Roger Ebert Home

Bob Hope


Blog Posts


Thumbnails 2/5/15

The dangers of stock photo modeling; Nancy Reagan refused to help Rock Hudson; Bed bugs may be splitting into new species; Hollywood's white-guy problem; Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara.

Ebert Club

#183 September 4, 2013

Sheila writes: The glamorous days of air travel were already on their way out by the time I first stepped foot on an airplane (Aer Lingus, 1980) so I have always been fascinated by glimpses of what traveling by plane used to be like: the linens, the cocktail glasses, the curtains, the elegance! I came across a piece about a man, Anthony Toth, who had such a sense of nostalgia for those bygone days that he built a partial replica of a Pan Am 747 in a warehouse in Redondo Beach, where he lives. At first, the replica was in his garage, but then he realized he needed to build an upper level, so he moved the entire thing to a warehouse, where it still sits today. The local press picked up on the story, and it created such interest that you can now visit and have dinner, Pan Am style.

Tom Shales At Large

The Oscars: Captain Kirk was right

(AP photo)

Listen -- a billion people are throwing up. That's a rough estimate of course, but every year somebody at the Oscars says a billion people on the planet are watching the program; however many watched this year's Oscar show, they may well have felt sickened by it. It was a stomach-churning, jaw-dropping debacle, incompetently hosted and witlessly produced.


Bette Davis at 104: Still smokin'

April 5 would have been Bette Davis's 104th birthday. I was reminded of this interview I did with her in 1988, which appeared on my CinePad website 10 years later:

When my former Seattle Times editor called me, a few months after I'd moved to Los Angeles, to say he wanted me to interview Bette Davis, I wasn't as thrilled as I probably should have been. I realized it was a rare opportunity -- she was giving only three interviews to promote the paperback version of her book about recovering from her stroke -- but Bette Davis had never been my glass of lemonade.

I just never really got the whole Bette-Davis-As-Icon thing. To me, she was a movie star, a part of Hollywood history (I admired the way she took on the studio bosses when they -- and she -- were at the peak of their powers), but with the exception of All About Eve (where she really used her movie-star mega-wattage as part of the role), I hadn't regarded her as a great actress. I mean, she was no Barbara Stanwyck, who was equally adept as a screwball comedienne, a tragic heroine, or a femme fatale.

But of course, I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to interview a screen legend; there just weren't that many of them left. I remember thinking it was kind of funny and appropriate that she was living on the outskirts of West Hollywood (in the Century House on Havenhurst), mecca to the gay men who really worshipped her. But why did they? Was she just a camp figurehead because her brittle, melodramatic style of acting hadn't aged well? Or was it that she was Larger Than Life, a tough broad who had survived? Probably some of both...

Well, I'll say this: She sure knew how to be Bette Davis. She was cantankerous and flamboyant, but I also thought there was an undercurrent of playfulness to her behavior. Not that I thought she was "performing," or putting on a Bette Davis Act; I think she was probably like this most of the time. But I also think she rose to the occasion, somewhat, because she liked the attention, and liked the feeling that she was communicating -- albeit through me -- to her public.

It was a stellar afternoon...

Ebert Club

#89 November 16, 2011

Marie writes: I was browsing the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest Galleries and came upon this amazing shot - click to enlarge!

The Birth Of Earth: Photo by Terje Sorgjerd"Getting close or getting too close? Photo taken of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption that would grind most of europe air traffic. This is the scariest moment in my life, and also the most beautiful and frightening display of raw force I have ever seen." - Terje Sorgjerd

Ebert Club

#76 August 17, 2011

"I realize that most of the turning points in my career were brought about by others. My life has largely happened to me without any conscious plan. I was an indifferent student except at subjects that interested me, and those I followed beyond the classroom, stealing time from others I should have been studying. I was no good at math beyond algebra. I flunked French four times in college. I had no patience for memorization, but I could easily remember words I responded to. In college a chart of my grades resembled a mountain range. My first real newspaper job came when my best friend's father hired me to cover high school sports for the local daily. In college a friend told me I must join him in publishing an alternative weekly and then left it in my hands. That led to the Daily Illini, and that in turn led to the Chicago Sun-Times, where I have worked ever since 1966. I became the movie critic six months later through no premeditation, when the job was offered to me out of a clear blue sky."Visit "I was born inside the movie of my life" to read the opening pages from Roger's forthcoming memoir to be published September 13, 2011.


Bob Hope: Thanks for the memories

• Roger Ebert / Oct. 15, 1978

Los Angeles, California - For a lot of people, doing a comedy sketch with Charo would be enough for one day. For almost anybody, doing a comedy sketch with Charo and doing a comedy sketch in bed with Cheryl Tiegs would be more than enough for one day.

