The Big Broadcast of 1938 publicity book In the late 1920s the success of motion pictures was closely related to vaudeville. In one sense, sound films stole the attention of the vaudeville audience, thus contributing to the end of the heyday of live variety shows. At the same time, sound films provided a new venue for many variety stars. For example, it was vaudevillian Al Jolson who guaranteed the success of The Jazz Singer, the first feature film to include songs and dialogue. Among the many other variety artists who made early sound films was Bob Hope.

After his success on stage in the musical Roberta (1933), Bob Hope was cast in two series of short films made between 1934 and 1936. Although they were moderately successful, they did not guarantee a major motion picture career for Hope. In 1937, when Hope had three radio series as well as musical theater experience behind him, he was cast as a cruise ship's master of ceremonies in The Big Broadcast of 1938. His role was fifth-billed but it featured Hope introducing the song "Thanks for the Memory." The song was an immediate hit and provided Hope with a professional boost and a career-long theme song. Paramount Studios signed Hope for additional films, and by the end of the 1940s, he was one of the country's highest-grossing motion picture stars.

Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope in Road to MoroccoBob Hope's success in The Big Broadcast of 1938 and resultant starring film roles brought him the opportunity to team with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in The Road to Singapore (1940). It is for this film and the subsequent series of Road pictures with Crosby and Lamour that Bob Hope is best known and still appreciated as a movie star. In each of the seven Road pictures made between 1940 and 1962, Hope and Crosby portrayed second-rate show business troupers who were also third-rate con men. The settings were always exotic locales, and the plots were burlesques of stock adventure melodramas. Much of the films' immediate and enduring popularity results from the chemistry between Hope and Crosby: their relaxed comfort with one another; their playful competitiveness; and the natural, improvisational feel to their repartee.

De Forest Phonofilm

Lee de Forest was already well known as the inventor of the Audion tube-a device which amplified weak radio signals-when he turned his attention to talking pictures. Building on the work of German inventors, in 1922 he developed the Phonofilm, a system for recording synchronized sound directly onto film stock. The Phonofilm was used almost exclusively to record stage performances such as vaudeville numbers, speeches, and musical acts rather than to compete with silent film features.

Lee de Forest. De Forest Phonofilm, ca. 1924. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (54)

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Phonofilm Film Strip

An enlarged series of de Forest Phonofilm frames shows the sound imprinted directly onto the film stock as parallel lines. These lines photographically represent electrical impulses from the microphone and are translated back into sound waves when projected using specialized equipment. However, because the majority of movie theaters in the U.S. were affiliated with the major Hollywood studios, Lee de Forest experienced great difficulty in finding venues for his system and the company declared bankruptcy in 1926.

De Forest Phonofilm frames, ca. 1925. Reproduction. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (55)

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Vitaphone Camera Booth

The Vitaphone camera was linked directly to a turntable that recorded sound onto a blank phonograph disc. This system generated a great deal of noise while in operation, so the entire apparatus was housed in a soundproof booth. Working with University of California at Los Angeles and other archives, the Library has preserved many of the early Vitaphone productions in modern sound-on-film formats.

Cameraman inside soundproof camera booth, ca. 1926. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (56)

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Vitaphone Projection Booth

The projection of a Vitaphone film required very precise synchronization of disc and film. Each reel of film has a "start" frame, and the projectionist would line up that frame in the projector's gate. The disc would be cued on the attached turntable by placing the stylus at the first groove, marked with an arrow etched into the record. At the flip of a switch, the film and disc would accelerate to their appropriate playing speed.

Vitaphone projection booth, ca. 1926. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (58)

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Vitaphone Disc

Western Electric's sound film system was called Vitaphone, and, unlike the Phonofilm, it recorded sound onto sixteen-inch discs. Each disc corresponded to one reel of film, or about ten minutes. In contrast to conventional records, the grooves in a Vitaphone disc were less rigid in order to enhance sonic quality. However, each disc could be used only for twenty plays before replacement, thus the check boxes on the label. This recording is of Roy Smeck, "The Wizard of the String," in a short film, Pastimes, presented at the Vitaphone's world premiere at the Warner Theatre in New York, August 6, 1926.

