Red Skelton
comedian
Red Skelton
Richard Bernard "Red" Skelton was an American entertainer best known for being a national radio and television comedian between 1937 and 1971. Skelton, who has stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, began his show business career in his teens as a circus clown and continued on vaudeville and Broadway and in films, radio, TV, night clubs, and casinos, all while he pursued an entirely separate career as an artist.
Biography
Red Skelton's personal information overview.
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News
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Quick as a Cat, Coastal Carolina Coach Finds Internet Fame
NYTimes - over 5 years
Truth be told, the man with the thick-as-grits Southern accent looked a little crazy on a video that went viral last week. David Bennett, the football coach at Coastal Carolina, was seen at his weekly news conference, telling a story about a neighbor’s cat that had stolen into Bennett’s house through a broken screen door.
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Media Life: Closer look reveals Auburn's hidden gems - Auburn Journal
Google News - over 5 years
The shrine to comic Red Skelton that covers much of the interior not filled with shoes of The Footpath in Downtown Auburn. Some would say it's more like a museum. A real treasure, especially for fans of the comedian
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At 56, she was working, and homeless working to an apartment - Newton Kansan
Google News - over 5 years
“People think you are like Red Skelton's character Freddie the Freeloader — an alcoholic, a drug addict, someone who can't take care of themselves.” This is not the first time Jane has been homeless. She, her husband and three children were homeless
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Howard Keel Movie Schedule: KISMET, LOVELY TO LOOK AT, FLOODS OF FEAR - Alt Film Guide (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Cast: Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Gower Champion, Marge Champion, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kurt Kasznar, Marcel Dalio. C-102 mins. 2:30 PM SHOW BOAT (1951) Riverboat entertainers find love, laughs and hardships as they sail along "Old
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Who Is Cincy's Top Movie or TV Star? - Cincinnati.com (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Or '60′s TV comedian Red Skelton? Maybe singing cowboy Roy Rogers, or “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling? And where do you rank Steven Spielberg, born here in 1946? He didn't do much before leaving town at age 2-1/2, but he's done OK since he hit
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Jeanne Arland Peterson: A jazz genie - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Google News - over 5 years
Performances with jazz stars George Benson, Sonny Stitt and Roy Eldridge, and entertainers Bob Hope, Perry Como and Red Skelton. Six albums in print (2009's "88 Grand" is her most recent, and it is grand). As she prepared for her 90th birthday concert
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Why We Still Love Lucy - Fox News
Google News - over 5 years
The 1950s, a decade dominated by the likes of Lucy, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, Red Skelton and so many other funny people, constrained performers from engaging in what was then called "blue humor." In other words, you had to really be funny and not
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'Friday Night Dinner' review: Delightful starter - San Francisco Chronicle
Google News - over 5 years
By contrast, American TV may be inane, but since the demise of Milton Berle and Red Skelton, it's rarely intentionally silly. Yank viewers get another chance at British humor with tonight's premiere of "Friday Night Dinner," on the BBC America cable
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The legacy of Bing Crosby lives on at Del Mar - Examiner.com
Google News - over 5 years
The connection between the track and Hollywood continued throughout the following decades, when racetrack appearances were common by show biz personalities like Mikey Rooney, Ava Gardner, Edward G. Robinson, Red Skelton, Jimmy Durante, Desi Arnaz and
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Craft: Ginger or Mary Ann? Both, please - Bloomington Pantagraph (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
And: Tom/Dick Smothers ("Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"), Hal Linden ("Barney Miller), Gabe Kaplan ("Welcome Back, Kotter"), George Burns ("Burns and Allen"), John Ritter ("Three's Company"), Red Skelton ("Red Skelton Show"), McLean Stevenson/Mike
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Red Skelton Museum Announcement - MyWabashValley
Google News - over 5 years
Tuesday the Red Skelton Museum Foundation announced a 100 thousand dollar donation from The First Vincennes Savings Bank. The donation will help the foundation fund the completion of the museum. The foundation has also hired a design firm to design the
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On This Day in History: July 18 'Good Night and God Bless' - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Google News - over 5 years
Red Skelton was born Richard Bernard Skelton on July 18, 1913, in Vincennes, Indiana, the son of a former clown for the Hagenbeck and Wallace Circus. Skelton joined a traveling
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Sherwood Schwartz, 94, Creator of 'Gilligan,' Dies
NYTimes - over 5 years
Sherwood Schwartz, who created ''Gilligan's Island'' and ''The Brady Bunch,'' two of the most affectionately ridiculed and enduring television sitcoms of the 1960s and '70s, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 94. His death was confirmed by his daughter, Hope Juber. Mr. Schwartz weathered painfully dismissive reviews to see his shows prosper and
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'Gilligan's Island' and 'Brady Bunch' Creator Sherwood Schwartz Dies - Adweek
Google News - over 5 years
He went on to write for other radio shows, including “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and won a 1961 Emmy as the head writer CBS television program “The Red Skelton Show.” As an escape from writing for “Red Skelton,” Schwartz said, ... - -
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Red Skelton
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1997
    Age 83
    Skelton died on September 17, 1997, at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 84, after what was described as "a long, undisclosed illness".
