of the familiar faces seen in this set are Raquel Welch, Phyllis Diller, Brooke Shields, Johnny Bench, Neil Armstrong, Ursula Andress, Ann-Margaret, Rosey Grier, Romy Schneider, Lana Turner, Teresa Graves, Joey Heatherton, Lola Falana, Marie Osmond, The Judds, Vic Damone, Jack Jones, various Miss World winners, and many more.

Disc four contains two bonus specials including "Hope For the Holidays: Bob Hope's Bag Full of Christmas Memories."  This is one of those "too-old Bob" shows with his and wife Delores' home Christmas party serving as a framing device for lots of classic clips.  The party scenes are as stiff and corny as you can get with such names as Joey Lawrence, Loni Anderson, and Ed Marinaro mingling with actual Hope family members whose acting is hilariously bad.

"Bob Hope: TV Legend" is an 8-disc grab bag of more USO shows for the troops in addition to some regular comedy specials (16 shows in all) ranging from the late 50s to the early 70s.  There's lots more overseas stuff with such guests as Janis Paige, Jill St. John, Anita Bryant, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Andy Williams, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Redd Foxx, Jim Nabors, Gina Lollobrigida, Hedda Hopper, Jayne Mansfield, Tuesday Weld, and Neile Adams.  One of the main highlights is getting to see Steve McQueen doing comedy with Bob in two seperate appearances.

Some of the guests appearing in the regular in-studio shows include old partner Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, Danny Thomas, George Burns, Carroll Baker, Vikki Carr, Cyd Charisse, Don Rickles, Paul Lynde, Don Adams, Angie Dickinson, Olivia Newton-John, David Niven, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and literally dozens of others.  People who love to play "Spot the Stars" will be in heaven with this endless procession of celebrity faces.

Finally, there's the disc entitled "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Bob Hope" in which Dino presides over the roasting of Bob himself, with the help of numerous comics and other celebrities (including filmed bits by John Wayne and Henry Kissinger).  Reverend Billy Graham is the most unlikely participant, while then-governor Ronald Reagan pulls off some surprisingly good one-liners. 

The best, of course, come from comedy legends Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Foster Brooks, Flip Wilson, Rich Little, Nipsey Russell, and Jack Benny, with able assistance from actor Jimmy Stewart.  And the humor is wonderfully non-PC, so the easily-triggered might want to watch with caution. 

In addition to the four DVD sets, the collection includes a full-sized magazine on heavy paper, entitled "Bob Hope: Making Us Laugh For 100 Years."  It's packed with rare photos and essays about Hope's life and career.  Each DVD set also contains illustrated contents booklets. Image quality varies with that of the original sources, some of which are showing their age.  For me, this just increases the nostalgia value.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: THE BOB HOPE SPECIALS DELUXE COLLECTION is the sort of thing that makes not having cable-TV easy, because with this, you've got something good to watch for at least a week or two.  It's like an endless buffet of entertainment for the starving Bob Hope fan. 

Buy it at Time-Life

Buy it at

Format: DVD (19 Discs)
Running Time: 37 hours + extras
Genre:  TV/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo


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