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Red Skelton

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Red Skelton: America's Clown Prince... Red Skelton: America's Clown Prince, Vol. 2 (Two-Disc Set) DVD more info $6.95was $6.95 Buy Now

Three Little Words DVD In "Three Little Words" (1950), Fred Astaire and Red Skelton take on the roles... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Vol. 1... Bathing BeautyA big splash in her first starring role: Williams is a teacher at... more info $49.98was $49.98 Buy Now

Red Skelton: Volume 2 DVD Red Skelton along with his many characters are featured in four more vintage... more info $6.98was $6.98 Buy Now

Red Skelton: Volume 3 DVD Red Skelton along with his many characters are featured in four classic comedy... more info $6.98was $6.98 Buy Now

Red Skelton Christmas Classics... Beloved funnyman Red Skelton weaves his Christmas magic in this classic... more info $9.95was $9.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Richard Bernard Skelton, Richard Red Skelton, Richard (Red) Skelton, "Red" Skelton Died: September 17, 1997
Born: July 18, 1913 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Vincennes, Indiana, USA Profession: actor, composer, singer, newspaper delivery boy

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A vaudeville and burlesque performer who worked his way up from the bottom of the rung clubs and show boats to play the Paramount Theatre in NYC, Red Skelton entered films in 1938 and went on to appear in some two dozen musicals and comedies through the 1940s, mostly for MGM. Skelton, who had his own radio show from 1941-53, embraced TV in 1950 and gained his greatest fame there, showcasing his gift for pantomime and his memorable characterizations, such as Freddy the Freeloader, on the long-running "The Red Skelton Show" which ran on NBC from 1951-53, then on CBS from 1953-70, and finally on NBC for its last year 1970-71.Skelton was a physical comedian, and his work showed the influence of the circus his father had performed in, down to the clown-like floppy hats and facial expressions. He had a humble quality, not just in the essence of his characters, but in his modest bows to the audience, during which Skelton would hold his tongue gently between his teeth and just say thank you. (In reality, Skelton was said to be anything but modest when it came to taking credit for his work. He was lax in admitting he even had writers on his TV series.) Skelton was a star of the MGM lot in the 40s and his...

A vaudeville and burlesque performer who worked his way up from the bottom of the rung clubs and show boats to play the Paramount Theatre in NYC, Red Skelton entered films in 1938 and went on to appear in some two dozen musicals and comedies through the 1940s, mostly for MGM. Skelton, who had his own radio show from 1941-53, embraced TV in 1950 and gained his greatest fame there, showcasing his gift for pantomime and his memorable characterizations, such as Freddy the Freeloader, on the long-running "The Red Skelton Show" which ran on NBC from 1951-53, then on CBS from 1953-70, and finally on NBC for its last year 1970-71.

Skelton was a physical comedian, and his work showed the influence of the circus his father had performed in, down to the clown-like floppy hats and facial expressions. He had a humble quality, not just in the essence of his characters, but in his modest bows to the audience, during which Skelton would hold his tongue gently between his teeth and just say thank you. (In reality, Skelton was said to be anything but modest when it came to taking credit for his work. He was lax in admitting he even had writers on his TV series.) Skelton was a star of the MGM lot in the 40s and his films, some of them with Lucille Ball, were financially successful, although few have subsequently been recognized as classics. Low brow in the classic sense--rather than in the tacky sense of say, The Three Stooges--Skelton was at his best when MGM acquired Broadway properties and molded them for him, such as "Panama Hattie" (1942), "DuBarry Was a Lady" (1943), in which he thought he was Louis XVI, and "I Dood It" (also 1943), with Eleanor Powell. A typical Skelton film other than Broadway adaptations might be "The Fuller Brush Man" (1948) in which he haplessly becomes embroiled with murder while trying to sell brushes door-to-door. His last MGM film was "Half a Hero" (1953), in which he was a writer who tries suburban life as background for a story. He subsequently made a cameo appearance in "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) and did an amusing prologue tracing the history of aviation for "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" (1965), but truth-be-told, after 1951 Skelton belonged to TV.

