152 Facts About Red Skelton


Richard Red Skelton was an American entertainer best known for his national radio and television shows between 1937 and 1971, especially as host of the television program The Red Skelton Show.


Red Skelton has stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio and television, and appeared in burlesque, vaudeville, films, nightclubs, and casinos, all while he pursued an entirely separate career as an artist.


Red Skelton then spent time on a showboat, worked the burlesque circuit, and then entered into vaudeville in 1934.


Red Skelton became the host of The Raleigh Cigarette Program in 1941, on which many of his comedy characters were created, and he had a regularly scheduled radio program until 1957.


Red Skelton made his film debut in 1938 alongside Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.


Red Skelton was 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.


Red Skelton moved his program to NBC, where he completed his last year with a regularly scheduled television show in 1971.


Red Skelton spent his time after that making as many as 125 personal appearances a year and working on his paintings.


At the time of his death, his art dealer said he thought that Red Skelton had earned more money through his paintings than from his television performances.


Red Skelton believed that his life's work was to make people laugh; he wanted to be known as a clown because he defined it as being able to do everything.


Red Skelton had a 70-year-long career as a performer and entertained three generations of Americans.


Red Skelton's widow donated many of his personal and professional effects to Vincennes University, including prints of his artwork.


Red Skelton was the fourth son and youngest child of Joseph Elmer and Ida Mae Red Skelton.


Red Skelton had three older brothers: Denny Ishmael Skelton, Christopher M Skelton and Paul Fred Skelton.


Joseph Red Skelton, a grocer, died two months before Richard was born; he had once been a clown with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus.


Red Skelton 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.


The man purchased every paper Red Skelton had, providing enough money for the boy to purchase a ticket for himself.


The experience prompted Red Skelton, who had already shown comedic tendencies, to pursue a career as a performer.


Red 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.


Red Skelton enjoyed his work on the riverboat, moving on only after he realized that showboat entertainment was coming to an end.


Red 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.


At the age of 15, Red Skelton did some early work on the burlesque circuit, and reportedly spent four months with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1929, when he was 16 years old.


Ida Red 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".


Red Skelton told jokes and sang in the medicine show during his four years there.


Red Skelton earned ten dollars a week, and sent all of it home to his mother.


Red Skelton insisted that he was no prude; "I just didn't think the lines were funny".


Red Skelton became a sought-after master of ceremonies for dance marathons, a popular fad in the 1930s.


Red Skelton 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 time of their marriage Red Skelton was one month away from his 18th birthday; Edna was 16.


Red Skelton asked Edna to collect empty cigarette packs; she thought he was joking, but did as he asked.


Red Skelton then spent their fifty cents on bars of soap, which they cut into small cubes and wrapped with the tinfoil from the cigarette packs.


However, his New York audience did not laugh or applaud until Red Skelton abandoned the newly-written material and began performing the "Doughnut Dunkers" and his older routines.


In 1937, while he was entertaining at the Capitol Theater in Washington, DC, President Franklin D Roosevelt invited Skelton to perform at a White House luncheon.


Red Skelton appeared in two short subjects for Vitaphone in 1939: Seeing Red and The Broadway Buckaroo.


Actor Mickey Rooney contacted Red Skelton, urging him to try for work in films after seeing him perform his "Doughnut Dunkers" act at President Roosevelt's 1940 birthday party.


Red Skelton reprised the same role opposite Ann Rutherford in Simon's other pictures, including Whistling in Dixie and Whistling in Brooklyn.


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.


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 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 Red Skelton on set during the filming.


In 1944, Skelton starred opposite Esther Williams in George Sidney's musical comedy Bathing Beauty, playing a songwriter with romantic difficulties.


Red Skelton 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.


Red Skelton's contract called for MGM's approval prior to his radio shows and other appearances.


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.


Red 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.


In 1948, columnist Sheilah Graham printed that Red Skelton's wishes were to make only one film a year, spending the rest of the time traveling the US with his radio show.


MGM became annoyed with Simon during the filming of The Fuller Brush Man, as the studio contended that Red Skelton should have been playing romantic leads instead of performing slapstick.


Red Skelton was willing to negotiate with MGM to extend the agreement provided he would receive the right to pursue television.


Red Skelton went on the air with his own radio show, The Raleigh Cigarette Program, on October 7,1941.


Red Skelton introduced the first two of his many characters during The Raleigh Cigarette Program's first season.


Red Skelton added a routine he had been performing since 1928.