Roy Smeck. Pastimes, Camden, New Jersey: Victor Talking Machine Company, July 14, 1926. Vitaphone disc. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (59)

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DeForest Phonofilm Advertisement

Stars of the variety stage were the featured attractions in many of the sound films of producer Lee DeForest.

Phonofilm advertisement. The Daily Herald (Biloxi), 1925. Reproduction. Courtesy of Joe Showler (59a)

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Variety Headlines

Trade newspapers such as Variety and Billboard chronicled vaudeville in great detail and provide researchers with unique and invaluable information about the rise and fall of variety stage entertainment.

Composite of assorted news clippings from Variety, 1929. Reproduction. Courtesy of Variety. General Collections, Library of Congress (60)

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Film Derived from Popular Radio Show

In this 1933 motion picture, vaudevillian Ed Wynn brought his "Perfect Fool" stage character to the screen. The title of the film is derived from Wynn's Texaco Oil radio program of the time, The Chief.

The Chief, 1933. Movie Poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63a)

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Footlight Parade

Several Warner Brothers musicals of the early 1930s are remembered for lavish numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The negligible plots of these films were based upon the backstage intrigues of stage revues. In Footlight Parade, James Cagney portrays a producer of stage musicals who discovers that talking motion pictures have nearly eliminated the demand for live revues. He applies his skills to create musical numbers that are performed live between movie showings. The extravagance of the productions belie their supposed theater setting.

Footlight Parade. Movie poster, 1933. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63A.2) [digital ID# cph 3g07412]

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Film Set in Radio Station

Dick Powell starred in this 1934 musical motion picture set in a radio station. The broadcasting setting provided a means of justifying performances from Ted Fio Rita and the Four Mills Brothers.

Twenty Million Sweethearts, 1935. Movie Poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63b)

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Murder at the Vanities

Earl Carrol's stage revues of the 1920s and early 1930s, called Vanities, were among several rivals to Ziegfeld's Follies. The beautiful women featured in the annual Vanities were renowned as the most scantily clad of the genre. One historian has described the Vanities as "a blend of tastelessness, nudity, and overpowering spectacle." This filmed backstage murder mystery continued the Vanities tradition with musical numbers which barely skirted the guidelines of Hollywood's censors.

Murder at the Vanities. Movie poster, 1934. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63A.3) [digital ID# ppmsc-04763]

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"It's better to be looked over than overlooked."

In Belle of the Nineties, Mae West, who wrote the script for this film and a handful of other films during the 1930s, stars as an 1890s cabaret entertainer. Singing such sultry songs as "My Old Flame" and "Memphis Blues" with Duke Ellington's orchestra behind her, West simultaneously projects sexiness and sincerity. Even though the script was ruthlessly edited by the censorship board, West managed to maintain her signature innuendo.

Belle of the Nineties. Movie poster, 1934. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63A.4) [digital ID# ppmsc-04385]

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House-Rent Party

The musical comedy formula that evolved from vaudeville consisted of variety acts embedded within a very slight plot. It remained popular in the 1940s and extended into motion pictures that were geared toward African American audiences. This 1946 Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham film is one such vehicle.

House-Rent Party. 1946, Movie Poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63B.2)

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Vaudeville Stars on the Screen

Vaudevillian Jack Pearl's "Baron von Munchhausen" character became widely popular on the radio series The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air in 1932. The Baron was best known for his retort to those who doubted his wild exaggerations: "Vas you dere, Sharlie?" He was joined in the motion picture Meet the Baron by several other veterans of the stage.

Meet the Baron. 1933, Poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63B.1)

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The Bronze Venus

In 1938, Lena Horne made her motion picture debut in a small film, The Duke is Tops. A melodrama set in a show business milieu, the film was directed toward African American audiences and featured many musical performers and variety "specialty" acts. In 1944, after Lena Horne had become an internationally-renowned motion picture and recording star, the film was reissued as The Bronze Venus.

The Bronze Venus. Movie poster, 1944. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (63B.4) Digital ID: LC-DIG-ppmsca-05525

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Sheet Music for "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You."

