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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bob Hope - The Vietnam Years (1964-1972)
Bob Hope - The Vietnam Years (1964-1972)
R2 Entertainment // Unrated // October 26, 2004
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Carl Davis | posted February 9, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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I've always loved the irony that Hollywood's, self-proclaimed, "Biggest Coward" did so much for the troops, including traveling halfway around the world to some of the most dangerous and active combat zones, just to bring a smile to a young G.I.'s face. The truth is that Bob himself loved doing it, he too loved the irony of it and he did everything to help perpetuate it. Beginning back in 1941, Hope would travel to US Army bases and installations overseas and entertain the troops. His first Christmas show was held in 1948, where he and his wife performed for American soldiers involved in the Berlin airlift. This became a tradition, and Hope never spent another Christmas at home through the 90's.

Much like the current "war" in Iraq, the Vietnam war sharply divided the country into two, those for and those against the war effort. However, it's safe to say that even those against the war, also much like today, still support our troops and wish them a safe and speedy return. War is never an easy thing. It's not fast, or clean, or casualty-free, and even the best laid plans can go awry. No one understood that better than Bob Hope. He never came out one way or the other if he was ever for or against a particular war, but to him, it was the troops that mattered, those young Americans who have always been sent into the fray to give their lives for their country, whether necessary or not. He always risked his own life to bring laughter and a taste of home to our men and women overseas.

Over a period of 9 years, beginning in 1964 and running through 1972, NBC aired these special Christmas broadcasts of Bob Hope and his special guests (which, coincidentally, ALWAYS featured a beautiful, young woman) entertaining the troops in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Part travelogue, part Variety Show, Hope did his best to bring images of America's youth home to them, in the hopes that people here in the states might be able to see a glimpse of a Father, Husband, Brother or Son among the sea of faces in his massive, massive audiences. By doing this, Hope not only boosted the morale of our war weary servicemen, but also of their friends and families back home.

I'm too young to remember much of the Vietnam War, but I do remember seeing it's after-effects as I was growing up a child in the 70's. I can imagine that those who lived through it would feel a special connection to these shows, these performances, and anyone who was actually present at one of Hope's shows would definitely want to have this set. Hope was a master showman, never forgetting who his audience was and doing his best to personalize each and every performance in kind. As a result, he dons so many hats, uniforms, ranks, etc, that at one point he's even dressed hilariously in a bathrobe as a Five Star General, of which there have ever only been four, EVER, throughout history.

Still, the most interesting aspect of these programs is Hope's narration and footage of his travels throughout the region. He and his group would often perform in areas which were very close to combat area or where there was enemy activity. Several times you see the security for these shows including snipers, armed MPs, machine gun and anti-aircraft installations, all to prevent the very real threat of attack. Hope's monologues included much of the gallows humor the soldiers themselves were using. Still, his vision of entertaining the soldiers out in the field never faltered.

There was definitely something comforting about these shows that I'm not sure can ever be duplicated. I know that the USO and the defense department continue to arrange for entertainers to visit our troops overseas, but we hear very little of this and see even less. Maybe the soldiers are too busy with their X-boxes these days to make time to attend a variety show, and perhaps the internet has alleviated the need to try and spot our loved ones on TV. So, I guess it stands that Bob Hope's Specials, like Vietnam itself, will become relegated to Ancient History. Hope's holiday salute to the troops became an instant favorite with television audiences. The 1965 special won an Emmy Award® and the special from 1970 is still ranked among the 15 highest-rated television programs to date. Bob Hope will always be remembered for his dedication to the armed forces. Always at the top of his game on the road, his devotion endured through the sixties and seventies, when American Troops were deployed to Vietnam. This 3-disc set captures Hope's most memorable moments as he performed for the troops from 1964 - 1972.

