The Bob Hope Salutes the Troops 3-disc set from Time Life is exclusively available at Wal-Mart for this patriotic holiday season. This special set spans over an amazing 50 years of this comedian’s work beginning in the 1930s during World War II until the early 1990s during Operation Desert Shield.
Producers pack in seven specials totaling 395 minutes into these three quality discs complete with stereo audio that feature comedy specials and holiday showcases that are still some of the most-watched programs in television history.
These snapshots of history make you laugh while providing a nostalgic look into our country’s history and military personnel’s personal lives. Cleveland, Ohio native Hope entertained troops on 57 tours for the United Service Organizations (USO) and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcasted the specials originating from these performances where Hope is often holding his signature golf club.
This honored collection includes Hope’s ambitious and successful 1969 “Around the World with the USO” Christmas special (original airdate 1/16/69) that covered Germany, Japan, Korea, Midway, South Vietnam, Thailand, and Turkey. Mail caills, skydiving, a Golddiggers dance (previously featured on Dean Martin’s TV shows) and a Dick Albers comic trampoline act provide great variety. This special also features Ann-Margret, Gen. Creighton Abrams, singer/actress Linda Bennett, and pro football player Rosey Grier, but the best part was Hope inviting a service member to perform. These moments create amazing connections through laughter and shared life experiences. It’s amazing how much ground Hope and his crew covered during this time.
“Memories of WWII” is a close runner-up as the best special among this worthy collection. Made in 1995, this special features great moments from Hope’s radio shows from various U.S. military bases plus scheduled and unscheduled performances around the world. This special recollection features Hope’s wife Dolores, Frances Langford (Yankee Doodle Dandy), Bing Crosby and all-around talent Jerry Colonna. Love hearing that familiar phrase “This is Bob (the name of the installation) Hope.” In 1944, Hope traveled over 30,000 miles across the South Pacific for over 150 performances and first performed during war time on the Queen Mary in 1939.
Accompanied by his wife Dolores, the “Christmas Cheer in Saudi Arabia” special (original airdate 1/12/91) has great energy with performance by the Pointer Sisters, a Hope and Ann Jillian duet and a Marie Osmond serenade. Hope also teams up with TV’s Head of the Class actress Khrystyne Haje for a comic sequence and baseball star Johnny Bench. Female performances were restricted in Saudi Arabia at the time.
In the 1964 Christmas special (original airdate 1/15/65), singer Anita Bryant serenades two soldiers who are guarding the stage during the show and Jill St. John dances with service members. It’s a touching special that’s so personal and emotional beyond the fact that a hotel near the performer’s hotel in Vietnam was bombed during this tour. Actress/singer Janis Paige (Cheyenne) and Anna Maria Alberghetti (Jerry Lewis’ Cinderfella) also make appearances.
The 1972 “Around the Globe” special (original airdate 1/17/72) anchors in Hawaii so audiences get a great performance from Don Ho and His Wahinis. Jill St. John, musician Charlie Pride and Jim Nabors also make appearances along with astronaut Alan Shepard and pitcher Vida Blue. The performance company continues island hopping through Cuba, Wake Island and Okinawa as well as southeast Asia.
The next year’s Christmas special (original airdate 1/17/73) was Hope’s 22nd and featured a great moment where a service member takes the stage to sing with Miss World (Belinda Green). Other appearance include football stars Merlin Olsen (as Santa) and Roman Gabriel plus actress/dancer Lola Falana, Pink Panther actress Fran Jeffries, amazing juggler Rudy Cardenas, and band leader/musician Les Brown backed by his Band of Renown. Redd Foxx performs a military version of his Sanford and Son show.
The 1962 Christmas show special (original airdate 1/16/63) features Lana Turner and Hope dancing the bossa nova while other appearances include Miss USA (Amedee Chabot), Janis Paige, and singer Anita Bryant. The lack of star power might relate to no major war time operations occurring at the time, but Hope’s loyalty and continuity demands the show must go on.
There is great sound throughout this set (Dolby Digital mono), and the videos are 1.33:1 full frame. The cinematography can be grainy at times since most specials were shot on 16mm cameras. Closed captions are available.
Hope provides insightful narration throughout that enhances this entertaining and historic experience that’s an especially thoughtful gift for members of the military and their families. Hope was the first person unanimously made an Honorary Veteran in 1997.