    More Details Hide Details He is interred in the Skelton Family Tomb, the family's private room, alongside his son, Richard Freeman Skelton, Jr. and his second wife, Georgia Maureen Davis Skelton, in The Great Mausoleum's Sanctuary of Benediction at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Skelton was survived by his widow, Lothian Toland Skelton; his daughter, Valentina Marie Skelton Alonso; and granddaughter Sabrina Maureen Alonso. Skelton began producing artwork in 1943, but kept his works private for many years. He said he was inspired to try his hand at painting after visiting a large Chicago department store that had various paintings on display. Inquiring as to the price of one which Skelton described as "a bunch of blotches", he was told, "Ten thousand wouldn't buy that one." He told the clerk he was one of the ten thousand who would not buy the painting, instead buying his own art materials. His wife Georgia, a former art student, persuaded him to have his first public showing of his work in 1964 at the Sands hotel in Las Vegas where he was performing at the time. Skelton believed painting was an asset to his comedy work, as it helped him to better visualize the imaginary props used in his pantomime routines.
  • 1994
    Age 80
    He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.
    More Details Hide Details Skelton also has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his radio and television work. Skelton preferred to be described as a clown rather than a comic: "A comedian goes out and hits people right on. A clown uses pathos. He can be funny, then turn right around and reach people and touch them with what life is like." "I just want to be known as a clown", he said, "because to me that's the height of my profession. It means you can do everything—sing, dance and above all, make people laugh." His purpose in life, he believed, was to make people laugh. No grotesque make-up, no funny clothes, just Red." He added that Skelton also "plays a dramatic scene about as effectively as any of the dramatic actors." In late 1965 ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, reminiscing about the entertainment business, singled out Skelton for high praise. "It's all so very different today. The whole business of comedy has changed — from 15 minutes of quality to quantity. We had a lot of very funny people around, from Charley Chase to Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. The last one of that breed is Red Skelton." Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures also praised Skelton, saying, "He's a clown in the old tradition. He doesn't need punch lines. He's got heart." Skelton and Marcel Marceau shared a long friendship and admiration of each other's work.
  • 1993
    Age 79
    He continued performing live until 1993, when he celebrated his 80th birthday.
    More Details Hide Details In 1974, Skelton's interest in film work was rekindled with the news that Neil Simon's comedy The Sunshine Boys would become a movie; his last significant film appearance had been in Public Pigeon No. 1 in 1956. He screen tested for the role of Willy Clark with Jack Benny, who had been cast as Al Lewis. Although Simon had planned to cast Jack Albertson, who played Willy on Broadway, in the same role for the film, Skelton's screen test impressed him enough to change his mind. Skelton declined the part, however, reportedly due to an inadequate financial offer, and Benny's final illness forced him to withdraw as well. George Burns and Walter Matthau ultimately starred in the film.
  • 1989
    Age 75
    He was one of the International Clown Hall of Fame's first inductees in 1989.
    More Details Hide Details Skelton and Katharine Hepburn were honored with lifetime achievement awards by the American Comedy Awards in the same year.
  • 1987
    Age 73
    Skelton received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1987, and in 1988, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Television Hall of Fame.
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  • 1986
    Age 72
    When he was presented with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Governor's Award in 1986, Skelton received a standing ovation. "I want to thank you for sitting down", he said when the ovation subsided. "I thought you were pulling a CBS and walking out on me."
    More Details Hide Details The honor came 16 years after his television program left the airwaves.
    In 1986, Skelton received an honorary degree from Ball State University.
    More Details Hide Details The Red Skelton Memorial Bridge spans the Wabash River and provides the highway link between Illinois and Indiana on U.S. Route 50, near Skelton's home town of Vincennes. He attended the dedication ceremonies in 1963. In 1952, Skelton received Emmy Awards for Best Comedy Program and Best Comedian. He also received an Emmy nomination in 1957 for his non-comedic performance in Playhouse 90's presentation of "The Big Slide". Skelton and his writers won another Emmy in 1961 for Outstanding Writing Achievement In Comedy. He was named an honorary faculty member of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in 1968 and 1969. Skelton's first major post-television recognition came in 1978, when the Golden Globe Awards named him as the recipient for their Cecil B. DeMille Award, which is given to honor outstanding contributions in entertainment. His excitement was so great upon receiving the award and a standing ovation, that he clutched it tightly enough to break the statuette.
  • 1984
    Age 70
    He gave a Royal Command Performance for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1984, which was later shown in the U.S. on HBO.
    More Details Hide Details A portion of one of his last interviews, conducted by Steven F. Zambo, was broadcast as part of the 2005 PBS special The Pioneers of Primetime.
  • 1981
    Age 67
    In 1981, Skelton made several specials for HBO including Freddie the Freeloader's Christmas Dinner (1981) and the Funny Faces series of specials.
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  • 1980
    Age 66
    In 1980, he was taken to court by 13 of his former writers over a story that his will called for the destruction of recordings of all his old television shows upon his death.