The shows included in this three disc set are as follows:

Disc One
Show 1: 1964: Bob Hope's first of nine Christmas shows during the Vietnam War included special guests Jill St. John, Anita Bryant, Jerry Colonna and Janis Paige. Miss World and Les Brown and His Band of Renown, who became annual favorites, also accompanied Bob as he entertained our troops in Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Show 2: 1965: This Emmy Award winning special follows Bob Hope entertaining our troops during the Vietnam War for the second consecutive year. Special guests included Joey Heatherton, Carroll Baker, Kaye Stevens, Anita Bryant and Jerry Colonna. In addition to his many shows in Vietnam, Les Brown and His Band of Renown and Miss World also joined Bob for traditional stops in Guam, Thailand, The Philippines, Wake Island and aboard the USS Ticonderoga.

Show 3: 1966: Bob Hope's third of nine Christmas shows during the Vietnam War brought entertainment and laughter to our troops from gusts Phyllis Diller, Joey Heatherton, Anita Bryant, Miss World and Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Shows from Danang and Saigon were highlights of this tour. Also included during the Vietnam tour were visits on board the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the USS Bennington.

Disc Two
Show 4: 1967: Bob Hope's 17th Christmas abroad and the 4th Vietnam Tour stars Racquel Welch. Stops along the way include Saigon, Long Binh, Danang and Cam Rahn Bay. Experience the singing, dancing and laughter as thousands of troops did who welcomed Bob Hope each year. Other highlights include guests Barbara McNair, and Miss World.

Show 5: 1968: Bob Hope's 18th Christmas abroad and the 5th Vietnam Tour brought Ann-Margaret to the front lines to bring laughter and joy to our troops away from home. Experience the singing, dancing and laughter as thousands of troops did who welcomed Bob Hope each year. Other highlights include guests Rosie Grier, Miss World, The Goldiggers and Les Brown and His Band of Renown.

Show 6: 1969: Bob Hope's 19th Christmas abroad and the 6th year overseas during the Vietnam War included highlights from his fifteen day tour entertaining our troops in Europe and Southeast Asia. The 24,000 mile tour began with a send-off at the White House. Some of the performers with Bob Hope were Connie Stevens and astronaut Neil Armstrong, fresh from his walk on the moon! This show is one of television's all time ratings champs.

Disc Three
Show 7: 1970: Ursula Andress, Johnny Bench, Lola Falana and Gloria Loring joined Bob Hope for his seventh Christmas tour during the Vietnam War. The tour began as West Point, then traveled through England and Germany before heading for Thailand, Guam, Korea and Vietnam. Highlights included shows aboard the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Sanctuary.

Show 8: 1971: Bob Hope's 8th year overseas brought special guests Jim Nabors, Jill St. John and Alan Shepard to entertain our troops away from home, along with annual favorites Miss World and Les Brown and His Band of Renown. This tour began in Honolulu, Hawaii and continued on to Wake Island, Okinawa, Thailand, Vietnam, Spain and Cuba.

Show 9: 1972: Bob Hope's final historic tour during the Vietnam War wrapped up with special guests Redd Foxx, Lola Falana, Roman Gabriel, and Miss World. As he had done for the past eight years, Bob Hope brought laughter and joy to our troops away from home. Bo visited the troops stationed in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Diego Garcias Island, The Phillippines, Guam, Wake Island, Shemya Island, Vietnam and on board the USS Midway.

The DVD:

Picture: Bob Hope – The Vietnam Years (1964-1972) is presented in full screen format (1.33:1). The first show, 1964, is in B&W, with the remaining 8 episodes in color. The shows all look great for their age, with very little wear, and improved quality from oldest to newest.

Audio: The 2 Channel Mono track sounds good for what this is, a collection of television specials from the Mid-60's to Early 70's.

Extras: There are no Extras included on this 3 DVD Set.

Conclusion: I'm sure that many of you have heard someone say that "everything changed after Vietnam." Well, it also seems that everything has changed with the death of Bob Hope. Watching these programs takes one back to, until today, one of the most complicated times in American History, yet Bob Hope was there to help guide and entertain us. He never did these shows with any kind of personal agenda, as it was with such a warm, giving and humanitarian bent that his absence is that much more palpable after viewing. Anyone who bore witness to these Specials when they originally aired, or were present for the actual performances should absolutely get this 3 DVD set. Still, it's easy to recommend Bob Hope – The Vietnam Years (1964-1972) to anyone interested in this time in American History or in the Legacy of Bob Hope.

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