Red Skelton then performed his "Guzzler's Gin" or any of more than 350 routines for those who had come to the radio show.


Red Skelton updated and revised his post-show routines as diligently as those for his radio program.


Red Skelton did not realize she was serious until Edna issued a statement about the impending divorce through NBC.


Edna remained the manager of the couple's funds because Red Skelton spent money too easily.


Red Skelton had a weekly allowance of $75, with Edna making investments for him, choosing real estate and other relatively-stable assets.


Red Skelton remained an advisor on his career until 1952, receiving a generous weekly salary for life for her efforts.


The divorce meant that Red Skelton had lost his married man's deferment; he was classified as 1-A for service.


Red Skelton 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.


Red Skelton later recanted the story about marrying the businessman, but continued to say that her relationship with Skelton was over.


Red Skelton 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.


Red Skelton traveled to Los Angeles from the eastern army base where he was assigned for the wedding.


Red Skelton knew he would possibly be assigned overseas soon, and wanted the marriage to take place first.


Red Skelton served in the United States Army during World War II.


Red Skelton had a nervous collapse while in the Army, following which he developed a stutter.


Red Skelton devoted a lot of time and effort to trying to make the man laugh.


Red Skelton was released from his army duties in September 1945.


Red Skelton's sponsor was eager to have him back on the air, and Skelton's program began anew on NBC on December 4,1945.


Red 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.


Red Skelton had been briefly censored the previous month for the use of the word "diaper".


Red Skelton's syndicated radio program was offered as a daily show; it included segments of his older network radio programs, and new material done for the syndication.


Red Skelton was able to use portions of his older radio shows because he owned the rights for rebroadcasting them.


Red 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.


Red Skelton said he would be performing the same characters on television that he had been doing on radio.


Red Skelton patterned his meek, henpecked television character of George Appleby after his radio character, J Newton Numbskull, who had similar characteristics.


The first year of the television show was done live; this led to problems, because not enough time was available for costume changes; Red Skelton was on camera for most of the half hour, including the delivery of a commercial that was written into one of the show's skits.


In early 1952, Red Skelton had an idea for a television sketch about someone who had been drinking not knowing which way is up.


Red Skelton was delivering an intense performance live each week, and the strain showed in physical illness.


Red Skelton announced that any of his future television programs would be variety shows, where he would not have the almost constant burden of performing.


Red Skelton 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.


Red Skelton 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.


Red Skelton performed a preview show for a studio audience on Mondays, using their reactions to determine which skits required editing for the Tuesday program.


Red Skelton returned to his television show on January 15,1957, with guest star Mickey Rooney helping to lift his spirits.


Red Skelton resumed this practice only after his son asked him to do so.


The Red Skelton family received support from CBS management and from the public following the announcement of Richard's illness.


In November, Skelton fell down stairs and injured an ankle, and he nearly died after a "cardiac-asthma" attack on December 30,1957.


Red Skelton was taken to St John's Hospital in Santa Monica, where, his doctors said, "if there were ten steps to death, Red Skelton had taken nine of them by the time he had arrived".


Red Skelton was scheduled to do his weekly television show on the day his son was buried.


Life magazine, profiling "The Invincible Red" on April 21,1961, observed that Skelton was still "racked [sic]" by his son's death.


In 1962, the Red Skelton family moved to Palm Springs, and Red Skelton used the Bel Air home only on the two days a week when he was in Los Angeles for his television show taping.


In early 1960, Red Skelton purchased the old Charlie Chaplin Studios and updated it for videotape recording.


Red Skelton then moved back to the network's Television City facilities, where he taped his programs until he left the network.


Red Skelton frequently employed the art of pantomime for his characters; a segment of his weekly program was called the "Silent Spot".


Red Skelton attributed his liking for pantomime and for using few props to the early days when he did not want to have a lot of luggage.


Red Skelton explained that having the right hat was the key to getting into character.


In 1969, Red Skelton wrote and performed a monologue about the Pledge of Allegiance.


Red Skelton credited one of his Vincennes grammar-school teachers, Mr Laswell, with the original speech.


Red Skelton moved to NBC in 1970 in a half-hour Monday-night version of his former show.


Red Skelton was bitter about CBS's cancellation for many years afterwards.


Red Skelton had invited prominent Republicans, including Vice President Spiro Agnew and Senate Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, one of the Senate's strongest supporters of the war, to appear on his program.


Red Skelton divorced Georgia in 1971 and married Lothian Toland, daughter of cinematographer Gregg Toland, on October 7,1973.