    More Details Hide Details Skelton contended his remarks were made at a time when he was very unhappy with the television industry and were taken out of context. He said at the time, "Would you burn the only monument you've built in over 20 years?" As the owner of the television shows, Skelton initially refused to allow them to be syndicated as reruns during his lifetime. In 1983, Group W announced that it had come to terms with him for the rights to rebroadcast some of his original television programs from 1966 through 1970; some of his earlier shows were made available after Skelton's death. Skelton's 70-year career as an entertainer began as a stage performer. He retained a fondness for theaters, and referred to them as "palaces"; he also likened them to his "living room", where he would privately entertain guests. At the end of a performance, he would look at the empty stage where there was now no laughter or applause and tell himself, "Tomorrow I must start again. One hour ago, I was a big man. I was important out there. Now it's empty. It's all gone."
  • 1977
    Age 63
    Skelton made plans in 1977 to sell the rights to his old television programs as part of a package which would bring him back to regular television appearances.
    More Details Hide Details The package called for him to produce one new television show for every three older episodes; this appears to not have materialized.
  • 1976
    Age 62
    Any hopes he may have had to ease back into television through the talk show circuit came to an abrupt halt on May 10, 1976, when Georgia Skelton committed suicide by gunshot on the 18th anniversary of Richard Skelton's death.
    More Details Hide Details Georgia was 54 and had been in poor health for some time. He put all professional activities on hold for some months as he mourned his former wife's death.
  • 1975
    Age 61
    While he disassociated himself from television soon after his show was cancelled, his bitterness had subsided enough for him to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on July 11, 1975; it was his first television appearance since he no longer had a television program.
    More Details Hide Details Johnny Carson, one of his former writers, began his rise to network television prominence by substituting for Skelton after his dress rehearsal injury in 1954. Skelton was also a guest on The Merv Griffin Show in October of the same year.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1971
    Age 57
    There were personal as well as professional changes taking place in Skelton's life at this time. He divorced Georgia in 1971 and married Lothian Toland, daughter of cinematographer Gregg Toland, on October 7, 1973.
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  • 1970
    Age 56
    Skelton moved to NBC in 1970 in a half-hour Monday night version of his former show.
    More Details Hide Details Its cancellation after one season ended his television career, and he returned to live performances. In an effort to prove the networks wrong, he gave many of these at colleges and proved popular with the audience. Skelton was bitter about CBS's cancellation for many years afterwards. Believing the demographic and salary issues to be irrelevant, he accused CBS of bowing to the anti-establishment, anti-war faction at the height of the Vietnam War, saying his conservative political and social views caused the network to turn against him. He had invited prominent Republicans, including Vice President Spiro Agnew and Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen, to appear on his program.
  • 1969
    Age 55
    In 1969, Skelton performed a self-written monologue about the Pledge of Allegiance.
    More Details Hide Details In the speech, he commented on the meaning of each phrase of the pledge. He credited one of his Vincennes grammar school teachers, Mr. Laswell, with the original speech. The teacher had grown tired of hearing his students monotonously recite the pledge each morning; he then demonstrated to them how it should be recited, along with comments about the meaning behind each phrase. CBS received 200,000 requests for copies; the company subsequently released the monologue as a single on Columbia Records. A year later, he performed the monologue for President Richard Nixon at the first "Evening at the White House", a series of entertainment events honoring the recently inaugurated president. As the 1970s began, the networks began a major campaign to discontinue long-running shows that they considered stale or lacking youth appeal. Despite Skelton's continued strong ratings, CBS saw his show as fitting into this category and cancelled the program along with other comedy and variety shows hosted by veterans such as Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan. Performing in Las Vegas when he got the news of his CBS cancellation, Skelton said, "My heart has been broken." His program had been one of the top ten highest rated shows for 17 of the 20 years he was on television.
  • 1965
    Age 51
    In 1965, Skelton did another show in complete pantomime.
    More Details Hide Details This time he was joined by Marcel Marceau; the two artists alternated performances for the hour-long program, sharing the stage to perform Pinocchio. The only person who spoke during the hour was Maurice Chevalier, who served as the show's narrator.
  • FORTIES
  • 1962
    Age 48
    While a staple of his radio programs, he did not perform his "Junior" character on television until 1962, after extending the length of his program.
    More Details Hide Details Skelton frequently employed the art of pantomime for his characters: a segment of his weekly program was called the "Silent Spot" and the sketch was performed in pantomime. He attributed his use of pantomime and few props to his early days when he did not want to have a lot of luggage, so he crafted routines that used few of them. He explained that the right hat was the key to his being able to get into character. Skelton's season premiere for the 1960–61 television season was a tribute to the United Nations. Six hundred people from the organization, including diplomats, were invited to be part of the audience for the show. The program was entirely done in pantomime, as UN representatives from 39 nations were in the studio audience. One of the sketches he performed for the UN was that of the old man watching the parade. The sketch had its origins in a question Skelton's son, Richard, asked his father about what happens when people die. He told his son, "They join a parade and start marching."
    In the fall of 1962, CBS expanded his program to a full hour, retitling it The Red Skelton Hour.
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    In 1962, the Skelton family moved to Palm Springs, and Skelton used the Bel Air home only on the two days a week when he was in Los Angeles for his television show taping.
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  • 1961
    Age 47
    The death of Richard profoundly affected the family; by 1961 Richard's model trains had been moved to a storeroom in the Bel Air mansion, but Skelton refused to have them dismantled.
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  • 1960
    Age 46
    In early 1960, Skelton purchased the old Charlie Chaplin Studios and updated it for videotape recording.
