DVD Review: Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops

My father never saw Bob Hope while he was serving in South Vietnam. It’s not that he didn’t have the chance. Just that his West Point education had made him understand that the last place he needed to be in the middle of a war zone was sitting outside with thousands of other troops facing the same direction. The Viet Cong weren’t known for following any rules of war. They didn’t like to take holidays off as proven by the Tet Offensive. Sure he would have enjoyed getting a peek at Connie Stevens, but he’d rather not have to worry about incoming mortar rounds. So he missed out. The good news is that after 46 years, he can sit back in the safety of his recliner and watch Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops without the fear of Charlie interrupting the show. The DVD features three of Bob’s USO tours.

The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the World with the USO (71:55) features a complete overview of his 1969 Christmas tour. He doesn’t just pack a suitcase, grab a golf club and parachute into a battle. He breaks in the act before they head over to Vietnam by playing at the White House with Richard Nixon giving the introduction. Bob has Les Brown and His Band of Renown ready to back his “Thanks for the Memories” and other musical selections. The troops get extra excited when Dean Martin’s Gold Diggers arrive in their go-go boots. Connie Stevens and Miss World Eva Rueber-Staier spice things up. The big guest is none other than Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon. He does his best to be inspirational. The special features the best bits from the 16 day tour. There’s a lot of footage of the troops in the audience. The men were excited to get time “away” from the conflict to laugh it up with Bob.

The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the Globe with the USO (58:20) contains highlights of the tour from 1970. This time the rehearsals start out at West Point. Jack Benny makes a cameo as Santa. Les Brown and his band keep the music peppy. The ladies that pep up the troops include Ursula Andress (Dr. No), Lola Falana, Gloria Loring, Miss United Kingdom Yvonne Ormes and Miss World Jennifer Hosten. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench yucks it up with Bob. This is great since it’s before the Reds won back to back World Series. He even sings with Bob. The tour hits Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea before wrapping up in Alaska. What’s nice is that at each location, Bob has new jokes. He’s making sure the troops know he’s there for them and not merely doing the same schtick each night.

Chesterfield Sound Off Time (23:48) has Bob Hope on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Boxer in 1951. This was done in America, but featuring various troops just in from overseas in the audience. Bob jokes that the Navy originally wanted him to perform on the deck of a submarine. Once more Bob is backed by Les Brown and His Band of Renown. The big guests are Connie Moore and the always entertaining Nicholas Brothers.

Bob seemed in his natural environment joking with the soldiers and sailors. This is really how he should be first remembered. We often talk of “brave performers.” There are few as brave as Bob. He ventured into places where he might have been killed. He went to dangerous lands often for no reason other than he had to be there for the troops. The same goes for any of the people who joined Bob especially Les Brown and His Band of Renown. This was not just the usual TV Christmas special taped in July. They shared the holiday season with men who might not live until New Year’s Eve. Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops is a fitting look back at how Bob brought laughter to a land filled with gunfire. This is the perfect DVD to share with anyone you know that served. They might even see themselves in the crowd shots.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The source material is mostly shot on 16mm and looks rough in spots. They were shooting in a warzone. Things like fine during the performances. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Levels are fine although audio is from various parts of the world.

Time Life presents Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops. Starring: Bob Hope, Les Brown, Johnny Bench, Connie Stevens and Ursula Andress. Boxset Contents: 3 episodes on 1 DVD. Released: May 10, 2016.

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