Recollections of Bob Hopeís USO Shows
By Joe L. Glass
I arrived at
The 91st had twelve 1950-51 Chevrolet sedans, in which we transported 6th Corps officers and others to their destinations. Some called us the camp ďTaxiĒ service, but thatís another story.
In early November we learned that Bob Hope was
bringing his USO troupe to Atterbury. There was a contest linked to his
then-latest movie "My Favorite Spy."
Contestants had to write why it should be premiered in his or her
hometown, and a soldier at
So Bob brought the movie and troupe to Atterbury, and it was premiered at two of the campís movie theaters. But there was more! Hopeís other purpose was to visit the patients at Wakeman Hospital, many of whom had been wounded in Korea, and were brought to Wakeman for special care. While they were at it, they put on two USO shows for the rest of the camp.
Our job was to pick them up at the
The convoy was about to leave. No one was in the front
passenger seat of the Hope vehicle, so I climbed in. As we drove off, a
Major from Corps, whose name I do not recall, walked toward us, and Iím
sure expected to ride in the car with them. He saw me there, and put his
hands on his hips with disdain as we left for
So I got to ride in the car with Hope and Maxwell all the way to camp. They were very cordial and the conversation was light, but it became obvious that he was not feeling well. The 31-mile drive went by rapidly, at least for me. We pulled into camp and everyone disembarked at the large theater-gymnasium where the shows would take place that evening. Camp brass greeted them, and then the cast and crew retired to the theater for rehearsal, food, and rest.
Meanwhile, Hope's manager and I scheduled the transportation needs for the rest of the day. There were two USO shows, with the hospital visit between them. The manager told me "confidentially" that Hope was sick, and had 102 degree temperature. He swore me to secrecy, and to this day I don't know whether he actually wanted me to leak that information or not.
In the troupe with Hope were stars galore. Regular cast members besides Hope were Jerry Colonna, Les Brown (and a combo, not the whole orchestra), and his announcer. Other stars besides Marilyn Maxwell were Jan Sterling, Rhonda Fleming, Academy Award winner Gloria Grahame, and a group of seven or eight "Golden Circle Girls," young starlets, including Mary Murphy, who later starred in several movies, one of which was with Marlon Brando.
I did not attend the first USO show because we had to be ready to transport the troupe to Wakeman as soon as it was over. The visit to Wakeman was memorable. A few of us followed as they toured the patient areas for about an hour and a half. All the stars were very attentive to the patients. They chatted, held hands, smiled, and put on the "happy face," even though the condition of some of the patients was grim. They had been well prepared to handle all situations in the hospital. They knew just what to say and do and they did it with grace and aplomb. I was impressed.
Then - back to the theater for the second show, which I did attend. Hope didn't miss a beat, 102 temp or not, nor did anyone else. The soldiers, of course, really enjoyed the starlets, and Hope made the most of their beauty and persona. They laughed, giggled, flirted, sang, danced, and used their considerable talents to the delight of the entire audience. Comedy dialogue kept us laughing, and ovations occurred frequently. Calls for encores lasted a long time.
In retrospect, hereís a man, Bob Hope, who knows how to give soldiers a taste of home better than anyone. I donít know if his temperature broke or not, but his staying power was extraordinary; it never exhausted. I figure from the time the first show started, he and the whole troupe were on the go for at least eight straight hours. In fact, I believe they went from the second show straight to the airport. They had to fly out that night to be somewhere else the next day. I didnít make that trip.
Regular readers of these pages will remember that this was Hopeís second visit to Camp Atterbury, the first having taken place December 1, 1942. What an entertainer, what a trouper, and what a guy.
God bless Bob Hope during this season of his 100th birthday.
Joe L. Glass
6th Corps HQ was a training
and inspection command, and full of "brass." Lots of full
Colonels and below, and most were Regular Army. They flew all over the
western part of the US inspecting military operations. I believe they were
located at Atterbury because of the district they covered.
To packed houses in shows beginning at 8:45 and 10:30 pm, Bob and his gang, with their antics as well as their gags, keep the soldiers howling with laughter.
Miss Langford, deep-voiced Southern beauty, wowed the boys with a number of songs, including "You Made Me Love You" and "Manhattan Serenade". Miss Vague's comedy sketches, both on and off the air, kept the audiences laughing constantly. Mr. Colonna showed the boys how to play a trombone, after giving samples of his ability as a singer, and Ennis and his band played their specialty, "I've Got A Date With An Angel".
Bob and Jerry and the band, starring Guitar Player Tony Romano, also paid a surprise visit to an overflow crowd of several hundred at Service Club No. 2.
More than the usual number of Bob Hope radio fans in and around Franklin tuned in at 9 o'clock last night to hear the "localized" theme of the NBC Pepsodent show. Hope kept the radio fans howling too, with wisecracks about Indiana and Indianapolis.
Wendell Wilkie and Paul V. McNutt and Sonja Henie, who is playing a personal appearance engagement in the ice revue at Indianapolis, came in for a bit of humorous mention, by Hope in his myriad of "gags."
|The Columbus Evening Republican
November 21, 1964
Bob Hope's Picture Premiered at Camp
Comedian Bob Hope and his touring troupe "played" Camp Atterbury, November 28, 1951, and he premiered his movie "My Favorite Spy" at two of the camp's movie theaters.
Hope and his group, consisting of Rhonda Fleming, Jerry Colonna, Marilyn Maxwell, Les Brown, Jan Sterling and Gloria Grahame did two shows at the camp's sports arena and one for invalid patients in Wakeman Hospital, taping one of the shows for his weekly radio program.
The shows were scheduled as a result of a letter from an Atterbury GI, who entered a letter-writing contest "Why the Premiere of 'My Favorite Spy' Should Be Held in My Home Town."
Mary Murphy at the Premier Showing
at Camp Atterbury, Indiana