When I reflect on the Academy Awards, many traditions come to mind: gorgeous red carpet fashions, glowing statuettes, delights, disappointments, moving tributes, and so much more. However, at the heart of it all, there is always a host to propel the ceremony along–for better or worse–and to help Hollywood celebrate its biggest night with good humor and ease. For many years, that host was Bob Hope.
Leslie Townes Hope’s career spanned about 80 years, with the comedian building experience as a vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author. Though he was born in Eltham, County of London, England, he and his family moved to America when he was four. Hope was raised in the Cleveland, Ohio, area and began his show business career as a teenager. Demonstrating a knack for comedic timing and one-liners, Hope’s comedic talents propelled his career as an actor and eventually took him overseas to 57 tours for the USO Between 1941 and 1991. By an act of Congress, Hope was declared an honorary veteran in 1997. Along the way, he appeared in over 70 short and feature films, including the beloved “Road to” movies alongside Bing Crosby, authored 14 books, and adopted “Thanks for the Memory” as his signature tune.
In addition to the many accomplishments Hope achieved during his 100 years of life, Hope hosted the Academy Awards for a total of 19 occasions between 1939 and 1978. He holds the record for having hosted the most as master of ceremonies, having hosted in 1940-1943, 1945-1946, 1953, 1955, 1958-1962, 1965-1968, 1975, and 1978. As he continued his hosting duties, Hope built a repertoire of memorable Oscar quips. Here’s a small sampling of famous Oscar-related quotes from Hope:
- “Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it’s known at my house, Passover.” (1968)
- “Personally, I never drink on Oscar nights, as it interferes with my suffering.”
- “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the annual Academy Award show. This is Hollywood’s big night, so naturally, we’re holding it in Santa Monica.”
- “Welcome to ‘You Bet Your Career.'”
- “I’m Bob Hope, known in the trade as ‘Better Luck Next Year’.”
- “I’m emceeing the awards because they wanted someone who could lose and keep smiling…and I’ve had the most practice.”
- “To all you losers, remember, there’s a bright side to all of this–you can still run for governor.”
- “It’s wonderful to be here in person. I couldn’t be here in spirit, so I’m here in person.”
- “We’re all here to celebrate Oscar–or, as he’s known at my house, The Fugitive!”
- “Tonight, we set aside petty differences, forget old feuds, and start new ones.”
- “Crosby winning an Oscar is like hearing Sam Goldwyn lecturing at Oxford.” (1944)
- “I’ve never seen six hours whiz by so fast.”
- “Welcome to Hollywood’s most glamorous strike meeting. I never thought I’d live to see the day when Ronald Reagan was the only actor working.” (1960)
- “All these Oscars! Looks like Bette Davis‘s garage.”
- “This night means a lot to everyone in the movie industry. This is the night war and politics are forgotten, and we find out who we really hate.”
- “For the first time, you can actually see the losers turn green.” (First color television broadcast of the Oscars, 1966).
Though Hope was never nominated for an Oscar in any of the competitive categories, he was given five honorary awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). In 1940, Hope was given a special award “in recognition of his unselfish services to the motion picture industry.” AMPAS awarded him again in 1944 for his many services to the Academy. In 1952, Hope was given an honorary award for “his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise.” In 1960, Hope was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given out by AMPAS for “outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes.” Finally, in 1965, Hope was given an honorary award for “unique and distinguished service to the industry and the Academy.”
While Hope continues to hold the record for having hosted the Academy Awards the most times to date, Billy Crystal is in a distant second place, having hosted nine times. In fact, Crystal and AMPAS paid tribute to Bob Hope in 2011, reflecting on what it meant to have Hope host the Oscars.
Beyond Crystal, Johnny Carson hosted five times, while Jack Lemmon is tied with Whoopi Goldberg for having hosted on four occasions. Here is the full breakdown of Academy Awards hosts for each Academy Awards ceremony through 2018:
|1929||Douglas Fairbainks; William C. deMille|
|April 1930||Conrad Nagel|
|November 1930||William C. deMille|
|1932||Lionel Barrymore, Conrad Nagel|
|1935||Irvin S. Cobb|
|1945||Bob Hope, John Cromwell|
|1946||Bob Hope, James Stewart|
|1948||Agnes Moorehead, Dick Powell|
|1953||Bob Hope, Conrad Nagel|
|1954||Donald O’Connor, Fredric March|
|1955||Bob Hope, Thelma Ritter|
|1956||Jerry Lewis, Claudette Colbert, Joseph L. Mankiewicz|
|1957||Jerry Lewis, Celeste Holm|
|1958||Bob Hope, David Niven, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Rosalind Russell, Donald Duck|
|1959||Bob Hope, David Niven, Tony Randall, Mort Sahl, Laurence Olivier, Jerry Lewis|
|1972||Helen Hayes, Alan King, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon|
|1973||Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson|
|1974||John Huston, Burt Reynolds, David Niven, Diana Ross|
|1975||Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra|
|1976||Goldie Hawn, Gene Kelly, Walter Matthau, George Segal, Robert Shaw|
|1977||Warren Beatty, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Fonda, Richard Pryor|
|1983||Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Richard Pryor, Walter Matthau|
|1986||Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams|
|1987||Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, Paul Hogan|
|2010||Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin|
|2011||James Franco, Anne Hathaway|
|2015||Neil Patrick Harris|
Though there will never be another Bob Hope to host the Oscars, Academy Awards history will no doubt continue and allow many more talents the chance to share in hosting duties and leave their own unique mark on Hollywood’s biggest night. Today, Hope continues to be remembered for his dedication to entertainment, the troops, and his often self-deprecating jokes when hosting the Oscars. By being one of the most memorable Oscar hosts, Hope certainly raised the bar for what it means to be the master of ceremonies and has inspired a long line of successors in his stead. At least, one would Hope!
This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Once Upon A Screen, and Outspoken and Freckled.
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Such wonderful research here, Annette! Hope and Crystal are definitely my fave hosts. Great piece as always- thanks for joining our blogathon! … Kellee
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Loved these old clips! Especially 54, because that’s the year I concentrated on this year, and because it was so good to see my beloved Thelma Ritter all “gussied up.” Oscar glamour shouldn’t be reserved for Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. (BTW, my favorite host was Johnny Carson. It seemed so effortless when he was at the helm. But Hope is the one I grew up on.)
Here’s my blogathon contribution — about the night Grace won: https://onegalsmusings.blogspot.com/2018/02/31-days-of-oscar-blogathon-controversies.html
Bob Hope’s one-liners at the Oscars are legendary, and I was glad you included my fave: “Personally, I never drink on Oscar nights, as it interferes with my suffering.”
Hope really was a terrific Oscars host. I never saw him host a ceremony on a live broadcast, but there are lots of great clips on YouTube.
Thanks for sharing this tribute. I fear Bob Hope will be forgotten, as comedian and as an Oscars host, so I was excited to see you share this on your site. 🙂
I love that you included Hope’s Oscar quotes and pictures. What a fun, interesting article.
Thanks, Annette, for a delightful post. I think there is a real talent to “presenting” and not all present-day TV hosts, whether for talk shows or award shows, have it. This was fun look back.
I got a little misty-eyed as I read your info on Oscars past. In many ways Hope represents the glitz and glamour we’ve come to love of those bygone days. I thoroughly enjoyed taking this trip back with you. Thank you for the contribution to the blogathon.
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