NBC microphoneNearly all of Bob Hope's sixty-year broadcasting career was in programs carried by the radio and television networks of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). When NBC was established in 1926 it was the first commercial broadcasting network in the world. In its early years, NBC operated two networks, the Red and the Blue. The Blue Network was sold in 1943 and became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

The NBC Collection at the Library of Congress, comprised of radio recordings, television kinescope motion pictures, scripts, press releases, and business papers, is the largest and most comprehensive broadcasting company archive collection in the United States. The collection documents the rise and development of both radio and televison entertainment.

Bob Hope conquered the radio medium at nearly the same time as he found success in motion pictures. Hope was featured regularly in several radio series throughout the 1930s. His success in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938 brought him to The Pepsodent Show radio series, which aired for over ten years as a top-rated program. The Pepsodent Show enjoyed enormous success for many reasons. Hope, by 1938 a veteran entertainer, had established a very popular persona: brash, yet not too serious about himself, and a comic wiseacre who endeared himself to his audience by taking them into his confidence. The format of the Pepsodent Show was straightforward: a monolog by Hope, exchanges and skits with his regular cast and guest stars, and a concluding skit. The manic comic character of his Pepsodent sidekick, Jerry Colonna, was also a popular attraction on the show, but it was Bob Hope's opening monolog which rooted each week's installment.

The May 6, 1941, installment of Bob Hope's popular Pepsodent radio series aired from March Army Air Force Field in Riverside, California. This was the first remote broadcast of Hope's coast-to-coast radio program and became the first of hundreds of radio and television broadcasts Hope performed for the entertainment of U.S. soldiers. Broadcasting in front of a live audience of soldiers and gearing the subject matter of the monolog to the troops, Hope fashioned a very successful variant on the radio comedy variety format. World War II-era stateside radio audiences, as well as the troops, appreciated Hope's soldier-directed monologs, which provided home audiences with a special affinity with the soldiers' lives and their contributions to the country.

Map of NBC Stations in 1937

By 1927, NBC had two radio networks: the Red Network and the Blue Network, each with affiliate stations across the country. Together, these two networks delivered programs to audiences nationwide, and delivered a national audience to advertisers. On the radio, a vaudevillian's tour was instantaneous, over the networks' telephone wire connections between cities and stations, rather than by railroads over the course of a year.

Map of NBC stations in 1937. Created May 2000. Library of Congress (85)

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Bob Hope's NBC microphone

Bob Hope used this microphone at NBC radio.

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Network Logbooks

NBC's radio logbooks, now at the Library of Congress, document daily programming, including exactly which stations carried each program supplied by the network. NBC normally placed its more popular programs on the Red network and relied on the Blue network to carry most of its public affairs and cultural programs, often without commercial sponsors.

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Lacquer Disc Recording of The Pepsodent Show

Beginning in 1934 the lacquer disc was used for recording and preserving sound. Until the development of the lacquer discs "instantaneous" recording was difficult and few recordings were made of radio broadcasts This invention enabled radio networks to record programming, and to make copies for artists, sponsors, legal representatives, etc. Recording on lacquer discs, NBC created an archive of its network radio shows. The Library of Congress now holds 150,000 of these radio discs in its NBC Archives collections.

Recording of The Pepsodent Show, February 3, 1948. Lacquer disk. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (88)

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Artist Cards for Jack Benny and Fred Allen

NBC's radio logbooks, now at the Library of Congress, document daily programming, including exactly which stations carried each program supplied by the network. NBC normally placed its more popular programs on the Red network and relied on the Blue network to carry most of its public affairs and cultural programs, often without commercial sponsors.

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"Are you sure you'll feel at home on this program?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Hope...you should have seen the strange creatures I worked with in the Wizard of Oz."

Judy Garland's career was as varied as that of Bob Hope. Her first professional work was with her sisters in a vaudeville child act. Garland was a regular cast member of The Pepsodent Show from September 1939 (soon after the premiere of The Wizard of Oz), to May 1940. Each week she sang, engaged in repartee with Hope, and participated in the comic skits.

Bob Hope and Judy Garland, ca. 1940. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (89C.1)

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Radio Personalities Jack Benny and Fred Allen

Jack Benny (1894-1974) and Fred Allen (1894-1956) were both vaudevillians who found great success in radio. A popular feature of their programs of the 1930s and 1940s was the phony rivalry with each other which they perpetuated.

Jack Benny and Fred Allen, 1936. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (89c)

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Jack Benny and Bob Hope

Jack Benny and Bob Hope at times did guest spots on each other's shows. The amiable banter between the two hosts was a favorite segment of these joint appearances. They remained friends up until Benny's death in 1974.