    More Details Hide Details With a recently purchased three-truck mobile color television unit, he recorded a number of his series episodes and specials in color. Even with his color facilities, CBS discontinued color broadcasts on a regular basis and Skelton shortly thereafter sold the studio to CBS and the mobile unit to local station, KTLA. Prior to this, he had been filming at Desilu Productions. Skelton then moved back to the network's Television City facilities, where he resumed taping his programs until he left the network.
  • 1958
    Age 44
    Calling themselves The Friends of Red Skelton, his friends in the television, film and music industries organized The Friends Of Red Skelton Variety Show, which they performed to replace The Red Skelton Show for that week; by May 27, 1958, Skelton had returned to his program.
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    His illness and recovery kept him off the air for a full month; Skelton returned to his television show on January 28, 1958.
    More Details Hide Details Richard died on May 10, 1958; it was ten days before the child's tenth birthday. Skelton was scheduled to do his weekly television show on the day his son was buried. Though there were recordings of some older programs available which the network could have run, he asked that guest performers be used instead.
  • 1957
    Age 43
    He suffered a life-threatening asthma attack on December 30, 1957, and was taken to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, where his doctors said that "if there were ten steps to death, Red Skelton had taken nine of them by the time he had arrived".
    More Details Hide Details Initially hospitalized for an indeterminate length of time, Skelton later said he was working on some notes for television and the next thing he remembered, he was in a hospital bed; he did not know how serious his illness was until he read about it himself in the newspapers.
    He returned to his television show on January 15, 1957, with guest star Mickey Rooney helping to lift his spirits.
    More Details Hide Details In happier times, he frequently mentioned his children on his program, but found it extremely difficult to do so after Richard became ill. Skelton resumed this practice only after his son had asked him to do so. After his son's diagnosis, Skelton took his family on an extended trip, so Richard could see as much of the world as possible. When they arrived in London, there were press accusations that the trip was more about publicity than his seriously ill son. There were also newspaper reports about Richard's illness being fatal, which were seen by the boy. The family returned to the United States after the British press stories. The Skelton family received support from CBS management and from the public following the announcement of Richard's illness. Skelton himself was beset by a serious illness and by a household accident which kept him off the air.
  • 1955
    Age 41
    By 1955, Skelton was broadcasting some of his weekly programs in color, which was the case approximately 100 times between 1955 and 1960.
    More Details Hide Details He tried to encourage CBS to do other shows in color at the facility, but CBS mostly avoided color broadcasting after the network's television set manufacturing division was discontinued in 1951. By 1959, Skelton was the only comedian with a weekly variety television show; others who remained on the air, such as Danny Thomas, were performing their routines as part of situation comedy programs. He performed a preview show for a studio audience on Mondays, using their reactions to determine which skits needed to be edited for the Tuesday program. For the Tuesday afternoon run-through prior to the actual show, he ignored the script for the most part, ad-libbing through it at will. The run-through was well attended by CBS Television City employees Sometimes during sketches, both live telecasts and taped programs, Skelton would break up or cause his guest stars to laugh.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1953
    Age 39
    Beginning with the 1953–54 season, he switched to CBS, where he remained until 1970.
    More Details Hide Details For the initial move to CBS, he had no sponsor. The network gambled by covering all expenses for the program on a sustaining basis; his first CBS sponsor was Geritol. He curtailed his drinking and his ratings at CBS began to improve, especially after he began appearing on Tuesday nights for co-sponsors Johnson's Wax and Pet Milk Company.
    Declining ratings prompted sponsor Procter & Gamble to cancel his show in the spring of 1953, with Skelton announcing that any future television shows of his would be variety shows, where he would not have the almost constant burden of performing.
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  • 1952
    Age 38
    NBC agreed to film his shows in the 1952–53 season at Eagle Lion Studios, next to the Sam Goldwyn Studio, on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.
    More Details Hide Details Later the show was moved to the new NBC television studios in Burbank. Procter & Gamble was unhappy with the filming of the television show, and insisted that Skelton return to live broadcasts. The situation caused him to think about leaving television at that point.
    Skelton was delivering an intense performance live each week, and the strain showed in physical illness. In 1952, he was drinking heavily from the constant pain of a diaphragmatic hernia and marital problems; he thought about divorcing Georgia.
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    In early 1952, Skelton had an idea for a television sketch about someone who had been drinking not being able to know which way is up.
    More Details Hide Details The script was completed and he had the show's production crew build a set that was perpendicular to the stage, so it would give the illusion that someone was walking on walls. The skit, starring his character Willie Lump-Lump, called for the character's wife to hire a carpenter to re-do the living room in an effort to teach her husband a lesson about his drinking. When Willie wakes up there after a night of drinking, he realizes he is not lying on the floor but on the living room wall. Willie's wife goes about the house normally, but to Willie, she appears to be walking on a wall. Within an hour after the broadcast, the NBC switchboard had received 350 calls regarding the show, and Skelton had received more than 2,500 letters about the skit within a week of its airing.
    His "Freddie the Freeloader" clown was introduced on the program in 1952, with Skelton copying his father's makeup for the character.
    More Details Hide Details He learned how to duplicate his father's makeup and perform his routines through his mother's recollections. A ritual became established at the end of every program, with Skelton's shy boyish wave and words of, "Good night and may God bless." During the 1951–52 season, the program was broadcast from a converted NBC radio studio. The first year of the television show was done live; this led to problems as there was not enough time for costume changes; Skelton was on camera for most of the half-hour, including the delivery of a commercial which was written into one of the show's skits.