Assuming that vaudevillian Fanny Brice would be as popular a film star as Al Jolson had become, Warner Bros. cast her in the 1928 talking picture, My Man, where she sang "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You." However, the film was not a commercial success and Brice did not develop a truly national audience until her "Baby Snooks" character became popular. No print or negative is known to exist of the film, My Man.

Billy Rose and Fred Fischer. "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You." My Man. New York: Irving Berlin, Inc., 1928. Sheet music. George Moss Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (65)

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"Tip Toe Through the Tulips With Me"

Motion picture historians have established that the 1929 musical, Gold Diggers of Broadway, was a critically-acclaimed and commercially successful musical film. It featured a number of popular variety stage stars, including talented dancers, singers, and wisecracking comics. Sadly, no print or negative is known to exist of this excellent film. Thus, it is remembered now only for the song, "Tip Toe Through the Tulips With Me," revived notoriously in the late 1960s by novelty performer Tiny Tim.

Al Dubin and Joe Burke. "Tip Toe Through the Tulips With Me," from Gold Diggers of Broadway. New York: M. Witmark and Sons, 1929. Sheet music. Music Division, Library of Congress (65.2)

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Telegrams about The Big Broadcast of 1938

By 1937 Bob Hope had starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in short films, yet it was not a given that he would become a motion picture star. Telegrams in the Hope Collection such as these show how close Hope came to turning down his role in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938. His success in that film made Bob Hope a motion picture star.

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Sheet Music for "He's a Good Man to Have Around"

Lusty song-belter Sophie Tucker was another in the parade of vaudeville stars who passed in front of sound movie cameras in the beginning of the talkie era. Her 1929 film debut Honky Tonk, however, was not a success. It was a story of a misunderstood performer, one of too many which followed the success of Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer. No print or negative is known to exist of the film Honky Tonk.

Jack Yellen and Milton Ager. "He's a Good Man to Have Around." Ager, Yellen & Bornstein, Inc.: New York, 1929. Sheet Music. Music Division, Library of Congress (65.1)

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The Big Broadcast of 1938 Publicity Book

In The Big Broadcast of 1938 Bob Hope played the master of ceremonies on an ocean liner, introducing a variety of entertainers, such as Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm and Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad. In the film, three ex-wives of the character Hope played are on board the ship as he prepares to be married for the fourth time, to a character played by Dorothy Lamour.

The Big Broadcast of 1938. Publicity Book, 1938. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (67)

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"Thanks for the Memory"

In The Big Broadcast of 1938 Bob Hope's character sings "Thanks for the Memory" to his ex-wife, played by Shirley Ross. In this bittersweet song the couple nostalgically recounts the bad times in their relationship, as well as the good. The wistful song immediately became a hit and has been associated with Bob Hope as his theme song ever since.

Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. "Thanks for the Memory." New York: Paramount Music Corporation, 1937. Music Division, Library of Congress (68)

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Damon Runyon Newspaper Column

The Big Broadcast of 1938 was not well received by critics. The New York Times called it "a hodge-podge revue." However, the song "Thanks for the Memory," sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, made a favorable impression on critics as well as viewers. Damon Runyon's column about the song is credited with giving a significant boost to Bob Hope's film career.

Damon Runyon. "The Brighter Side." Los Angeles Examiner, March 13, 1938. Reproduction. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (69)

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Road to Rio Lobby Card

The Road to Rio was the fifth of the Road series of comic adventure films. It was the highest-grossing motion picture of 1948.

Road to Rio lobby card. National Screen Service Corporation, 1948. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (70)

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Life Magazine Cover, February 4, 1946

Critic Brooks Atkinson wrote that the first job of a vaudevillian is to "break down the resistance of the house by direct force of personality." Life Magazine's cover tribute to The Road to Utopia features Bob Hope and Bing Crosby as vaudevillian go-getters.

Life Magazine, February 4, 1946, cover. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (71)

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Road to Bali Lobby Card

The Road to Bali was the sixth of the seven Road series of comic adventure films. It was the only Road picture shot in color.