Skelton's repertoire of characters had been developed on stage and on radio--where he had worked before a live audience. His TV show had no other regulars, save his bandleader, David Rose, until 1970 when some skit performers were added for one season. Instead, they had Skelton, doing characters such as The Mean Widdle Kid, Clem Kadiddlehopper, the rustic Sheriff Deadeye, the West's worst nightmare, the drunken Willie Lump-Lump and Freddy the Freeloader, a speechless hobo. (The Freddy sequences were always performed in pantomime.) Skelton always ended his program thanking the audience and with the words "God bless!"

Skelton wrote much of his own material, although he had a full staff of writers as well. He also occasionally composed music for his stage shows. After the end of his over 20-year run on primetime TV, Skelton continued to do live appearances, including a 1990 concert at Carnegie Hall, as well as occasional TV commercials. He revived Freddy the Freeloader for a 1980 HBO special.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Entertaining the Troops (1989) Himself
3.
 Ocean's Eleven (1960) Himself
4.
 Public Pigeon No. 1 (1957) Rusty Morgan
5.
 Around the World in 80 Days (1956) Drunk at Barbary Coast saloon
6.
 Susan Slept Here (1954) Oswald
7.
 The Great Diamond Robbery (1954) Ambrose C. Park
8.
 Half a Hero (1953) Ben Dobson
9.
 The Clown (1953) Dodo Delwyn
10.
 Lovely To Look At (1952) Al Marsh [stage name of Al Wodzscyngkic]
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1923:
Joined traveling medicine show at age 10
:
Worked his way up from small-time comic to the Paramount Theatre in NYC
1937:
Made radio debut on Rudy Vallee's show
1938:
Made feature film debut in a small role in the Ginger Rogers vehicle, "Having Wonderful Time"
:
Put under contract at MGM
1941:
Achieved star status in "Whistling in the Dark"
1941:
Had own radio show, "Red Skelton's Scrapbook of Satire"
1943:
Starred in "I Dood It"
1944:
First starred opposite Esther Williams in "Bathing Beauty"
1944:
Inducted in the US Army as a private
:
Reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown while stationed in Italy; remained in the Army as an entertainer
1948:
Had title role in the screen comedy "The Fuller Brush Man"
1949:
Reteamed with Esther Williams in "Neptune's Daughter"; sang Oscar-winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
:
Had an over 20-year run as star of variety shows on NBC and CBS
1952:
Had rare dramatic role in "The Clown"
1965:
Final feature, "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machine"
:
Initially signed to co-star with Jack Benny in the feature version of Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys"; withdrew over salary dispute
1981:
Made pay TV debut in "Freddy the Freeloader's Christmas Dinner" (HBO)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"I just want to be known as a clown because to me that's the height of my profession. It means you can do everything--Sing, dance, and above all, make people laugh." --Red Skelton

Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1988

Skelton is also an accomplished painter whose works have sold for as much as $80,000.

Skelton founded the Red Skelton Needy Childrens Fund and was its president.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Edna Marie Stillwell. Joke writer, business manager, former usher. Born c. 1906; married in June 1931; divorced in 1943; she remained an advisor on his career after their marriage ended.
companion:
Muriel Morris. Actor. Became engaged in 1943; she ended the relationship in April 1944 because of his relationship with his first wife.
wife:
Georgia Maurine Davis. Model. Married in 1945; divorced in 1971; mother of Skelton's two children; wounded herself in 1966 in accidental shooting; committed suicide in May 1976 on the anniversary of her son's death.
wife:
Lothian Toland. Married from 1973 until his death; daughter of cinematographer Gregg Toland.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Joseph Skelton. Grocer; former circus clown. Died in May 1913.
mother:
Ida Mae Skelton. Cleaning woman, elevator operator.
daughter:
Valentina Maris Alonso. Born in 1947; mother, Georgia Skelton; survived him.
son:
Richard Freeman Skelton. Born in 1948; died of leukemia in May 1958; mother, Georgia Skelton.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Red Skelton in Your Closet: Ghost Stories Gay and Grim" Grosset & Dunlap
"Red Skelton's Gertrude and Heathcliffe" Desert Publications
"Clown Alley"
"Red Skelton: An Unauthorized Biography" E.P. Dutton
"Seeing Red: The Skelton in Hollywood's Closet" Robin Vincent Publishing
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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