The following is a guest post by David Jackson, Manuscript Archivist, Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.
The finding aid for the papers in the Bob Hope Collection is now available to researchers, providing access to 770 linear feet of textual materials, and 91 feet of photographic materials. The finding aid is accessible online via the Recorded Sound Reference Center’s Finding Aids page and will be available through the Library of Congress’s finding aids search engine in upcoming months.
The Bob Hope Collection consists of scripts, jokes, monologues, correspondence, manuscripts, promotional materials, photographs, and clippings documenting Hope’s work as an entertainer, actor, comedian, and philanthropist, across multiple mediums and disciplines including radio, television, film, and live performance.
Organization of the papers has followed the description given by William Robert Faith, former member of Hope’s public relations team and author of the biography Bob Hope: A Life in Comedy. The bulk of material representing the creative aspects of Hope’s career is found in Series 1, The Bob Hope Joke Files. Subseries further divide the Joke Files into:
- Monologues and speeches – collections highlighting these centerpieces of Hope’s comedy
- Radio – scripts and jokes from his quarter century on radio
- Television – scripts, jokes, and production material from his half century on TV
- Motion Pictures – scripts for over fifty films, and production material for select movies
- Personal Appearances – jokes, monologues, and speeches for countless benefits, award ceremonies, commencements, etc.
- Publications – manuscripts, galleys, and artwork for Hope’s books and newspaper articles
- Song Parades – lyrics for comical songs and parodies
- File gags and thematic joke files – separate files that cross-reference jokes according to subject and theme
The Bob Hope Personal files comprise Series 2. They collect the various business aspects of the Hope organization. Subseries include:
- Correspondence – general files arranged chronologically, and various files collecting correspondence by topic, including Hope’s numerous fan letters from members and veterans of the Armed Forces
- Vertical file – general office files from several phases of Hope Enterprises history, arranged by topic
- Television production files – schedules, contracts, financial records, and other materials documenting Hope’s television production company
- Script development files – Scripts and treatments for various unproduced television series, specials, and motion pictures
Series 3 embodies the Hope Enterprises Public Relations files. Included here are various materials used by Hope’s staff to document and maintain the Hope brand. Besides a miscellaneous set of files used by public relations and other staff, this series includes:
- Photographs – prints of over 70,000 photographs from family photos to production stills
- Clippings – newspaper clippings covering over 50 years of Hope’s career
- Scrapbooks – a large collection of scrapbooks on various subjects, processed several years prior to this project and appended to the collection
As I learned while processing the collection, Bob Hope was a pioneer in many of the modern practices of show business. He was one of the first entertainers to employ a full writing staff, a forerunner to the modern television writers’ room in many ways. The staff meticulously categorized and filed joke material: researchers using the collection will find they can sometimes trace the repurposing of material across decades and between different phases of Hope’s career; a joke rejected for a television special may resurface for use in a testimonial dinner, for instance. The formats Hope developed for his broadcasting career, in particular for his long-running radio program, The Pepsodent Show, proved a tremendous influence for light television talk and comedy programming. And most importantly, Hope built an enduring celebrity business that influenced how contemporary celebrities market their brand.
This latter aspect meant that it was often difficult to discern the individual within the papers. As an archivist who lived with this collection for two and a half years, I was always on the lookout to find a peek into the personal life of my subject. Every once in a while, something special would pop up. A few of my favorite examples include: an unpublished biography of Bob Hope’s mother, written by his brother Jim (Box 964); handwritten love letters from the courtship of Bob and his wife Dolores, most of it written on hotel stationery while both pursued separate show business careers (Box 987, Folder 2); and Bob’s handwritten lyrics for his theme song, “Thanks for the Memory,” written on RMS Queen Mary stationery for an impromptu performance to calm the nerves of nervous passengers on the day World War II began (Box 1390, Folder 1).
Major processing of the collection was completed in October 2018. I’d like to thank the staff and supervisors of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, especially the Recorded Sound Processing Unit vault technicians, who shelved the more than 1700 document boxes comprising the collection, as well as Recorded Sound’s intern, Beth Gainer, who assisted me with processing the collection and populating the finding aid.