But it wasn't enough for Bob Hope. He got up early in the morning one day last week to fly in a Lear jet to San Francisco. He let me fly along. He wanted to surprise a ballroom full of Budweiser distributors with an unscheduled walk-on during a sales convention. After a standing ovation and a few quick one-liners ("President Carter didn't invite me to Camp David, maybe because Begin doesn't like hams..."), Hope was back on the jet and flying down to L.A. to tape his comedy special. (Budweiser, not surprisingly, is one of the sponsors for the show.)

"It's got a great title," Hope said. "They're calling it Bob Hope's All-Star Comedy Salute to the 75th Anniversary of the World Series. I'm not sure, but I think it sets a record for the longest name of a TV show."

Hope looked tanned and relaxed and nowhere near his 75 years; he'd worked on his material - for the walk-on and the TV special - while flying up to San Francisco, and now he'd scheduled the return flight for an interview for the World Book Year Book. His schedule accounts for every hour in the day, and he's working somewhere almost every day of the year.

"The man continues to amaze me," says Ward Grant, who handles Hope's public relations. "Here he is 75 years old, and he's working harder than he ever has. We keep statistics. Last year he did 250 personal appearances. Played 39 rounds of golf for charity. Was on more than 40 talk shows. Taped a season of TV specials. Flew tens of thousands of miles..."

Hope's schedule is simplicity itself, for Hope. "It's a great life," he said. "Say I'm going somewhere to do a show. I get there, I sleep late, I have breakfast, maybe I play a round of golf somewhere, or see the sights. Then I'm on at 8 p.m., I do an hour and a quarter, an hour and a half of material, and I'm finished.

"It's a great feeling, working in front of an audience. Keeps you fresh. I love it. But when I'm finished, I'm finished. I want to unwind. That's why I've never played Vegas. They want you to do two shows a night. After the first show, I want to call it a day. I've never liked doing a lot of shows in one day although I've done it, of course, during the overseas trips to entertain GIs. And once when I wanted to set the house record at the Palace in New York, so we opened early and squeezed in a couple of extra shows. I seem to remember they had a 75-minute sea epic on the screen, and to sneak in another show we cut out 15 minutes of waves..."

It's been a good and a bad year for Hope. It started tragically with the death of his longtime friend and sparring partner, Bing Crosby. It had its high point when Hope's 75th birthday celebration made him the toast of Washington; he was honored by a special session of Congress, during which, he recalls with a smile, no less than three congressional house rules were broken: "The rules say members can't recognize anyone in the gallery, or tell jokes, or sing. They did all three, if you call that singing..."

Was the congressional tribute the proudest moment of his life?

"One of the proudest, yes. There was a great moment in 1963 when President Kennedy gave me the Presidential Medal. I was standing all alone in a little room opening onto the Rose Garden, waiting to be introduced, and I had the strangest memory. Maybe it was being all alone that inspired it; I remembered standing by myself in front of the Woods Theater on Randolph Street in Chicago, and looking across the street at Henrici's restaurant, and thinking 'They're eating. I'm not.'

"I was trying to break into vaudeville at the time, and not doing a very good job of it. It was just about then I decided to change my first name from Leslie to Bob."

Why Bob?

He smiled. "It sounded chummier."

Crosby's death brought an end to plans for them to team up once again with Dorothy Lamour for another Road movie. But now, Hope says, he's thinking of doing a Road movie with George Burns. "It's terrific, the success George has had recently," he said. "And I like to stick around him because he's the only guy out here that's older than I am."

Hope's early motion-picture days were spent at Paramount, the home studio for W. C. Fields. What was Fields like? "Absolutely unique. He had this little gag he'd pull on Paramount. They'd give him a script and he'd take it home, supposedly to study it, and then he'd call up and announce that it needed work but he thought he could fix it. Then he'd just work in one of his old vaudeville routines, and charge them $50,000. On 'The Big Broadcast of 1933,' for example, he stuck in a golf game that had nothing to do with the movie. What Fields didn't know was that Paramount expected him to charge them $50,000, and he was worth it, so they budgeted for it before they ever gave him the script."

The jet landed not far from beautiful downtown Burbank, and two hours later, Hope and Charo, he in a baseball uniform, she in an astonishing variation on a jogger's outfit, were taping their sketch before a live audience in the NBC studios.

The audience was made up of people who just happened to be taking the studio tour when Hope needed an audience, and they looked pleased with themselves for getting to see Hope in person: Their applause and laughter seemed a couple of notches more enthusiastic than they might have been for anyone else, and I remembered a short exchange on the plane.

"I don't want to embarrass you." I'd said, "by referring to you as an institution..."
 "Go right ahead," Hope said with a grin.

var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = ""; a2a_config.num_services = 8;


"This is where we came in..."

I grew up in a time (the 1960s and 1970s) when commercial, technological and artistic conventions accustomed us to listening to music on LPs and watching movies in theaters. For the most part, we listened to one side of an album at a time (eventually, CDs -- although more easily programmable -- would play 70+ minutes of uninterrupted music, which changed song-sequencing priorities). And we saw movies from start to finish. I'm too young to remember the original ad campaign for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" in 1960, but later on (when I got my hands on some original lobby cards -- those were the 11"x14" images displayed with the posters at the entrances or in the lobbies of theaters) I noticed it was built around the apparently novel pitch that audiences had to see the movie from the start.

