03 September 2009

A Few Minutes to Forget

On this day in 1939, England and France declared war on Germany. At the time, Bob Hope and his wife Dolores were aboard the R.M.S. Queen Mary with over 2,000 other passengers on their way home to the United States. All were informed of developments in Europe that morning; Dolores was just returning from mass. She told her husband, "...you ought to see what's going on up in the salon. People are sobbing. One woman stopped me and said that there are German submarines waiting for orders to sink this boat. They've issued blackout instructions...people are scared."

Hope, who was supposed to entertain that night, now wasn't sure the show should go on. The captain, however, felt the best thing for everyone's morale was a little comedy. So Hope spent the afternoon putting together a routine and altering the lyrics to his theme song.

Onstage that evening, he admitted to the audience his reluctance to give the concert, but that he'd been convinced by the captain and others that it wasn't inappropriate. He said, "Maybe--just maybe they're right. It might help if all of us here try for a few minutes to forget the tragedy that faces the world and have some fun."

Performing his regular vaudeville act, he was onstage for an hour, closing with his theme song's new lyrics:

Thanks for the memory
Of this great ocean trip
On Enlgand's finest ship.
Tho' they packed them in the rafters
They never made a slip.
Ah! Thank you so much.

Thanks for the memory
Some folks slept on the floor,
Some in the corridor;
But I was more exclusive,
My room had GENTLEMEN above the door,
Ah! Thank you so much.

The salon, packed to capacity, awarded him with rioutous laughter and applause. Afterwards, the captain asked for a copy of the song for the ship's log. He also sent a copy to the ship's printing press so that each passenger received one when the Queen Mary docked in New York.

Source:
Bob Hope: A Life in Comedy by William Robert Faith


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