Jack Benny and Bob Hope publicity photograph, ca. 1940. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (89C.2)

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Sponsor cards for Jack Benny and Fred Allen

Commercial programs carried by NBC radio were documented in detail by NBC staff on cards that were filed by the name of the advertiser. The "Sponsor File" describes each program's format, including variations introduced over its run on the air, and often lists the guests who appeared on each episode.

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"...Nobody wants his stuff on the air"

Even when Bob Hope's radio program was rated #1, NBC management fretted over Hope's radio monologs, which were occasionally racy in addition to being topical. The network was always careful not to offend listeners nor to anger sponsors or the government. This telegram expresses an NBC executive's concern over Hope's comments on the 1940 Presidential election. The full extent of their concern is evident in these notes from a 1942 management meeting that indicate that serious consideration was given to canceling Hope's show.

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NBC Telegram About Bob Hope

NBC Radio management fretted about Bob Hope's radio monologs, which were always topical and occasionally racy. The transgression described in this 1940 telegram seems to be minor but it warranted a telegram that NBC saved for more than fifty years. In this case, Hope chose to ignore the network's request for a minor script change.

Telegram, September 25, 1940. NBC Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (92.2)

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Ed Wynn as "The Fire Chief"

Ed Wynn (1886-1966)is credited with producing the first comedy program on radio, a mounting of his revue, The Perfect Fool, for broadcast on February 19, 1922. Wynn is said to have become the first radio performer to have a studio audience when he rounded up station employees to witness the broadcast because he found it difficult to be funny without an audience to respond to his humor. Wynn's strong ties to stage entertainment also caused him to wear a costume during his radio broadcasts. He is seen here performing in his most popular radio series, The Texaco Fire Chief, which ran from 1932 to 1935.

Ed Wynn as "The Fire Chief," ca. 1935. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (94)

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Radio Information

As radio grew in popularity, fans became interested in learning more about its stars, seeing what they looked like and learning inside information about them. Radio Round-Ups satisfied this curiosity and further promoted the programs.

Radio Round-Ups. Boston: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard, 1932. Page 2. General Collections, Library of Congress (95)

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Cross Promotion

The commercial sponsor of these vaudevillians' radio programs, a vaudeville and motion picture theater chain, printed these pamphlets for free distribution to fans. The keepsakes remind fans of the ties between the popular stars and their radio sponsors.

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Headlines from Variety and the Boston Globe

The inaugural broadcast of the National Broadcasting Company aired on the evening of November 15, 1926. Highlights of the radio extravaganza included humorist Will Rogers, a variety of dance orchestras, comedy team Weber and Fields, the New York Symphony lead by Walter Damrosch, soprano Mary Garden, baritone Titta Ruffo, and Edwin Franko Goldman's band. The program lasted more than four hours.

"5,000,000 Listen in on New Hook-Up." The Boston Daily Globe, November 16, 1926. Reproduction. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (97b)

"Radio's Effect on Theatre," Variety, November 17, 1926. Reproduction. General Collections, Library of Congress (97a)

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Bob Hope Artist Card

This is the first Bob Hope card in NBC's "Artist File," a listing of artists' radio appearances on the network. The card lists all of Hope's guest appearances in the 1930s in addition to the programs on which he was regularly featured prior to the debut of The Pepsodent Show.

Bob Hope artist card, 1944. NBC Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (98)

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Woodbury Program Audition Sheet

Hope's Rippling Rhythm radio program, sponsored by Woodbury Soap, first aired on May 9, 1937. This audition sheet from a month before Rippling Rhythm aired shows that neither Shep Fields nor Frank Parker, costars of the Woodbury program, were originally intended for the series. Until the 1950s, most commercial radio programs were produced by advertising agencies hired by the shows' sponsors. Note that the preprinted production form includes a list of all sound effects needed during the broadcast.

Woodbury Program Audition Sheet, April 9, 1937. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (100)

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"This is Bob 'Football' Hope" telling you to always use Pepsodent because it's better to set out for a nice run than to run out for a nice set!"

Pepsodent toothpaste was the sole sponsor of Bob Hope's comedy variety radio program from 1938 to 1948. Each program included ads delivered by the announcer and comic references to Pepsodent products scattered throughout the script. The program was such a success, for Pepsodent, as well as Hope, that Hope became inextricably tied to the product.

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Hope's Popularity on Radio in the 1940s

As this newspaper shows, in December of 1941 radio critics voted Bob Hope their favorite entertainer and comedian. In 1943 The Pepsodent Show beat Jack Benny's Jell-O Show as the number one-rated radio program. Hope attributed The Pepsodent Show's success to his formula of beginning the program with a fast-paced monolog of jokes- "speed comedy," as he called it.

