Bob Hope addresses San Quentin inmates in a short film clip congratulating them for participating in a rehabilitative program.

Bob Hope addresses San Quentin inmates in a short film clip congratulating them for participating in a rehabilitative program.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Video archived by Eric Owens, CDCR staff photographer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

In a short film recently uncovered in the archives of CDCR’s video unit, comedian Bob Hope quips about San Quentin and welcomes inmates to a rehabilitative program at the prison.

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His filmed message is short, a little more than 100 words, but is noteworthy for being a mega-star at the time directly addressing a group of inmates.

“Hi, I’m delighted to be here inside San Quentin – on film. With my kind of act it’s amazing I haven’t been here before. I regret my press of other commitments prevents my being with you in person tonight but I’ll check in with my parole officer on my first open date. However, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of you here tonight for your unselfish participation in this fine program of rehabilitation. I want to thank my good friend Lawrence Wilson for allowing me to spend this time with you and I hope you’ll credit it to my accountant,” Hope said while frequently pausing to allow time for the audience to laugh.

While the video is undated, there are some clues such as his reference to Lawrence Wilson. Wilson was appointed warden of San Quentin in 1964 and served until 1967.

Hope had a history with the prison, dating back to his 1946 film, “My Favorite Brunette.” During that time, he formed a strong working relationship with then-Warden Clinton Duffy. Some of the background scenes were filmed at the prison and Warden Duffy was an adviser for the film.

Who was Bob Hope?

Hope, born in 1903, got his start in vaudeville when he was 18 and eventually landed on Broadway.

“In 1932 Bob appeared on Broadway again in ‘Ballyhoo.’ But Bob’s first major recognition, by critics and the public, came in 1933 for his wise-cracking role as Huckleberry Haines in the highly successful Broadway musical, ‘Roberta,’” according to the Bob and Dolores Hope Foundation website.

He went on to radio in the mid-1930s and then he launched a successful movie career.

“The ‘Road Pictures’ with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour made Hope a box office star,” the website states. “In all, Hope starred in more than 50 feature films and has appeared in cameos for another 15, the last being ‘Spies Like Us’ in 1985.”

Hope was also well-known for his support of U.S. troops.

“For nearly six decades, be the country at war or at peace, Bob, with a band of Hollywood performers, traveled the globe to entertain our service men and women. The media dubbed him ‘America’s No. 1 Soldier in Greasepaint.’ To the GIs, he was ‘G.I. Bob’ and their hero,” the website states. “Throughout World War II, with only two exceptions, all of Bob’s radio shows were performed and aired from military bases and installations throughout the United States and theaters of war in Europe and the South Pacific. His first trip into the combat area was in 1943 when he and his small USO troupe – which included Frances Langford, Tony Romano and Jack Pepper – visited U.S. military facilities in England, Africa, Sicily and Ireland. In later years his itinerary included the South Pacific.”

Hope enjoyed sports and at one time was part owner of two sports teams – The Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Rams. But his true love was golf. He quipped once that he was a professional golfer who told jokes to pay his green fees.

“Probably his greatest achievement in golf was the development and hosting for the Bob Hope Classic. Since it began in 1960, the tournament has drawn the most famous pros and celebrity amateurs. Although the sponsors have changed over the years, the tournament is a total charity effort and has raised over $40 million for the Eisenhower Medical Center and 70 other deserving desert charities,” the website states.

He died in 2003.