Hope turns 100 later this month, and the tributes are beginning to flow; Mark Steyn published a very perceptive one in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this week. I'm a big fan of Hope's movies from the 1940s (my favorite is The Road to Morocco, but almost all of them are good). Tell that to most people these days, and they'll look at you kinda funny, like you've just confessed to crying whenever you read the verse of Rod McKuen. It's been so long since Hope was funny that most of the hip young turks who dethroned him 30 years ago have themselves become witless gasbags in the latter-day Hope tradition. My own father thinks I'm nuts for liking the man. As a comedian, Hope hasn't aged very well.
But those early movies have -- and, by Steyn's account, so has his early standup. Indeed, Steyn argues that Hope invented modern standup comedy, an argument that is at least partially true. But it's the pictures that have got a hold on me: Monsieur Beaucaire and The Ghost Breakers and all those road movies with Bing Crosby. (Well, not The Road to Hong Kong. That came from a later, fatter period.) They're still out there, on tape and DVD. Come May 29, when Hope becomes a centenarian, rent one in the old man's memory. Once upon a time, the guy was really good.