Radio Daily, December 23, 1941. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (102a)

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Hope and Troops

During World War II nearly every weekly Bob Hope Pepsodent Show was broadcast from an armed forces installation in the United States. For example, Hope's first five broadcasts in 1945 were aired from Yuma, Arizona; Terminal Island, California; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; Quonset Point, Rhode Island; and Tampa, Florida.

Bob Hope with troops, December 7, 1943. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (103)

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Bob Hope's First Autobiography

Bob Hope's first autobiography, They Got Me Covered, was a promotional premium written to publicize his Pepsodent Show on radio. Copies were sold to the public through Pepsodent for ten cents each.

Bob Hope. They Got Me Covered. Hollywood: 1941. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (104)

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"This is Bob (March Field) Hope"

As United States armed forces trained for possible entry into World War II, Bob Hope's Pepsodent Show aired for the first time from a military installation on May 6, 1941. Nearly every subsequent Hope radio program during World War II was broadcast on location, in front of an audience of soldiers.

This opening monolog from that first show includes all the ingredients which would endear him to millions of soldiers and civilians during World War II -- local and topical references, self-deprecating quips, and military-related inside humor.

Script pages from The Pepsodent Show. Page 2. Typewritten manuscript, Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (104.1a, b)

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Thanks for the Memory dedicated to FDR

Bob Hope adopted "Thanks for the Memory" as his personal theme song soon after the success of The Big Broadcast of 1938. He concluded most of his broadcasts and personal appearances with a version of this song custom-written for each performance. The artifacts shown here demonstrate some of the types of adaptations. In December of 1942, Hope entertained the troops at Casper Air Force Base in Wyoming. He personally wrote a version (second image) of "Thanks for the Memory" for the Casper performance.

On his Pepsodent Show of April 17, 1945, five days after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hope sang another version of the song in a moving tribute to the president (first image).

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Radio-TV Mirror Award

Readers of the magazine Radio-TV Mirror chose Bob Hope as their favorite radio comedian in several annual polls, including that of the 1952-1953 season for which this medal was awarded.

Radio-TV Mirror award, 1953. Gold medal. Courtesy of Bob Hope (106)

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Bob Hope Radio Script Draft

For each Tuesday night's Pepsodent Show, Bob Hope and his writers would create a draft script which was intentionally longer than required for the half-hour program. On the Sunday before the broadcast Hope and his cast would rehearse the long script in front of an audience at NBC's studios. The audience's reaction to each joke would be gauged, and the most successful gags became part of the final script for Tuesday's broadcast. The checked circles on each segment of this radio script draft indicate that the rehearsal audience liked the exchange between Hope and Jerry Colonna.

Radio script draft, February 22, 1944. Handwritten manuscript. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (106a)

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Photograph of Hope and His Radio Program Writers

Much of Bob Hope's success on radio can be attributed to the hard work that the writers and Hope himself put into each broadcast. Hope's method was to meet with his writers to discuss ideas for the each week's program. The writers would then break into teams, each of which composed a complete script. The most successful parts of each creation would form the script draft.

Bob Hope with writers, ca. 1946. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (106b)

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The Pepsodent Show Cast

The Pepsodent Show cast of the 1946-1947 radio season included (l-r): Desi Arnaz, bandleader; Vera Vague; Jerry Colonna; Bob Hope; and Wendell Niles, announcer.

The Pepsodent Show cast, ca. 1946. Copyprint. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (107)

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Jerry Colonna

Bob Hope's sidekick on The Pepsodent Show was former trombonist Jerry Colonna. Audiences loved Colonna's manic demeanor and comic, over-the-top vocal interpretations of popular songs. Hope played straight man to Colonna's zaniness and vaudevillian mauling of the English language. Colonna's radio character was that of a fool, but a fool who could use a trick pun or other verbal trap to get the last laugh on Bob Hope.

Berman. Caricature of Jerry Colonna and Bob Hope. Lithograph, ca. 1947. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (107A)

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Sentiments and Tributes

Bob Hope concluded each of his radio programs with an acknowledgment of the challenges of the day or a salute to its heroes. During World War II, the closing monologs reminded listeners of the importance of the war effort and the sacrifices being made by the armed forces. Many different writers contributed to the closing monolog. Shown here is one writer's contribution. In this case, only one sentence made it to the final script and was the seventh sentence in the closing tribute.

Closing monolog from The Pepsodent Show. Typewritten manuscript, May 8, 1945. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6. Bob Hope Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (105.1)

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Opening Monolog of January 13, 1942

The distinctive bookends of a Bob Hope radio broadcast were the comic opening monologs and the more serious closing tributes ending with a paraphrased version of Hope's theme song "Thanks for the Memory." The key components of the opening monologs were topical references to the events of the day or the locale of the performance and self-deprecatory remarks.

Monolog from The Pepsodent Show. Typewritten manuscript, January 13, 1942. Courtesy of Bob Hope Archives (102a.1)

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