  • 1951
    Age 37
    The MGM agreement with Skelton for television performances did not allow him to go on the air before September 30, 1951.
    More Details Hide Details His television debut, The Red Skelton Show, premiered on that date: at the end of his opening monologue, two men backstage grabbed his ankles from behind the set curtain, hauling him offstage face down. A 1943 instrumental hit by David Rose, called "Holiday for Strings", became Skelton's TV theme song. The move to television allowed him to create two non-human characters, seagulls Gertrude and Heathcliffe, which he performed while the pair were flying by tucking his thumbs under his arms to represent wings and shaping his hat to look like a bird's bill. He patterned his meek, henpecked television character of George Appleby after his radio character, J. Newton Numbskull, who had similar characteristics.
    He signed a contract for television on NBC with Procter and Gamble as his sponsor on May 4, 1951, and said he would be performing the same characters on television as he had been doing on radio.
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    Skelton was unable to work in television until the end of his 1951 MGM movie contract; a renegotiation to extend the pact provided permission after that point.
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  • 1948
    Age 34
    Skelton changed sponsors in 1948; Brown & Williamson, owners of Raleigh cigarettes, withdrew due to program production costs.
    More Details Hide Details His new sponsor was Procter & Gamble's Tide laundry detergent. The next year he changed networks, going from NBC to CBS, where his radio show aired until May 1953. After his network radio contract was over, he signed a three-year contract with Ziv Radio for a syndicated radio program in 1954. His syndicated radio program was offered as a daily show; it included segments of his older network radio programs as well as new material done for the syndication. He was able to use portions of his older radio shows because he owned the rights for rebroadcasting them.
  • 1947
    Age 33
    On April 22, 1947, Skelton was censored by NBC two minutes into his radio show.
    More Details Hide Details When he and his announcer Rod O'Connor began talking about Fred Allen being censored the previous week, they were silenced for 15 seconds; comedian Bob Hope was given the same treatment once he began referring to the censoring of Allen. Skelton forged on with his lines for his studio audience's benefit; the material he insisted on using had been edited from the script by the network before the broadcast. He had been briefly censored the previous month for the use of the word "diaper". After the April incidents, NBC indicated it would no longer pull the plug for similar reasons.
    By 1947, Skelton's musical conductor was David Rose, who would go on to television with him; he had worked with Rose during his time in the army and wanted Rose to join him on the radio show when it went back on the air.
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  • 1945
    Age 31
    His sponsor was eager to have him back on the air, and Skelton's program began anew on NBC on December 4, 1945.
    More Details Hide Details Upon returning to radio, Skelton brought with him many new characters that were added to his repertoire: Bolivar Shagnasty, described as a "loudmouthed braggart"; Cauliflower McPugg, a boxer; Deadeye, a cowboy; Willie Lump-Lump, a fellow who drank too much; and San Fernando Red, a conman with political aspirations.
    He was released from his army duties in September 1945.
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    He was on army furlough for throat discomfort when he married actress Georgia Maureen Davis in Beverly Hills, California, on March 9, 1945; the couple met on the MGM lot.
    More Details Hide Details Skelton traveled to Los Angeles from the eastern army base where he was assigned for the wedding. He knew he would possibly be assigned overseas soon and wanted the marriage to take place first. After the wedding, he entered the hospital to have his tonsils removed. The couple had two children; Valentina, a daughter, was born May 5, 1947, and a son, Richard, was born May 20, 1948. Skelton served in the United States Army during World War II. After being assigned to the entertainment corps, Skelton performed as many as ten to twelve shows per day before troops in both the United States and in Europe. The pressure of his workload caused him to suffer exhaustion and a nervous breakdown. His nervous collapse while in the army left him with a serious stuttering problem. While recovering at an army hospital in Virginia, he met a soldier who had been severely wounded and was not expected to survive. Skelton devoted a lot of time and effort to trying to make the man laugh. As a result of this effort, his stuttering problem was cured; his army friend's condition also improved and he was no longer on the critical list.
  • 1944
    Age 30
    By 1944, Skelton was engaged to actress Muriel Morris, who was also known as Muriel Chase; the couple had obtained a marriage license and told the press they intended to marry within a few days.
    More Details Hide Details At the last minute, the actress decided not to marry him, initially saying she intended to marry a wealthy businessman in Mexico City. She later recanted the story about marrying the businessman, but continued to say that her relationship with Skelton was over. The actress further denied that the reason for the breakup was Edna's continuing to manage her ex-husband's career; Edna stated that she had no intention of either getting in the middle of the relationship or reconciling with her former husband.
    His last Raleigh radio show was on June 6, 1944, the day before he was formally inducted as a private; he was not assigned to the entertainment corps at that time.
    More Details Hide Details Without its star, the program was discontinued, and the opportunity presented itself for the Nelsons to begin a radio show of their own, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
    He was drafted into the army in early 1944; both MGM and his radio sponsor tried to obtain a deferment for the comedian, but to no avail.
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    In 1944, Skelton starred opposite Esther Williams in George Sidney's musical comedy Bathing Beauty, playing a songwriter with romantic difficulties.
