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The Road to Comedy: The Films of Bob Hope

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0275982577
ISBN-10: 0275982572
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Many biographies have been written about Bob Hope; but no book yet has focused on the extent of the comic persona he created in film, vaudeville and radio alike - not until Donald W. McCaffrey's The Road To Comedy: The Films Of Bob Hope. Noted comedy film critic McCaffrey blends archival materials with critical surveys and interviews with Bob Hope's contemporaries and collaborators to analyze each major film in depth."-MBR Internet Bookwatch/The Bookwatch

"[D]oes justice to Bob Hope's 70-year, 52-feature film career. Drawing on interviews with Hope's frequent collaborator Edmund Hartmann, McCaffrey cites illuminating evidence from the films and offers a thoughtful definition of Hope's acting styles and how he reflected the mood of his time. In so doing, McCaffrey comes closer to offering Hope the serious consideration he deserves as a major American icon....Highly recommended; all levels."-Choice

"ÝD¨oes justice to Bob Hope's 70-year, 52-feature film career. Drawing on interviews with Hope's frequent collaborator Edmund Hartmann, McCaffrey cites illuminating evidence from the films and offers a thoughtful definition of Hope's acting styles and how he reflected the mood of his time. In so doing, McCaffrey comes closer to offering Hope the serious consideration he deserves as a major American icon....Highly recommended; all levels."-Choice

?[D]oes justice to Bob Hope's 70-year, 52-feature film career. Drawing on interviews with Hope's frequent collaborator Edmund Hartmann, McCaffrey cites illuminating evidence from the films and offers a thoughtful definition of Hope's acting styles and how he reflected the mood of his time. In so doing, McCaffrey comes closer to offering Hope the serious consideration he deserves as a major American icon....Highly recommended; all levels.?-Choice

?Many biographies have been written about Bob Hope; but no book yet has focused on the extent of the comic persona he created in film, vaudeville and radio alike - not until Donald W. McCaffrey's The Road To Comedy: The Films Of Bob Hope. Noted comedy film critic McCaffrey blends archival materials with critical surveys and interviews with Bob Hope's contemporaries and collaborators to analyze each major film in depth.?-MBR Internet Bookwatch/The Bookwatch

About the Author

DONALD W. MCCAFFREY is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of North Dakota, where he taught cinema, theater, and literature for nearly 30 years. He is the author of several books, including The Golden Age of Sound Comedy, Assault on Society: Satirical Literature to Film, and Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema (Greenwood, 1999).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (December 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275982572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275982577
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,577,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By curtis martin on February 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good overview of Bob Hope's film career, but it is also an unfocused one. The author too often goes off on highly detailed tangents that, while interesting on their own, have almost nothing to do with the subject at hand. The most egregious case of this is in the book's first chapter, in which the author slips in several parsgraphs and two photos of one Larry Foy, a dancer who opened for Hope back in the Vaudeville days. His excuse for this interruption in the Hope story is that Foy (not related to the Eddie Foy Hope played in The Seven Little Foys) was the uncle of one of his assistants.
But the Foy tangent adds nothing to the reader's experience except confusion as to why it was included. In other words, it was pretty lame to include that padding. It was just something the author knew about and he could not help sharing that (unnessesary) knowledge.
And this isn't the only such inclusion of bafflingly irrelevant info the book contains, just one of the first.

The author of this book needed a strong editor to help (force) him to weed out the irrelevant stuff. There is much better book buried in there somewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
There have been a number of books written about Bob Hope, but The Road to Comedy by Donald W. McCaffrey is the first to do a thorough critical analysis of the star's film career. It's possible that many people who were born after the late 1960's make not even be aware of Hope's long film career. Bob had one of the greatest lines in history when as host of the Academy Awards one year he welcomed the guests to the awards or, "as we call it in my home, Passover!" Classic... McCaffrey begins by tracing Hope's career in vaudeville and radio where he honed his trademark wit and timing and even covers Hope's early two-reel comedies. His first feature was in the Big Broadcast of 1938 and would set him on a movie career that would last over 30 years.

