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Bob Hope Collection Update

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The following is a guest post by David Jackson, Archivist, Bob Hope Collection, Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.

Bob Hope Collection. 

I’m entering the home stretch of my project to process the manuscript materials in the Bob Hope Collection and wanted to present a brief look at what’s now available for researchers. Processed material has been entered into a draft finding aid that can be accessed through staff at the Library of Congress’s Recorded Sound Research Center. The finding aid will not be published until the completion of this project.

William Robert Faith, in his book Bob Hope: A Life in Comedy, describes three record series within the papers: the Bob Hope Joke Files (BHJF), Bob Hope Personal Files (BHPF), and Hope Enterprises Public Relations Files (HEPRF). While the latter two, consisting of correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, and business records, are still undergoing processing, the first of these series is now available. The Joke Files consist of hundreds of linear feet of scripts, material, correspondence, and records covering the creative output of Bob Hope’s career in film, radio, and television, as well as his numerous personal appearances.

Bob Hope Collection. 

The film series consists of scripts from every one of theatrical features. The 25 linear feet of material ranges widely for each production. For many of his earliest films, produced in-house by Paramount Studios, a single copy of the script may exist. As Hope’s fame and clout grew, he won the right to have his personal staff of writers “punch up” the scripts, and their joke material is usually included. Hope eventually graduated to self-producing several of his own films later in his career, and these files may include correspondence, publicity material, production memos, and numerous script revisions. A quick word on the principle of original order – it’s the idea that the archivist respects the collection creators’ organizational principles, unless a case can be made for altering it. In the case of the films, Hope’s staff consistently organized the files, both in the papers and the photo archive, alphabetically by title, and this is maintained within the collection.

Bob Hope looking at files in his office. Bob Hope Collection. 

130 linear feet of the collection is devoted to the television files, containing scripts, writers’ material, production memos, correspondence, etc., for all of Hope’s TV specials. Chronologically, this ranges from his appearance on the very first commercial broadcast on the west coast in 1947, to his final shows in the 1990’s. Notes concerning principal guest stars and production locations outside of Hollywood are given where known. Included are files for all of Hope’s overseas USO tours from 1950 onwards, as these tie directly to the television specials which resulted from them.  It also includes scores of television guest appearances, whether scripted shows, interview programs, telethons, or awards show such as the Oscars. A small subseries consists of scripts for the mid-1960’s program Bob Hope presents the Chrysler Theatre, an anthology series of comedies and dramas introduced by (and occasionally featuring) Hope.

Bob Hope with Marjorie Hughes looking at script files in vault. Bob Hope Collection.

A related 16 linear foot series of material consists of scripts, treatments, and proposals for numerous unproduced films and television series. Some of the projects eventually morphed into realized productions, while others were eventually abandoned. Some of the more interesting projects included attempts to produce biopics of Walter Winchell and Rocky Marciano, as well an eighth Road picture with Bing Crosby (and briefly, George Burns). Several proposals for situation comedies are included.

The radio series consists of 61 linear feet of material from Hope’s more than twenty year career in radio. Included are scripts from Hope’s early shows, such as The Intimate Revue and The Atlantic Family. The real heart of this series is the ten year run of The Pepsodent Show starring Bob Hope (1938-1948), a creative and cultural peak for this phase of Hope’s career. The material for the Pepsodent Show was originally organized into separate files, one consisting of just the scripts, and one containing the sketch material. It was decided to integrate these two files into one, so that all of the material for a given episode would be collocated together.

Marjorie Hughes and Bernadette Kinney filing scripts and transcription discs. Bob Hope Collection. 

Bob’s subsequent shows through 1956, including the two year run of his daily morning series, fill out the remainder of the radio files. Material is generally arranged chronologically by episode, with notes on principle guests stars added as an aid to searching. An appendix to this series consists of 2.5 linear feet of scripts from numerous radio plays that Hope performed in, on such series as Lux Radio Theatre and Screen Directors Playhouse. Left out of the radio files are Hope’s numerous guest appearances as himself on other radio programs, such as Bing Crosby’s shows or the numerous patriotic and charity broadcasts Hope featured on during World War II. These scripts were filed in the personal appearance files (discussed below), and it was decided to maintain them in that series.

The personal appearance series contains a 106 linear feet of material from Hope’s numberless live performances, camp shows, benefits, graduation and awards ceremonies, golf tournaments, and even vacations. In additional to Hope’s joke, monologue, and speech materials, typical files include correspondence, press releases, and even research about the community, organization, or event.  As stated above, it also contains Hope’s radio guest appearances through the early 1950s, but not his guest spots on TV, in accord with the existing organizational scheme.

Bob Hope with Joke Files.  Bob Hope Collection.

Finally, there’s the joke file itself, a 40 linear foot run of reproductions culled from the material in the series described above, and rearranged according to subject matter. Through this file, Hope’s staff could repurpose decades worth of material – an important tool for a comedian who specialized in topical humor. The main run surveys jokes from across Hope’s career, but a small subset consists of a gag file that was compiled sometime in the late 1930s, providing an interesting look at topics that recurred in Hope’s comedy in those early days. A parallel run consists of “unchecked” jokes–material that didn’t make the cut but was kept around for future consideration.

I encourage researchers who are interested in all of these creative outputs of Hope’s career to contact the Recorded Sound Research Center.

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