Bob Hope, the greatest entertainer of the 20th century, spent nearly half of his 100 Christmases heading up USO shows as a globetrotting Santa Claus with a golf club, a sackful of jokes, and an airplane filled with stars. Armed with a lifelong dedication to America's troops and a star-studded crew of performers, he performed on battleships and battlefields, sometimes accompanied by the sound of fighter jets overhead. The missions were often dangerous, and their schedule brutal, yet for thousands of servicemen and women far from home there was no one like Hope for the holidays.
Bob Hope's legendary NBC-TV comedy and Christmas specials - some of the most-watched programs in television history -- spanned five decades, from President Truman to Clinton. And, this May, BOB HOPE SALUTES THE TROOPS, a timeless 3-disc set from Time Life®, collects some of the legendary performer's greatest and most patriotic holiday specials, including seven classic shows from the '60s to the '90s, re-mastered from original broadcast elements for optimal viewing:
- Bob Hope's Christmas Cheer in Saudi Arabia (Original Airdate: 1/12/91) -- During Operation Desert Shield, Hope brought his USO Christmas show to U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Performances include Marie Osmond serenading a serviceman, Hope and Ann Jillian doing a duet and the Pointer Sisters performing "I'm So Excited"; other highlights include a comic exchange between Hope and actress Khrystyne Haje ("Head of the Class").
- The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the World with the USO (Original Airdate: 1/16/69) -- Hope brought his USO Christmas tour to Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Midway, and aboard the USS Hancock and the USS New Jersey in the South China Sea. Bob Hope and former professional football player Rosey Grier trade barbs, the Golddiggers dance on deck for the crews of two passing destroyers and Dick Albers performs his comic trampoline act. At Okinawa, a skydiver parachutes into the audience and Ann-Margret exhorts members of the different services to stand up during her performance. Hope does mail call for the troops, inviting one service member (whose mother says he's a good singer) to perform and Gen. Creighton Abrams thanks the entire cast and crew for coming to Vietnam.
- Bob Hope: Memories of WWII -- Hope looks back at World War II with his wife, Dolores Hope, and colleagues who share their recollections about the period, including the shift from shipping audio recordings of radio shows from the U.S. to actually traveling overseas to perform for troops stationed abroad. Frances Langford and Bob reminisce about their first wartime tour. Footage includes historic clips of Bob, Jerry Colonna and Frances Langford doing a radio show for the Armed Forces Network, Bob onstage with Bing Crosby, and a celebrity road trip to sell war bonds.
- The Bob Hope Christmas Special (Original Airdate: 1/15/65) -- Hope and company embarked on a 1964 Christmas tour to entertain troops stationed in Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Along the way, the troupe went from the freezing cold of Korea to the tropical heat of Thailand and in Vietnam experienced danger when the hotel across the street from theirs is bombed. Jill St. John demonstrates the latest dance moves with service members, and Anita Bryant, on her fifth USO tour, serenades two soldiers guarding the stage.
- The Bob Hope Christmas Show (1/16/63) -- From more than a dozen military bases in the Pacific, Bob Hope and his entourage performed the 1962 Christmas tour in Japan, Korea, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, Formosa, and aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. Among the highlights: Lana Turner and Bob Hope do the bossa nova and there's more comedy when Bob brings Miss USA Amedee Chabot onstage. The show closes with Anita Bryant leading everyone in Silent Night.
- The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the Globe with the U.S.O. (Original Airdate: 1/17/72) - In 1972, Hope brought his USO Christmas tour to Hawaii, where Don Ho and His Wahinis perform Tiny Bubbles. Then, the company head to Wake Island and Okinawa and on to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Spain, and Cuba. Along the way Bob delivers his topical stand-up, and jests with Jill St. John, pitcher Vida Blue, and astronaut Alan Shepard.
- The Bob Hope Christmas Special (Original Airdate: 1/17/73) --Hope made his 22nd Christmas tour of U.S. military bases to entertain troops, starting with a send-off from Santa Claus (actor and pro football player Merlin Olsen) as the group departs for the Aleutians, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Diego Garcia, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and the USS Midway. Highlights include Bob doing his custom-tailored monologues (with departing fighter jets drowning out his act in Thailand), a "fatigue version of Sanford and Son" with Redd Foxx, and Rudy Cardenas' show-stopping juggling. Bob brings a star-struck service member onstage to sing to Miss World Belinda Green, dances and sings with Lola Falana, and jokes with L.A. Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel.
Every time I get to review a Time-Life Title, I'm transported back to my childhood. I grew up with my grandparents, who would both be well over 100 today, so I experienced the classics a little more than the average person my age. Bob Hope was one of my grandmother's favorites. While I was drooling over the New Kids on the Block, she was still swooning over Bob, even in her 70s and 80s. Anytime he was on, she was watching. So I'm sure she would've loved this DVD set. Bob Hope Salutes the Troops is an amazing collection that spans several decades and shows Bob's undying support for our men and women overseas.
There are three DVDs and hours of entertainment packed into this set. You get to travel with Bob to military bases all over the world as he brings a little hope to soldiers during the holidays. From Korea to Saudia Arabia, Bob puts his own safety aside to bring joy to others. Joining him are dozens of other stars. You'll see performances by musicians like Marie Osmond, The Pointer Sisters, Patty Thomas, and many more. There are also comedians, actors, trampoline acts and tons of other fun shows.
I really enjoyed this DVD set. I watched it together with my mother and my aunt who has Downs Syndrome and mild dementia. Seeing Bob Hope and so many of her favorite from when she was young made my aunt really happy and more alert than she has been in a while! So Bob is still working his magic for people in need of a smile, and I'm sure he always will.