Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


HOPE Richard Zoglin. Simon and Schuster; 2014.

Although Simon and Schuster is promoting this book as "the untold story of Bob Hope," that is hardly the case. Hope's career achievements, USO tours, Viet Nam controversy, and voracious lust for ladies other than his wife has been well-documented elsewhere. Zoglin's book has nothing new to say, although in general Zoglin says what he has to say well, a more-than-credible job of rehashing old stories. Zoglin makes the case that Hope was, as the publisher puts it, "the most important entertainer of the 20th century," pointing out that Hope virtually invented stand-up comedy and was a show business forerunner in other ways as well. Zoglin often disagrees with previous biographers' assessments of Hope's movies -- a stab at writing something new, perhaps -- but he doesn't argue that the comic's latter-day film projects were simply abysmal. Although Zoglin is supposedly putting forth a more positive spin on Hope's life and career, he doesn't shy away from the negative aspects of Hope's personality. All in all, this is by no means a bad book, but if you've read previous bios you'll just find it over-familiar.

Verdict: Not hopeless, but it's been done before. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

I recently heard an interview with the author on NPR and couldn't decide whether to read this...I get the impression from your review and that interview that though he was a great star, there's no big "backstage drama" in Hope's life that makes for a meaty biography...his sibling rivalry with Bing Crosby is well-documented and was discussed in the NPR interview, but it's not like they hated each other. Oh, well, he was an icon and does deserve to have a definitive biography...

William said...

The book is interesting if you've never read anything else about Hope. There is "backstage drama" -- difficult relationships with some of his (many) brothers; numerous one-night stands with starlets and long-term affairs with the likes of Marilyn Maxwell (?) -- but it's all been covered before. The clue to Hope's character was that everything, but everything was subordinate to his career, with sex taking a close second.