by Dorothy Deere
There’ll be Hope—and the four Hopefuls—and life—warmth—and laughter.
SO YOU think your weekend with the Hopes is going to be a howling affair with your comic host springing trap doors and slipping rubber olives into the Martinis? Then you have a surprise in store. For the howls will be tempered to smiles in this home run on graciousness, even though it was built on gags.
First of all, there’s the informal sort of street in the Toluca Lake district which runs to both snug cottages and to large walled-in dwellings. Bob’s home is one of the larger ones. But its stucco wall has a friendly look with its soft tangle of ivy. Inside the gate young Tony Hope, in levis, is pursuing a bounding puppy across the lawn.
“Don’t fall on the puppy, Tony,” calls Dolores Hope, “or, I mean, just don’t fall!”
Bob’s wife is the tall and lovely singer, Dolores Read, who once used to join him in personal appearance tours. She is wearing a two-piece gray flannel dress, with an exquisitely monogrammed white blouse-collar showing at the throat. You note that the handkerchief she carries is monogrammed in the same manner, with a faint thread of black and red outlining the large initials, and you wonder why these white touches always look so much cleaner and crisper on some women than on others.
Arm in arm with Dolores, you go up the path to the house, a wide-spread white Tudor dwelling. On one side is an open-doored garage, with bicycles sprawled against the walls, and around the corner ambles an aged but agreeable Great Dane. Already you know that you are entering a home devoted to children and comfort and living.
The entrance hall is distinguished by an old-fashioned high-backed bench, upholstered in a quaint print. In a small alcove stands a huge grandfather clock. Later you learn that the clock was a wedding gift from that favorite Uncle Frank of Bob’s who died several years ago. It is one of the most venerable looking timekeepers you have ever seen—and was made at least a hundred and fifty years ago. “You have an idea it will go on ticking for centuries after we’ve stopped,” its present owner will tell you.
Right now, however, Bob is springing up from a divan in the living room with outstretched hand. The hand has a copy of his next Tuesday’s radio script in it, which increases the naturalness. “So you made it!” he says, in a way that makes you feel you’ve accomplished something especially commendable. And then, “Hello, stockcompany,” he adds, his eyes going past you with a special Hope look rarely seen in public. Tony, aged six, and small, blonde Linda, aged eight, have followed you in the front door. A daddy who’s been confined to a script conference all Saturday morning is a daddy who’s been away a long time—at least several hours—so you remove yourself from the path of stampede.
THE thing that strikes you about the living room is that it has nothing intended to strike you. No inescapable color scheme to burn itself on your eye—no labored period furnishing to make a guest feel like an anachronism.
There’s an ingratiating amount of space—a great deal of subdued color and charm. A semi-circle of long, low divans—quilted in soft yellow and greens—complements the broad expanse of window—hung in a rich, autumnal hunting print.
There’s a long Early American table in the center of the room, and numerous small ones all cordially laden with reading matter and smoking accessories. Copper glows in the form of lamps and bowls. Open-faced cupboards display an array of lovingly collected antique plates, and over the fireplace hangs a striking portrait of Linda and Tony, their small arms around the neck of the masterful Great Dane.
“Outside for you two,” says Dolores. “You haven’t got long to play before it’s time for your naps—”
Bob, too, doesn’t have very long to play before next week’s crowded schedule of movie-making and radio, plus those endless “good fellow” performances that make Hope admirers wonder how he holds up. These things considered, he’s off to meet his golfing pal Bing at the Lakeside Country Club. Meanwhile you and Dolores have a little woman’s fun to indulge in.
Upstairs, in the Hope nursery, is not one brand-new baby—but two of them. Kelly and Norah, aged seven months apiece. You follow their foster mother up the stairs, through the nurse’s room, past the completely equipped babies’ diet kitchen, into the nursery. You stand looking at two identical cribs and high-chairs, two of the inevitable “potty” chairs—and finally at two play pens side by side, with a tiny baby kicking its heels in each.
“Bob comes up to play with them every night—but first, he stands looking through the door, saying, ‘Look what’s happened to me!'” remarks Dolores.
“We had applied, some time ago, for a new little sister—and at the same time, I had mentioned that later on we would like a little brother to keep her company. By ‘later on’ I meant at least a year. But, they’re here. They arrived together.”
After you have watched Norah and Kelly get their equal share of loving from their mother, and been allowed to hold them both for yourself, you agree the Hopes are “the luckiest people!”—which applies also to the newest Hopes.
The afternoon sun is now just right for a basking session—you slip into shorts and spread yourself lazily on the flagstone terrace. You may have sandwiches and tea brought out if you wish, but you keep putting it off until, surprisingly, it’s almost time for dinner. . . .
THE dining room is stunningly done in lemon yellow and pale green, with pastoral murals decorating the walls. The buffet holds a handsome collection of sterling services. “Isn’t this a beautiful thing?” Dolores asks, lifting an ornately embossed coffee urn, a recent gift from a friend. “Funny, the junk you can collect—” says Bob, after the manner of all husbands. Dinner includes some of the House of Hope specialties: Roast beef with a superlative Yorkshire pudding, string beans and pickled walnuts. For dessert, home-made and melt-in-the-mouth Napoleons. Conversation includes an off-hand announcement from Bob that proves movie stars are not quite like other husbands. “I leave the 22nd of June for Buenos Aires,” he remarks casually, and then to the trio of open-mouths representing Dolores, Linda and Tony, “I may take you three with me ”
Knowing full well that Monsieur Hope has disclosed his fond plans for a vacation with his family to practically everyone at the studio, you know this is his way of not building up their expectations lest professional commitments interfere at the last minute. “I’d have heard it sooner or later— probably from some columnist,” says his wife. “It’s always like that—clothes to buy, luggage to check, change of water for the children to worry about—all out of a clear sky.” She’s smiling—and you know that these are little details Mrs. Hope has learned to manage.
