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The Woman Who Never Lost Hope: Dolores Hope (1909—2011)

Dolores Hope passed away yesterday. Born Dolores DeFina in 1909, she was a singer in the 1930s. In 1934, she met and married Bob Hope.

In the numerous articles and interviews that Bob Hope did for The Saturday Evening Post, he often mentioned Dolores and spoke with pride about their long, happy marriage. In “A Century of Hope” (Mar/Apr 1998) he told how he met his future wife:

One night while I was in Roberta, my pal, George Murphy, who was doing a fine job of specially capering in the show, invited me to the Lambs Club. We downed a couple of beers, and he said. “I want you to hear a girl sing. Her name is Dolores Reade. She sings at the Vogue Club.”

We went over to the Vogue, on 57th Street … and I heard this girl sing. She had a low, husky voice, and she sang somewhat in the style of Marion Harris—soft and sweet, not a shouter. She sang “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” That did it, and I asked if I could take her out.

Once we were alone, she asked. “You’re in Roberta?” “Yes,” I said. “Why don’t you catch me in the matinee tomorrow?”

She did, but when she didn’t come backstage to see me afterward, I couldn’t understand it. A couple of days later I saw her, and I asked, “What happened?”

“I didn’t come back to say hello because I didn’t know you had such a big part in the show,” she said. “I thought you were in the chorus, and I was embarrassed at my stupidity.”

From then on, I was at the Vogue every night, waiting to take Dolores home. I must have given the doorman at her apartment thousands of dollars in tips to let me park in front of the joint and sit there with her. It was our inspiration point, our Flirtation Walk, and moonlight canoe trip all rolled into one—right there in front of the apartment on Ninth Avenue.

It wasn’t long before Dolores’ mother took her to Florida to play a nightclub date in Miami. While she was gone, I lived on long distance from morning till night. I was in love. Dolores said she was, too. She must have meant it, because she broke her Florida contract and came back to New York. We went back to sitting in front of her apartment and making plans to get married. We picked Erie, Pennsylvania, for our wedding. I can’t remember why. I was in a thick, pink fog anyway.

Once we were married. I put Dolores into my vaudeville act. Roberta had closed, so we went around the big-time circuits together. Our act went something like this: I did my regular act; then I introduced her. She came out, dressed in a lovely gown, looking very beautiful, and sang a song. I came back out, and when she started her second number, I didn’t leave the stage. I just stayed there, standing close to her and looking at her. Then I looked at the audience with an expression which asked, “Ain’t she beautiful? Ain’t she something? How about it? Just how about it?”

I stroked her arm, pretending it looked good enough to eat, which wasn’t hard to do. Then I nibbled it gently. This brought a roar from the audience. Then I hugged her; she stopped singing, broke up, and I said. “Don’t let me bother you. Just keep right on.” If she hadn’t been so beautiful and if it hadn’t been so apparent to the onlookers that we were really in love, the act would have fallen flat. As it was, it played well.

In an interview on his 95th birthday, the Post asked Bob, “So many show business marriages end in divorce. To what do you attribute your long, successful marriage to your wife, Dolores?”

Hope: We’ve been married for 63 years, but I’ve only been home three weeks.

Hope often joked about his long absences from home. Beneath the humor, though, was devotion and gratitude for her patience and her work in managing their home and family during his many trips.

It’s been suggested that I am inclined to travel a bit—that I wander from my happy home. This is not true. Just the other evening I said to my wife, “Dolores”— I knew it was Dolores, she introduced herself to me— “I’ve done an awful lot of traveling, but you’ve been very understanding about it—although you did rent out my room.”

Dolores has a wise and loving touch with our children. I’m lost in admiration of the job she has done with them, and with the job she’s done keeping me in line. A lot of children whose fathers are in show business grow up too precocious, too wise, too fresh, too unfunny. That’s not true of our four. Dolores sees to that. She also sees to it that they’re having a devout rearing. One day [a neighbor] overheard our littlest one, Kelly, ask our next youngest, Nora, “Is everybody in the world Catholic?”

“Yes,” Nora said, “everybody but daddy. He’s a comedian.” I was both surprised and pleased when I heard that. I have no trouble convincing them that I’m their daddy, but sometimes I have trouble convincing them that I’m a comedian.

It may surprise those who read this to hear that I’m a strong family man … I’m no angel. For that matter, I’ve known very few angels. My mother and Dolores are two. But I’m still married to the same girl I married twenty years ago, and that’s four or five under par for the Hollywood course. [Bob Hope as told to Pete Martin, "This Is On Me," 1954]

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  • sushil n guptan

    Thanks for all the laughs and the values. Being a soldier, i treasure both even more. Thanks again!! Sushil

  • Bobby Crisp

    Thanks for the memories! Bob and Dolores Hope inspired our troops and us in good and bad times. Such strength and humor add to their longevity and popularity.

  • Annie Wagner

    Maybe some of you don’t know that Dolores Hope recorded a great CD late in her life, and it’s a wonderful collection of standard tunes. It’s title is:
    “Somewhere in Time: The Songs and Spirit of WW2″. It was recorded in 2003 and if my math is right, she was 94 when she recorded it. Amazing!!

  • Charles Neumann

    It’s nice to remember Dolores Hope, and Bob too. In his later years, Dolores became more active in his TV specials.

  • diane laubinger

    An angel has gone to the angels.

  • Nancy Hickey

    Wonderful story of love in this “anything goes” society. Thank you for focusing on family values.