Bob Hope-Early Life




Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope, in Eltham, London, England, on May 29, 1903. He was the fifth of seven sons William Henry Hope and Avis Townes.


In his biography Arthur Marx gives evidence that Hope may actually have been born in 1901. His English father, William Henry Hope and Avis Townes were in April 1891.  The couple set up home at 12 Greenwood Street in the town, then moved to Whitehall and St George in Bristol, before eventually moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1908.


The family emigrated to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, and passed inspection at Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. 


Hope became a U.S. citizen in 1920 at the age of 17.  In a 1942 legal document, Hope’s legal name is given as Lester Townes Hope. His name on the Social Security Index is also listed as Lester T. Hope.  His name at birth as registered during the July–August–September quarter in the Lewisham district of Greater London was Leslie Towns Hope.


From the age of 12, Hope worked at a variety of odd jobs at a local boardwalk. He would busk, doing dance, and comedy patter to make extra money. Hope entered many dancing and amateur talent contests, and won prizes for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. Hope also boxed briefly and unsuccessfully under the name Packy East (after the popular Packey McFarland). Hope made it to the semifinals of the Ohio novice championship once.


In 1918, at the age of 15, Hope was admitted to the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster, Ohio. Formerly known as the Ohio Reform School. This was one of the more innovative, progressive institutions for juvenile offenders.

As an adult, Hope donated sizable sums of money to the institution.


Silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle saw one of Hope’s performances with his first partner, Lloyd “Lefty” Durbin. In 1925, Arbuckle got the pair steady work with Hurley’s Jolly Follies. Within a year, Hope had formed an act called the Dancemedians with George Byrne and the Hilton Sisters.  Hope and George Byrne, had an act as a pair of Siamese twins. Both danced and sang while wearing blackface, before friends advised Hope that he was funnier as himself.


In 1929, Hope changed his first name to “Bob”. In one version of the story, he named himself after racecar driver Bob Burman. In another, he said he chose Bob because he wanted a name with a friendly “Hiya, Fellas!” sound to it. After five years on the vaudeville circuit, by his own account, Hope was surprised and humbled when he and his partner (and future wife) Grace Louise Troxell failed a 1930 screen test for “Pathé” at Culver City, California.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s