Road to Bali. Lobby card, 1953. Card 2. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (70.1)

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Hope, Crosby, and Lamour in The Road to Morocco

By 1937 Bob Hope had starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in short films, yet it was not a given that he would become a motion picture star. Telegrams in the Hope Collection such as these show how close Hope came to turning down his role in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938. His success in that film made Bob Hope a motion picture star.

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Autographed Photo of Bing Crosby

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby shared a friendship and mock rivalry which predated the first Road film in 1940. Years before they began performing in films together, they joked about their mutual passion for golf, needling each other at personal appearances and on radio shows. The two first appeared together at the Capitol Theater in New York in 1932.

Autographed photograph of Bing Crosby, 1945. Courtesy of Bob Hope Archives (74)

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The Road to Utopia script page Annotated by Bob Hope

The great popularity of the "Road" series of films was due primarily to the chummy yet competitive, rapport between Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. The compatibility of their partnership includes a rhythmic ease to their dialogue, especially when they are exchanging insults.

The Road to Utopia script page. Typewritten manuscript with holographic emendations, 1946. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (75.1)

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"Put it There Pal" Lyrics, with Hope and Crosby's Contributions

Reputedly, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby improvised so much in filming their Road pictures, that Hope once called out to a writer on the set, "If you recognize any of [your lines], yell 'Bingo'!" No doubt, this is an exaggeration, but the handwritten corrections to the typed lyrics to "Put It There, Pal" give evidence of the team's embellishment of their scripts.

"Put it There Pal" lyrics with handwriten emendations, 1946. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (75)

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The Seven Little Foys Lobby Card

As one of the most popular motion picture stars of the 1940s and 1950s, Bob Hope could chose the films in which he would appear and could participate in the profits of those films. Hope was one of the producers of the 1955 screen biography of vaudevillian Eddie Foy, The Seven Little Foys.

Lobby card for The Seven Little Foys. National Screen Service Coporation, 1955. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (77)

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Hope and Foys Photograph

Depicting turn-of-the-century vaudevillian Eddie Foy was a natural choice for veteran variety entertainer Bob Hope. But the film was a departure for Hope because he played Eddie Foy as only a partially sympathetic character. The film centers on Foy's life after the early death of his wife, and depicts many serious as well as comical incidents. This role shows off Hope's broad range of acting abilities.

Composite photograph for The Seven Little Foys, 1955. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (78)

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The Seven Little Foys Musical Score

In The Seven Little Foys Bob Hope, as Eddie Foy, courts his wife-to-be singing Bert Williams's classic song, "Nobody." The musical score to The Seven Little Foys was composed by Joseph J. Lilley, who also scored many of Elvis Presley's motion pictures.

Joseph J. Lilley. Musical score for The Seven Little Foys, 1954. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (79)

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Acclaim for The Seven Little Foys

The Seven Little Foys was a success with critics and audiences. Even those who did not praise the film admired Bob Hope's portrayal of Eddie Foy.

Report from preview screening for The Seven Little Foys, 1955. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (80a)

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Bob Hope schedule for promotion of The Seven Little Foys

Throughout his career Bob Hope worked tirelessly to assure the success of his projects. On the Sunday of Bob Hope's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to promote The Seven Little Foys, he rehearsed his two segments for the television program, gave two radio interviews, and capped the day with a cocktail party to promote the motion picture.

Promotion schedule for The Seven Little Foys, June 25-28, 1955. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (80a-s1)

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Academy Award Ceremonies Jokes

Self-deprecation is a major ingredient of Bob Hope's humor, as is obvious in his frequent jokes about never receiving an Academy Award for a film. No Bob Hope Oscar night was complete unless Hope made a few jokes denigrating his own acting abilities. Hope first hosted the Academy Award ceremonies in 1940 and served as its masters of ceremonies more often than any other performer.

Jokes from the Academy Award Ceremony, 1969. Typewritten manuscript with emendations. Page 2. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (83)

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Hope's Honorary Oscar from 1953

Bob Hope was one of the most popular movie stars throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, appearing in more than seventy feature films. He received three honorary Academy Awards for his humanitarian services and contributions to the motion picture industry, including this one in 1953.

Honorary Academy Award statuette, 1953. Courtesy of Bob Hope Archives (82)

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