The Academy Awards and Plenty of Hope

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When I reflect on the Academy Awards, many traditions come to mind: gorgeous red carpet fashions, glowing statuettes, delights, disappointments, moving tributes, and so much more. However, at the heart of it all, there is always a host to propel the ceremony along–for better or worse–and to help Hollywood celebrate its biggest night with good humor and ease. For many years, that host was Bob Hope.

Leslie Townes Hope’s career spanned about 80 years, with the comedian building experience as a vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author. Though he was born in Eltham, County of London, England, he and his family moved to America when he was four. Hope was raised in the Cleveland, Ohio, area and began his show business career as a teenager. Demonstrating a knack for comedic timing and one-liners, Hope’s comedic talents propelled his career as an actor and eventually took him overseas to 57 tours for the USO Between 1941 and 1991. By an act of Congress,  Hope was declared an honorary veteran in 1997. Along the way, he appeared in over 70 short and feature films, including the beloved “Road to” movies alongside Bing Crosby, authored 14 books, and adopted “Thanks for the Memory” as his signature tune.

In addition to the many accomplishments Hope achieved during his 100 years of life, Hope hosted the Academy Awards for a total of 19 occasions between 1939 and 1978. He holds the record for having hosted the most as master of ceremonies, having hosted in 1940-1943, 1945-1946, 1953, 1955, 1958-1962, 1965-1968, 1975, and 1978. As he continued his hosting duties, Hope built a repertoire of memorable Oscar quips. Here’s a small sampling of famous Oscar-related quotes from Hope:

  • “Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it’s known at my house, Passover.” (1968)
  • “Personally, I never drink on Oscar nights, as it interferes with my suffering.”
  • “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the annual Academy Award show. This is Hollywood’s big night, so naturally, we’re holding it in Santa Monica.”
  • “Welcome to ‘You Bet Your Career.'”
  • “I’m Bob Hope, known in the trade as ‘Better Luck Next Year’.”
  • “I’m emceeing the awards because they wanted someone who could lose and keep smiling…and I’ve had the most practice.”
  • “To all you losers, remember, there’s a bright side to all of this–you can still run for governor.”
  • “It’s wonderful to be here in person. I couldn’t be here in spirit, so I’m here in person.”
  • “We’re all here to celebrate Oscar–or, as he’s known at my house, The Fugitive!”
  • “Tonight, we set aside petty differences, forget old feuds, and start new ones.”
  • “Crosby winning an Oscar is like hearing Sam Goldwyn lecturing at Oxford.” (1944)
  • “I’ve never seen six hours whiz by so fast.”
  • “Welcome to Hollywood’s most glamorous strike meeting. I never thought I’d live to see the day when Ronald Reagan was the only actor working.” (1960)
  • “All these Oscars! Looks like Bette Davis‘s garage.”
  • “This night means a lot to everyone in the movie industry. This is the night war and politics are forgotten, and we find out who we really hate.”
  • “For the first time, you can actually see the losers turn green.” (First color television broadcast of the Oscars, 1966).

Though Hope was never nominated for an Oscar in any of the competitive categories, he was given five honorary awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). In 1940, Hope was given a special award “in recognition of his unselfish services to the motion picture industry.” AMPAS awarded him again in 1944 for his many services to the Academy. In 1952, Hope was given an honorary award for “his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise.” In 1960, Hope was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given out by AMPAS for “outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes.” Finally, in 1965, Hope was given an honorary award for “unique and distinguished service to the industry and the Academy.”

While Hope continues to hold the record for having hosted the Academy Awards the most times to date, Billy Crystal is in a distant second place, having hosted nine times. In fact, Crystal and AMPAS paid tribute to Bob Hope in 2011, reflecting on what it meant to have Hope host the Oscars.

Beyond Crystal, Johnny Carson hosted five times, while Jack Lemmon is tied with Whoopi Goldberg for having hosted on four occasions. Here is the full breakdown of Academy AwardS hosts for each Academy Awards ceremony through 2018:

Year Host
1929 Douglas Fairbainks; William C. deMille
April 1930 Conrad Nagel
November 1930 William C. deMille
1931 Lawrence Grant
1932 Lionel Barrymore, Conrad Nagel
1933 No Awards
1934 Will Rogers
1935 Irvin S. Cobb
1936 Frank Capra
1937 George Jessel
1938 Bob Burns
1939 No Host
1940 Bob Hope
1941 Bob Hope
1942 Bob Hope
1943 Bob Hope
1944 Jack Benny
1945 Bob Hope, John Cromwell
1946 Bob Hope, James Stewart
1947 Jack Benny
1948 Agnes Moorehead, Dick Powell
1949 Robert Montgomery
1950 Paul Douglas
1951 Fred Astaire
1952 Danny Kaye
1953 Bob Hope, Conrad Nagel
1954 Donald O’Connor, Fredric March
1955 Bob Hope, Thelma Ritter
1956 Jerry Lewis, Claudette Colbert, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
1957 Jerry Lewis, Celeste Holm
1958 Bob Hope, David Niven, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Rosalind Russell, Donald Duck
1959 Bob Hope, David Niven, Tony Randall, Mort Sahl, Laurence Olivier, Jerry Lewis
1960 Bob Hope
1961 Bob Hope
1962 Bob Hope
1963 Frank Sinatra
1964 Jack Lemmon
1965 Bob Hope
1966 Bob Hope
1967 Bob Hope
1968 Bob Hope
1969 No Host
1970 No Host
1971 No Host
1972 Helen Hayes, Alan King, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon
1973 Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson
1974 John Huston, Burt Reynolds, David Niven, Diana Ross
1975 Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra
1976 Goldie Hawn, Gene Kelly, Walter Matthau, George Segal, Robert Shaw
1977 Warren Beatty, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Fonda, Richard Pryor
1978 Bob Hope
1979 Johnny Carson
1980 Johnny Carson
1981 Johnny Carson
1982 Johnny Carson
1983 Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Richard Pryor, Walter Matthau
1984 Johnny Carson
1985 Jack Lemmon
1986 Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams
1987 Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, Paul Hogan
1988 Chevy Chase
1989 No Host
1990 Billy Crystal
1991 Billy Crystal
1992 Billy Crystal
1993 Billy Crystal
1994 Whoopi Goldberg
1995 David Letterman
1996 Whoopi Goldberg
1997 Billy Crystal
1998 Billy Crystal
1999 Whoopi Goldberg
2000 Billy Crystal
2001 Steve Martin
2002 Whoopi Goldberg
2003 Steve Martin
2004 Billy Crystal
2005 Chris Rock
2006 Jon Stewart
2007 Ellen DeGeneres
2008 Jon Stewart
2009 Hugh Jackman
2010 Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin
2011 James Franco, Anne Hathaway
2012 Billy Crystal
2013 Seth MacFarlane
2014 Ellen DeGeneres
2015 Neil Patrick Harris
2016 Chris Rock
2017 Jimmy Kimmel
2018 Jimmy Kimmel

Though there will never be another Bob Hope to host the Oscars, Academy Awards history will no doubt continue and allow many more talents the chance to share in hosting duties and leave their own unique mark on Hollywood’s biggest night. Today, Hope continues to be remembered for his dedication to entertainment, the troops, and his often self-deprecating jokes when hosting the Oscars. By being one of the most memorable Oscar hosts, Hope certainly raised the bar for what it means to be the master of ceremonies and has inspired a long line of successors in his stead. At least, one would Hope!


This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Paula’s Cinema ClubOnce Upon A Screen, and Outspoken and Freckled.

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