Queen Mary USO Show, For the Duration Honors Bob Hope

 
 
 

 

For the Duration” Multimedia Stage Event to Feature Comedy of Bob Hope on the Very Queen Mary Stage Where He Performed the “First USO Show”



Long Beach, CA—It’s been called Bob Hope’s “first USO Show.” It took place on the evening of September 3, 1939 in the First Class Lounge (now the Queen’s Salon) of the RMS Queen Mary. And it is the basis for a new multimedia stage event premiering in that very room on Saturday, February 9 with a gala reception and dinner as a part of a weekend honoring the Queen Mary’s role in World War II and the war’s veterans.

Bob and Delores Hope were returning to New York from a visit to his native England so he could introduce his new wife to his family. It was no ordinary transatlantic crossing; most people knew war was imminent in Europe and the luxury liner was overbooked and overstuffed with passengers fleeing what the expected advance of the Third Reich’s army on their homelands. They were sailing to freedom.

On that morning, Delores Hope had been upstairs attending morning Mass. She came back to their cabin and said simply, “We’re at war.” She had heard British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlains’ BBC broadcast, picked up on the short wave, announcing that as a result of the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Empire had declared war on Germany.

Immediately preparations began on board the Queen Mary to hide it from the German U-Boats that prowled the North Atlantic Ocean. Portholes were being painted over. Heavy, dark blackout curtains were being installed over windows. The ship would run at night without lights.

It was a nervous time, not only because the passengers knew the thousand-foot-long ship was the biggest target on the ocean, but also because they knew this war would affect virtually every person on the planet.

Bob Hope said that as he walked the decks and through the elegant rooms of the ship he saw people crying and he had an idea. Using his natural gift for humor, he would perform a show that evening to try to lift the spirits of the passengers.

He took his idea to the ship’s captain, Peter Murchie, who readily agreed.

All that afternoon, Bob Hope wrote gags that he would perform that evening on the stage of the First Class Lounge. And he did perform, although he said that trying to dance while wearing a life preserver was a challenge.

The multimedia stage event “For the Duration,” to have its premiere during the For the Duration weekend on board the Queen Mary, February 7-10, will take the audience from that night in September, 1939 through the history of the high and low points of the war using Bob Hope’s comedy. Along with rare newsreel footage of the war in both the European and Pacific Theaters, live performances of the best loved songs of the era will tell the story of valor that won the battle against tyranny.

The event is sponsored by Trans-Oceanic on board the Queen Mary and the Union Jack newspaper. Trans-Oceanic operates a shop on the historic liner that is moored in Long Beach Harbor and which also produces a number of special events throughout the year. The Union Jack is America’s only national British newspaper.

For the Duration will also feature an array of seminars and roundtables related to World War II.

Joanna Doolittle Hoppes, author and granddaughter of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle—who led the famous first air raid over Japan, memorialized in the film “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”—will share her special knowledge, research, and memories.

Dr. James Steele, professor of architecture at the University of Southern California, will also speak. Dr. Steele is the author of the award-winning book Queen Mary, considered to be one of the most complete and authoritative publications about the ship and its history.

David and Gloria Main will travel from Southampton, England to lead a program on the English Home Front During World War II. David Main was an engineering officer on board the Queen Mary and was a youth in Portsmouth, England during the war. His wife Gloria was a child in neighboring Southampton during the war years. Both have vivid memories of the hardships the war caused for the English population as Germany sought their submission.

Dennis Leslie, the definitive Gen. Douglas MacArthur of the modern day, will recreate the distinguished General of the Armies and Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area.

A roundtable will cover Southern California in World War II, from the defense industry plants in Long Beach and throughout the Southland to the blimp base in Tustin.

Other topics to be covered in seminars and roundtables include Pearl Harbor, Berlin at the End of World War II, The Immortal Chaplains, and the OSS in the war.

A historic salon will be transformed into a private club for For the Duration participants, much like an officers’ club.

Throughout the weekend WWII reenactors will provide living history demonstrations and films and newsreels from the era will be shown.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, February 10.

In addition, a variety of World War II-related vendors will display their merchandise throughout the weekend.

A special three-night package that includes hotel accommodations in the ship’s historic hotel rooms is available.

For further information, contact Trans-Oceanic on board the Queen Mary at 562/499-1772. Information is also available at www.ForTheDuration.net and Trans-Oceanic.com.