    More Details Hide Details He next had a relatively minor role as a "TV announcer who, in the course of demonstrating a brand of gin, progresses from mild inebriation through messy drunkenness to full-blown stupor" in the "When Television Comes" segment of Ziegfeld Follies, which featured William Powell and Judy Garland in the main roles. In 1946, Skelton played boastful clerk J. Aubrey Piper opposite Marilyn Maxwell and Marjorie Main in Harry Beaumont's comedy picture The Show-Off. Skelton's contract called for MGM's approval prior to his radio shows and other appearances. When he renegotiated his long-term contract with MGM, he wanted a clause that permitted him to remain working in radio and to be able to work on television, which was then largely experimental. At the time, the major work in the medium was centered in New York; Skelton had worked there for some time and was able to determine that he would find success with his physical comedy through the medium. By 1947, Skelton's work interests were focused not on films, but on radio and television. His MGM contract was rigid enough to require the studio's written consent for his weekly radio shows, as well as any benefit or similar appearances he made; radio offered less restrictions, more creative control and a higher salary. Skelton asked for a release from MGM after learning he could not raise the $750,000 needed to buy out the remainder of his contract.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1943
    Age 29
    They were divorced in 1943, leaving the courtroom arm in arm.
    More Details Hide Details The couple did not discuss the reasons for their divorce and Edna initially prepared to work as a script writer for other radio programs. When the divorce was finalized, she went to New York, leaving her former husband three fully prepared show scripts. Skelton and those associated with him sent telegrams and called her, asking her to come back to him in a professional capacity. Edna remained the manager of the couple's funds because Skelton spent money too easily. An attempt at managing his own checking account that began with a $5,000 balance, ended five days later after a call to Edna saying the account was overdrawn. Skelton had a weekly allowance of $75, with Edna making investments for him, choosing real estate and other relatively stable assets. She remained an advisor on his career until 1952, receiving a generous weekly salary for life for her efforts. The divorce meant that Skelton had lost his married man's deferment; he was once again classified as 1-A for service.
    After a talk with President Roosevelt in 1943, Skelton used his radio show to collect funds for a Douglas A-20 Havoc to be given to the Soviet Army to help fight World War II.
    More Details Hide Details Asking children to send in their spare change, he raised enough money for the aircraft in two weeks; he named the bomber "We Dood It!" In 1986 the Soviet newspaper Pravda offered praise to Skelton for his 1943 gift, and in 1993, the pilot of the plane was able to meet Skelton and thank him for the bomber. Skelton also added a routine he had been performing since 1928. Originally called "Mellow Cigars", the skit entailed an announcer who became ill as he smoked his sponsor's product. Brown and Williamson, the makers of cigarettes, asked Skelton to change some aspects of the skit; he renamed the routine "Guzzler's Gin", where the announcer became inebriated while sampling and touting the imaginary sponsor's wares. While the traditional radio program called for its cast to do an audience warm-up in preparation for the broadcast, Skelton did just the opposite. After the regular radio program had ended, the show's guests were treated to a post-program performance. He would then perform his "Guzzler's Gin" or any of more than 350 routines for those who had come to the radio show. He updated and revised his post-show routines as diligently as those for his radio program. As a result, studio audience tickets for Skelton's radio show were in high demand; there were times where up to 300 people needed to be turned away for lack of seats.
    Skelton starred in a 1943 movie of the same name, but did not play "Junior" in the film.
    More Details Hide Details The phrase was such a part of national culture at the time that, when General Doolittle conducted the bombing of Tokyo in 1942, many newspapers used the phrase "Doolittle Dood It" as a headline.
  • 1941
    Age 27
    Skelton went on the air with his own radio show, The Raleigh Cigarette Program, on October 7, 1941.
    More Details Hide Details The bandleader for the show was Ozzie Nelson; his wife, Harriet, who worked under her maiden name of Hilliard, was the show's vocalist and also worked with Skelton in skits. Skelton introduced the first two of his many characters during The Raleigh Cigarette Program's first season. The character of Clem Kadiddlehopper was based on a Vincennes neighbor named Carl Hopper, who was hard of hearing. Skelton's voice pattern for Clem was similar to the later cartoon character, Bullwinkle; there was enough similarity to cause Skelton to contemplate filing a lawsuit against Bill Scott, who voiced the cartoon moose. The second character, The Mean Widdle Kid, or "Junior", was a young boy full of mischief, who typically did things he was told not to do. "Junior" would say things like, "If I dood it, I gets a whipping.", followed moments later by the statement, "I dood it!" Skelton performed the character at home with Edna, giving him the nickname "Junior" long before it was heard by a radio audience. While the phrase was Skelton's, the idea of using the character on the radio show was Edna's.
    In 1941, Skelton began appearing in musical comedies, starring opposite Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern and Robert Young in Norman Z. McLeod's Lady Be Good.