Now, if, like me, you were in college (or university, as they say back East) when Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) in "Annie Hall" announced that he had to see a picture "exactly from the start to the finish," and you thought that made perfect sense, it seemed bizarre to imagine a time when people had to be encouraged to show up before the feature started: "No one... BUT NO ONE... will be admitted to the theatre after the start of each performance..." (It turns out Paramount had done something similar with Hitchcock's "Vertigo" just two years earlier: "It's a Hitchcock thriller... You should see it from the beginning!") As the proprietor of the Opening Shot Project, which emphasizes the importance of the first shot in setting up and framing certain films, the idea that somebody would watch a movie without having seen the beginning is incomprehensible to me. Why cheat yourself of the joys of discovery and development? Or just knowing what's going on in the story?


Jack Benny, 1894-1974: The man who was funny just by standing there

In October 1974, Benny canceled a performance in Dallas after suffering a dizzy spell, coupled with a feeling of numbness in his arms. Despite a battery of tests, Benny's ailment could not be determined. When he complained of stomach pains in early December, a first test showed nothing, but a subsequent one showed he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. Choosing to spend his final days at home, he was visited by close friends including George Burns, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and New Zealand crooner John Rowles. He died from the disease on December 26, 1974. Bob Hope delivered the eulogy at his funeral. Mr. Benny's will arranged for a single long-stemmed red rose to be delivered to his widowed wife, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life.--Wikipedia

var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = ""; a2a_config.num_services = 8; Widgets

Roger Ebert

The balcony is closed

Gene and me in the 1980s. Looking at this photograph by Chicago's Victor Skrebneski, Gene said, "Even our mothers don't think we look that good." (Photo by Victor Skrebneski)

I was surprised how depressed I felt all day on July 21, when Richard and I announced we were leaving the "Ebert and Roeper" program. To be sure, our departures were voluntary. We hadn't been fired. And because of my health troubles, I hadn't appeared on the show for two years. But I advised on co-hosts, suggested movies, stayed in close communication with Don DuPree, our beloved producer-director. The show remained in my life. Now, after 33 years, it was gone--taken in a "new direction." And I was fully realizing what a large empty space it left behind.


Is it anti-American to like non-English movies?

View image Alain Delon as Jef Costello in Jean-Pierre Mellville's "Le Samourai." How un-American!

Edward Copeland, mastermind and organizer of the online ""Best" non-English language films poll, reports that Danny Leigh at the film blog at The Guardian (UK) is wondering about our motives ("The view: Is Hollywood America?"): Naturally it's nice to see this kind of attention lavished on some of history's finest yet lately neglected films; but between Copeland's poll (coming after The Guardian's similar exercise earlier in the year) and the surging popularity of foreign movies in the UK, I can't help wondering how much of the current enthusiasm for what was once known as world cinema is purely that - and how much a rejection of Hollywood at a time when the wider America is so reviled. In other words, is George Bush responsible in some odd tangential way for the rediscovery of Jean Renoir and Fassbinder?

If so, it's clearly a phenomenon with differing degrees of enmity; few US bloggers are likely to share the anti-Americanism of many British audiences. And yet in both cases there may be an underlying notion of Hollywood as a tool of a cultural imperialism that, however murkily, reflects the actual imperialism of US foreign policy. Follow that logic far enough and Hollywood flicks aren't just dopey time-killers - but sermons straight from the bully pulpit. I see his angle regarding Hollywood hegemony, but to attribute anti-American (or, rather, anti-Bush) motives to this particular project is stretching things quite a bit.

When it comes to Hollywood movies, I thought we had the British (Robin Wood, Raymond Durgnat) and the French (the Cahiers du Cinema crowd) to thank for originally helping us see the artistic worth of American studio pictures once dismissed as "dopey time-killers."

On the other hand, according to the incessant drumbeat of Fox and the rest of the far-right media, "Hollywood" is America's greatest enemy (since Ronald Reagan left town, anyway) -- especially its outspoken movie stars and Jewish singers! Their favorite targets are Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Barbara Streisand... So, in this climate, if we really wanted to appear "anti-American" (by their definition) wouldn't we actually align ourselves with "Hollywood"?

But this effort to showcase films that aren't in our native tongue (including non-British films, if you want to put it that way) has nothing to do with contemporary politics. It has to do with looking beyond the English-speaking film-world to... the rest of the world and the diversity of movies beyond the five government-selected nominees for the annual Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and the like.

Festivals & Awards

Oscarcast: Rappin' with the stars

LOS ANGELES -- Sunday night's Oscarcast may be the first in recent history where the presenters and performers outdraw the nominees. This year's field of films and actors is of an unusually high standard, which translates to a smaller audience, given the general rule that the better something is on TV, the fewer people watch it. Consider that "Dancing With the Stars" outdrew the Olympics.