New-York Historical’s exhibition So Ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and World War II explores the legendary comedian’s work entertaining the troops and lifting spirits during the darkest days of the 1940s. But for decades, Hope was also known for another job: Hollywood’s consummate master of ceremonies. Starting in 1940, Hope hosted the Academy Awards a record 19 times, either by himself or with cohosts. He was the host for the first televised Oscar show in 1953 and the first broadcast in color in 1966, and he didn’t retire his tux for good until his final ceremony as host in 1978. He set the template for every Oscar host to come, making a difficult job look easy. For his efforts, he was celebrated by the Academy with five awards over the years—one of his honorary Oscars is on display in our companion exhibition The Gift of Laughter.
This year’s Academy Awards ceremony will be televised on April 25 and will look very different because of COVID-19 restrictions. But as you get ready to celebrate a year in movies again, stop by the Museum for a laugh or two and watch these clips below of Hope in action as Oscar’s main man.
The 1953 ceremony took place in the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and was the first-ever to be televised. Hope remarked on the novelty, saying, “Isn’t it exciting to know that a lot of these glamorous stars are going to be in your home tonight? All over America, housewives are turning to their husbands and saying ‘Put on your shirt, Joan Crawford is coming.'”
Hope returned to the Oscar stage in 1991 when Billy Crystal was serving as host. “Remember me? The Macaulay Culkin of 1927?”
So Ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and World War II and The Gift of Laughter are on view through September 5, 2021
Top image: Bob Hope surrounded by Oscars at the 13th Academy Awards, 1941. Courtesy of the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation