Former showgirl who was married to Bob Hope for 69 years, gave up the limelight to raise their family
Published 25/09/2011 | 05:00
The British-born comic was making his Broadway debut in a show called Roberta when a friend suggested they visit the Vogue Club in Manhattan to "hear a pretty girl sing". In the spotlight stood Dolores Reade, a sultry brunette, singing a new number, It's Only a Paper Moon. Hope was hooked.
He returned night after night, and eventually asked her out. When they married the following year, she joined his vaudeville act; but when the couple moved to Hollywood in 1938 she decided to retire. "I thought I'd better stay home and take care of Bob," she explained. Dolores Hope then devoted herself to bringing up their four adopted children, Linda, Anthony, Kelly and Nora.
She continued to sing at parties, however, and began accompanying Hope on his Christmas trips to entertain American troops during the Second World War. Later, during her husband's Christmas show in Thailand in 1966, she sang Silent Night to an audience of thousands of GIs, who gave her a standing ovation.
In 1990 Dolores Hope was with her husband on his last Christmas visit to American forces, entertaining troops who were in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. To avoid offending Saudi sensibilities about women entertainers, Marie Osmond, Ann Jillian and the Pointer Sisters did not perform. But Dolores Hope was approved and sang White Christmas to a rapt audience from the roof of an armoured vehicle.
She was born Dolores DeFina on May 27, 1909, in New York City, and grew up in the Bronx (she never lost her Bronx inflection). Her Italian father died when she was very young, leaving her Irish mother to bring up two little girls. "Were we a needy family?" she recalled. "I always like what General Eisenhower said: 'We were poor and didn't know it.'"
She began singing as a young woman, and worked as a model and Ziegfeld showgirl, adopting the name Dolores Reade from a stage actress, Florence Reed.
Having put her own career behind her, she concentrated on creating a stable home life for Bob Hope, who was invariably away on tour, and often abroad.
"When we were celebrating our 50th anniversary, people would say: 'Fifty years?' And Bob would say, 'Yeah, but I've only been home three weeks,'" Dolores Hope told an interviewer in 1995.
To mark their golden wedding anniversary she gave him a paperweight inscribed: "Don't think these three weeks haven't been fun."
Bob Hope would try out new jokes on his wife and children, with Dolores, a devout Roman Catholic, deciding if they were suitable for a family audience.
In the same interview, Dolores said: "We always had quality instead of quantity. When he wasn't home, he'd call almost every day, except when he was in a combat zone. Even then, he'd try."
As well as overseeing two homes, a large house in North Hollywood and a hilltop estate in Palm Springs, Dolores Hope worked hard for many charities. In the late Sixties the Hopes donated 80 acres of land in Palm Springs for the building of a medical centre, which opened in 1971.
In 1976, with her husband and other celebrities, Dolores Hope attended a midnight party in Washington at which Queen Elizabeth, on a state visit to the United States, was guest of honour.
Dolores Hope revived her singing career when she was in her 80s, recording three albums of standards and appearing as a guest artist with Rosemary Clooney.
Bob Hope died at the age of 100 in 2003, and Dolores Hope is survived by three of her adopted children; her son Anthony died in 2004.