    More Details Hide Details In 1942 Skelton again starred opposite Eleanor Powell in Edward Buzzell's Ship Ahoy, and alongside Ann Sothern in McLeod's Panama Hattie. In 1943, after a memorable role as a nightclub hatcheck attendant who becomes King Louis XV of France in a dream opposite Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly in Roy Del Ruth's Du Barry Was a Lady, Skelton starred as Joseph Rivington Reynolds, a hotel valet besotted with Broadway starlet Constance Shaw (Powell) in Vincente Minnelli's romantic musical comedy, I Dood It. The film was largely a remake of Buster Keaton's Spite Marriage; Keaton, who had become a comedy consultant to MGM after his film career had diminished, began coaching Skelton on set during the filming. Keaton worked in this capacity on several of Skelton's films, and his 1926 film The General was also later rewritten to become Skelton's A Southern Yankee (1948), under directors S. Silvan Simon and Edward Sedgwick. Keaton was convinced enough of Skelton's comedic talent that he approached MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer with a request to create a small company within MGM for himself and Skelton, where the two could work on film projects. Keaton offered to forgo his salary if the films made by the company were not box office hits; Mayer chose to decline the request.
    In 1941 he also provided comic relief in Harold S. Bucquet's Dr. Kildare medical dramas, Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day and The People vs. Dr. Kildare.
    More Details Hide Details Skelton was soon starring in comedy features as inept radio detective "The Fox", the first of which was Whistling in the Dark (1941) in which he began working with director S. Sylvan Simon, who would become his favorite director. He reprised the same role opposite Ann Rutherford in Simon's other pictures, including Whistling in Dixie (1942) and Whistling in Brooklyn (1943).
  • 1940
    Age 26
    Skelton began appearing in numerous films for MGM. In 1940 he provided comic relief as a lieutenant in Frank Borzage's war drama Flight Command, opposite Robert Taylor, Ruth Hussey and Walter Pidgeon.
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    Actor Mickey Rooney contacted Skelton, urging him to try for work in films after seeing him perform his "Doughnut Dunkers" act at President Roosevelt's 1940 birthday party.
    More Details Hide Details For his MGM screen test, Skelton performed many of his more popular skits, such as "Guzzler's Gin", but added some impromptu pantomimes as the cameras were rolling. "Imitation of Movie Heroes Dying" were Skelton's impressions of the cinema deaths of stars like George Raft, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.
  • 1939
    Age 25
    He appeared in two short subjects for Vitaphone in 1939: Seeing Red and The Broadway Buckaroo.
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  • 1938
    Age 24
    In 1938 he made his film debut for RKO Pictures in the supporting role of a camp counselor in Having Wonderful Time.
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    Skelton made his film debut in 1938 alongside Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Alfred Santell's Having Wonderful Time, and he went on to appear in numerous musical and comedy films throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, with starring roles in Ship Ahoy (1941), I Dood It (1943), Ziegfeld Follies (1946) and The Clown (1953).
    More Details Hide Details He was most eager to work in television, even when the medium was in its infancy. The Red Skelton Show made its television premiere on September 30, 1951, on NBC. By 1954, Skelton's program moved to CBS, where it was expanded to one hour and renamed The Red Skelton Hour in 1962. Despite high ratings, his television show was cancelled by CBS in 1970 as the network believed more youth-oriented programs were needed to attract younger viewers and their spending power. Skelton moved his program to NBC, where he completed his last year with a regularly scheduled television show in 1971. After he no longer had a television program, Skelton's time was spent making up to 125 personal appearances a year and on his artwork. Skelton's artwork of clowns remained a hobby until 1964 when his wife, Georgia, convinced him to have a showing of his work at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas while he was performing there. Sales of his originals were successful and Skelton also sold prints and lithographs of them, earning $2.5 million yearly on lithograph sales. At the time of his death, his art dealer believed that Skelton had earned more money through his paintings than from his television work.
  • 1937
    Age 23
    In 1937, while he was entertaining at the Capitol Theater in Washington, D.C., President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Skelton to perform at a White House luncheon.
    More Details Hide Details During one of the official toasts, Skelton grabbed Roosevelt's glass, saying, "Careful what you drink, Mr. President. I got rolled in a place like this once." His humor appealed to FDR and Skelton became the master of ceremonies for Roosevelt's official birthday celebration for many years afterward. Skelton's first contact with Hollywood came in the form of a failed 1932 screen test.
    The couple viewed the Loew's State engagement in 1937 as Skelton's big chance.
    More Details Hide Details They hired New York comedy writers to prepare material for the engagement, believing they needed more sophisticated jokes and skits than the routines Skelton normally performed. However, his New York audience did not laugh or applaud until Skelton abandoned the newly written material and began performing the "Doughnut Dunkers" and his older routines. The doughnut-dunking routine also helped Skelton rise to celebrity status.
  • 1934
    Age 20
    Skelton and Edna worked for a year in Camden, New Jersey, and were able to get an engagement at Montreal's Lido Club in 1934 through a friend who managed the chorus lines at New York's Roxy Theatre.
    More Details Hide Details Despite an initial rocky start, the act was a success, and brought them more theater dates throughout Canada. Skelton's performances in Canada lead to new opportunities and the inspiration for a new, innovative routine that brought him recognition in the years to come. While performing in Montreal, the Skeltons met Harry Anger, a vaudeville producer for New York City's Loew's State Theatre. Anger promised the pair a booking as a headlining act at Loew's, but they would need to come up with new material for the engagement. While the Skeltons were having breakfast in a Montreal diner, Edna had an idea for a new routine as she and Skelton observed the other patrons eating doughnuts and drinking coffee. They devised the "Doughnut Dunkers" routine, with Skelton's visual impressions of how different people ate doughnuts. The skit won them the Loew's State engagement and a handsome fee.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1931
    Age 17
    They married in 1931 in Kansas City, and Edna began writing his material.