McCaffrey analyzes Hopes film in various stages such as his war-time films like Old Dark House-style films Cat & the Canary and Ghostbreakers, My Favorite Blonde, and Caught in the Draft. He also explores Bob's films made with perhaps his best screenwriter Edmund L. Hartmann in classics like The Paleface, Casanova's Big Night, and The Lemon Drop Kid. McCaffrey reserves a special chapter dedicated to perhaps Hope's most famous films, the seven "Road" pictures that he did with Bing Crosby from 1940 to 1962. As a Hope fan, I was ecstatic to see McCaffrey devote so much space to some of Hope's lesser known films. One of those was "Thanks for the Memory" that gave Bob his signature theme music but is really a well-done comedy that rarely is seen on TV (although it is on video).

McCaffrey also does a wonderful job of showing just how much influence Hope's films had on comedians and filmmakers who came after him such as Jerry Lewis, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, and Steve Martin.
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Format: Hardcover
Professor McCaffrey (perhaps a distant clansman of the preminent Canadian poet Steve) has given us a jolly and penetrating look at the five myths that surround the filmwork of 100 year old comedian Bob Hope, born in Britain but one who became more American than the Americans. As an outsider, Hope had perhaps a keener take on our foibles, for good and for bad. He warmed up to American women especially, treating them with respect and admiration, and a lot of lust of course--compare his screen attitude toward the opposite sex with that of cold, boastful Bing Crosby. A woman like Paulette Goddard--sensual, giving, carefree--set off some bells in a man like Hope, and she gave him something other screen partners couldn't. He isn't that great with Katharine Hepburn, but Jane Russell made him shine. His pictures with Lucille Ball are a subject of passionate controversy, but Professor McCaffrey argues that they are among his best, even (in the case of THE FACTS OF LIFE) approaching the kind of sophistication we associate with Billy Wilder or Max Ophuls. I don't think so.

The five myths that Hope suffers from are:

He's always the same in all of his pictures. McCaffrey counters this with his sensitive, somewhat Method depiction of the real life figures James Walker and Eddie Foy Senior in a pair of biopics which are among Hope's worst.

His visual humor is weak, compared to his love of puns and nonsense. Actually Hope is funniest in his expressions and his reactions, his double-takes, his grimaces. Visually he's no Jerry Lewis but that's a good thing, right?

Number three, he was always G-rated and that means, hee was out of his depth when it deals with real life sexual and romantic situations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Don McCaffrey's latest text goes into the wit and comic talent of the late comedian Bob Hope, who died just shortly after his one hundreth birthday. Over the years, McCaffrey has worked on a breakdown of various kinds of humor (exaggeration, understatement, role reversal, referential humor-the breaking of the fourth wall which happened quite frequently in the Road films,) that helps explain how ski-nose became so talented at making people laugh.

His analysis is readable and not burdened down with academic jargon. It's well-researched and is profusely illustrated.

The popularity of the Bob Hope films cannot be underestimated. While some of today's young audience may not be cognizant of this type of humor, sales of these films' DVDs are still strong at Amazon.Com, Sam's Club, and Wal-Mart, etc.

Parodies of Hope's and Bing Crosby's Road pictures still turn up. The Alftales cartoon program of the late eighties did one, with the Alf puppet doing the Bob Hope role. Most comedy writers would do well to pay attention to what has worked in decades pass to make the audiences laugh.

What's funny then is funny now.

McCaffrey does a great breakdown of the comedy pictures, even beginning to note the fading of originality as the Road pictures progressed. As Hope gained more experience perfecting his comic skills, he became more proficient in taking staid old jokes, and making them work in different settings and situations.

Another of the critics' strengths is being able to seque into several sequels and remakes effectively. Comparing and contrasting Hope's interpretation of his own unique "anit-hero"" with other modern-day comedians such as Steve Martin, Woody Allen, and others, brings out what makes the late comedian so special.
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