After dinner, there’s a brief adjournment to the music room, to hear how Linda has progressed with her piano lessons. Done in rose and green satin, this room has a formal and cloistered air. It is also used for Linda’s and Tony’s French lessons—which currently are causing their father some confusion, since he started his own French lessons with them.
“At least, I was with them—now they’ve got me humping to even tag along. It’s a plot—every morning they greet me with some little French nifty designed to murder me, and it does. After all, how long can I use that ‘Bon Jour’ to cover me?”
The demon parlez-vous-ers having gone off to bed, grown-ups take after-dinner coffee in the billiard room. This “Saturday night” room is mellow with walnut-paneling, and equipped with pool table and racks. The shelves around the room hold not only modern glassware, but a collection of copper and pewter beer mugs. And lining the plate-rail halfway around the room is Bob’s hard-to-get collection—golfing cups, and various trophies awarded him for war work.
From here it is only a step back into the living room, to admire a favorite “trophy” recently acquired by Dolores. A Grandma Moses. This little old lady of Shenandoah Valley started painting at the age of seventy, and canvases, such as this New England snow scene, now bring amazing prices from them as can afford ’em. “Bob didn’t have too much to say when I first hung this,” says Dolores, “but came Christmas, and he bought two smaller ones by Grandma, for the children’s room—”
Two shelves of the book-case are filled with The Theatre magazine, every issue since 1901, all handsomely bound in leather. In an unplanned way, you get to opening the volumes—reading the old playbills and reviews aloud, chuckling over the illustrations, and recounting anecdotes you have heard about the stars of yesteryear. Only one literary work in the house is more precious than these—the copy of the Peace Treaty and its immortal signatures, presented to Bob, and which, also bound in leather, occupies a place of honor on the center table.
“I’ll tell you what comes next,” says Dolores. “You’re going to have to look at his war souvenirs. He even made Mary Benny look at them and she just wailed, ‘I’ve got a bunch of those old snake-skins, and guns, and ashtrays made out of bullets, that Jack brought back. Didn’t anybody bring home pretty things, like rare jewels or something?'”
These souvenirs of Bob’s war tours through Europe and the Pacific will someday have a museum of their own, when the Hopes build a larger home. They are now kept in a “Fibber McGee” closet in his dressing room. Painted on the bottom drawer of Bob’s wardrobe is a blue ring circling a bullet hole, with the inscription, “And he said it wasn’t loaded. Sept. 4, 1945.” The lettering was added by his wife.
“Those guns make me nervous,” she explains, “even though he had an expert look them over and supposedly unload them. One day he was showing the collection to Thornton Delehanty and one went off in his hand. I wish you could have seen his face—he stood there looking sheepish for a minute, then tore downstairs. ‘I’m going to see if it got the cook,’ he yelled. ‘Dolores will never forgive me!'”
BOB’S bedroom, adjoining the dressing room, features a bed at least eight feet wide. A particularly fortunate circumstance because tonight it is shared by young Tony, who likes to kick around. “What used to be our guest room is the nurse’s room since Norah and Kelly took over,” your hostess has explained, earlier in the day, “so you’re sleeping in Tony’s bed.”
It seems like a special honor—particularly since Tony has left his searchlight and airplane model right on his dressing table, confident that you won’t disturb them. Then, too, there’s Linda sleeping right across from you, under a twin candlewick spread. And inside the door hangs an interesting work, titled “Program for the Day.” Beginning with “7 a.m.—Say morning prayers,” it accounts for every hour right on down to “7 p.m.—Say evening prayers, Lights Out!”
When you wake next morning The Program is already ruined so far as you, personally, are concerned. Linda informs you, without reproof, that it is almost nine o’clock. Dolores and the two youngsters are off to Mass. Bob is being “eased awake” by cold orange juice and hot coffee served in his room—a household device for preventing him from sleeping all day on Sundays. Guiltily, you turn over for one last wink. . . .
Your own orange juice you take later in the gayest kitchen you’ve found in some time. Curtains are a bright blue print and cupboards are decorated in Swedish peasant design with yellow and blue predominating for an indoor-sunshine effect. Over the silverware compartment is a whimsical inscription in Swedish, traditionally effective for “warning the witches away.”
BE that as it may, there is a certain witchery in the hot blueberry muffins that appear shortly afterward with the buffet breakfast on the terrace. With the muffins putting a hex on your usual regard for calories, you butter them lavishly and help yourself uninhibitedly to the variety of eggs and sausages and fruit laid out in covered dishes and platters for your temptation. As a corrective measure you later take a ride over the rolling lawns on Linda’s bike, finding it easy pedaling until gravity reaches up and throws you.
The afternoon somehow slips away from you. For a while there is much talk about getting all dressed up and having tea at the Country Club. That’s before you get involved in another playsession with those newest miracles, Norah and Kelly. And before you discover that simply sitting with iced glasses in the comfortable chairs on the sundrenched terrace is the best possible position in which to listen to those stories which issue end on end from Bob, the chain-joker.
Suddenly Sunday has gone just like the Saturday night before it, in amazingly simple enjoyment. In small talk and big laughter, in a household vibrant with warmth as well as whimsicality.