    More Details Hide Details At the time of their marriage Skelton was one month away from his 18th birthday; Edna was 16. When they learned that Skelton's salary was to be cut, Edna went to see the boss; he resented the interference, until she came away with not only a raise, but additional considerations as well. Since he had left school at an early age, his wife bought textbooks and taught him what he had missed. With Edna's help, Skelton received a high school equivalency degree. The couple put together an act and began booking it at small midwestern theaters. When an offer came for an engagement in Harwich Port, Massachusetts, some 2,000 miles from Kansas City, they were pleased to get it because of its proximity to their ultimate goal, the vaudeville houses of New York City. To get to Massachusetts they bought a used car and borrowed five dollars from Edna's mother, but by the time they arrived in St. Louis they had only fifty cents. Skelton asked Edna to collect empty cigarette packs; she thought he was joking, but did as he asked. He then spent their fifty cents on bars of soap, which they cut into small cubes and wrapped with the tinfoil from the cigarette packs. By selling their products for fifty cents each as fog remover for eyeglasses, the Skeltons were able to afford a hotel room every night as they worked their way to Harwich Port.
  • 1929
    Age 15
    Around 1929, while Skelton was still a teen, he joined "Doc" R.E. Lewis's traveling medicine show as an errand boy who sold bottles of medicine to the audience.
    More Details Hide Details During one show, when Skelton accidentally fell from the stage, breaking several bottles of medicine as he fell, people laughed. Both Lewis and Skelton realized one could earn a living with this ability and the fall was worked into the show. He also told jokes and sang in the medicine show during his four years there. Skelton earned ten dollars a week, and sent all of it home to his mother. When she worried that he was keeping nothing for his own needs, Skelton reassured her: "We get plenty to eat, and we sleep in the wagon." As burlesque comedy material became progressively more ribald, Skelton moved on. He insisted that he was no prude; "I just didn't think the lines were funny". He became a sought-after master of ceremonies for dance marathons (known as "walkathons" at the time), a popular fad in the 1930s. The winner of one of the marathons was Edna Stillwell, an usher at the old Pantages Theater. She approached Skelton after winning the contest and told him that she did not like his jokes; he asked if she could do better.
    At the age of 15, Skelton did some early work on the burlesque circuit, and reportedly spent four months with the Heganbeck-Wallace Circus in 1929, when he was 16 years old.
    More Details Hide Details Ida Skelton, who held multiple jobs to support her family after the death of her husband, did not suggest that her youngest son had run away from home to become an entertainer, but "his destiny had caught up with him at an early age". She let him go with her blessing. Times were tough during the Great Depression, and it may have meant one less child for her to feed.
  • 1926
    Age 12
    Skelton discovered at an early age that he could make people laugh. Skelton dropped out of school around 1926 or 1927, when he was 13 or 14 years old, but he already had some experience performing in minstrel shows in Vincennes, and on a showboat, "The Cotton Blossom", that plied the Ohio and Missouri rivers.
    More Details Hide Details He enjoyed his work on the riverboat, moving on only after he realized that showboat entertainment was coming to an end. Skelton, who was interested in all forms of acting, took a dramatic role with the John Lawrence stock theater company, but was unable to deliver his lines in a serious manner; the audience laughed instead. In another incident, while performing in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Skelton was on an unseen treadmill; when it malfunctioned and began working in reverse, the frightened young actor called out, "Help! I'm backing into heaven!" He was fired before completing a week's work in the role.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1923
    Age 9
    According to later accounts, Skelton's early interest in becoming an entertainer stemmed from an incident that took place in Vincennes around 1923, when a stranger, supposedly the comedian Ed Wynn, approached Skelton, who was the newsboy selling papers outside a Vincennes theater.
    More Details Hide Details When the man asked Skelton what events were going on in town, Skelton suggested he see the new show in town. The man purchased every paper Skelton had, providing enough money for the boy to purchase a ticket for himself. The stranger turned out to be one of the show's stars, who later took the boy backstage to introduce him to the other performers. The experience prompted Skelton, who had already shown comedic tendencies, to pursue a career as a performer.
  • 1913
    Born
    Born on July 18, 1913, in Vincennes, Indiana, Richard Skelton was the fourth and youngest son of Ida Mae (née Fields) and Joseph Elmer Skelton.
    More Details Hide Details Joseph, a grocer, died two months before Richard was born; he had once been a clown with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. During Skelton's lifetime there was some dispute about the year of his birth. Author Wesley Hyatt suggests that since he began working at such an early age, Skelton may have claimed he was older than he actually was in order to gain employment. Vincennes neighbors described the Skelton family as being extremely poor; a childhood friend remembered that her parents broke up a youthful romance between her sister and Skelton because they thought he had no future. Because of the loss of his father, Skelton went to work as early as the age of seven, selling newspapers and doing other odd jobs to help his family, who had lost the family store and their home. He quickly learned the newsboy's patter and would keep it up until a prospective buyer bought a copy of the paper just to quiet him.
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