Hopes he may have had that he could ease back into television through the talk-show circuit were ended on May 10,1976, when Georgia Red Skelton committed suicide by gunshot on the 18th anniversary of Richard Red Skelton's death.


Red Skelton put all professional activities on hold for some months as he mourned his former wife's death.


Red Skelton made plans in 1977 to sell the rights to his old television programs as part of a package that would bring him back to regular television appearances.


Red Skelton contended his remarks were made at a time when he was very unhappy with the television industry and were taken out of context.


Red Skelton retained a fondness for theaters, and referred to them as "palaces"; he likened them to his "living room", where he would privately entertain guests.


Red Skelton was invited to play a four-week date at the London Palladium in July 1951.


Red Skelton received both an enthusiastic reception and an invitation to return for the Palladium's Christmas show of that year.


Red Skelton often arrived days early for his engagement and would serve as his own promotion staff, making the rounds of the local shopping malls.


Red Skelton continued performing live until 1993, when he celebrated his 80th birthday.


Red Skelton screen tested for the role of Willy Clark with Jack Benny, who had been cast as Al Lewis.


Red Skelton declined the part reportedly due to an inadequate financial offer, and Benny's final illness forced him to withdraw, as well.


In 1981, Skelton made several specials for HBO, including Freddie the Freeloader's Christmas Dinner and the Funny Faces series of specials.


Red Skelton gave a Royal Command Performance for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1984, which was later shown in the US on HBO.


Red 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".


Red Skelton is interred in the Skelton Family Tomb, the family's private room, alongside his son, Richard Freeman Skelton, Jr.


Red Skelton began producing artwork in 1943, but kept his works private for many years.


Red Skelton said he was inspired to try his hand at painting after visiting a large Chicago department store that had various paintings on display.


Red 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.


Red Skelton made his work available to art galleries by selling them franchises to display and sell his paintings.


Shortly after his death, his art dealer said he believed that Red Skelton made more money on his paintings than from his television work.


At the time of his death, Red Skelton had produced over 1,000 oil paintings of clowns.


Red Skelton was a prolific writer of both short stories and music.


Red Skelton wrote at least one short story a week and had composed over 8,000 songs and symphonies by the time of his death.


Red Skelton wrote commercials for Skoal tobacco and sold many of his compositions to Muzak, a company that specialized in providing background music to stores and other businesses.


Red Skelton was interested in photography; when attending Hollywood parties, he would take photos and give the film to newspaper reporters waiting outside.


Red Skelton was never without a miniature camera, and kept a photographic record of all his paintings.


Red Skelton was an avid gardener, who created his own Japanese and Italian gardens and cultivated bonsai trees at his home in Palm Springs.


Red Skelton owned a 600-acre horse ranch in the Anza Valley.


Red Skelton was a Freemason, a member of Vincennes Lodge No 1, in Indiana.


Red Skelton was a member of both the Scottish and the York Rites.


Red Skelton was a recipient of the Gold Medal of the General Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, for Distinguished Service in the Arts and Sciences.


Red Skelton became interested in Masonry as a small boy selling newspapers in Vincennes, when a man bought a paper from him with a $5 bill and told him to keep the change.


The young Red Skelton asked his benefactor why he had given him so much money; the man explained that he was a Mason and Masons are taught to give.


Red Skelton was member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, as well as a Shriner in Los Angeles.


Red Skelton was made an honorary brother of Phi Sigma Kappa at Truman State University.


Red Skelton received an honorary degree from the college at the same ceremony.


Red Skelton received an honorary high-school diploma from Vincennes High School.


In 1986, Red Skelton received an honorary degree from Ball State University.


In 1952, Red Skelton received Emmy Awards for Best Comedy Program and Best Comedian.


Red Skelton received an Emmy nomination in 1957 for his noncomedic performance in Playhouse 90's presentation of "The Big Slide".


Red Skelton was named an honorary faculty member of Ringling Bros.


Red Skelton's excitement was so great upon receiving the award and a standing ovation, that he clutched it tightly enough to break the statuette.


Red Skelton was one of the International Clown Hall of Fame's first inductees in 1989.


Red Skelton was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.


Red Skelton has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his radio and television work.


Red Skelton can be funny, then turn right around and reach people and touch them with what life is like.


Marceau appeared on Skelton's CBS television show three times, including one turn as the host in 1961 as Skelton recovered from surgery.


Red Skelton was a guest on the three Funny Faces specials that Skelton produced for HBO.


The Red Skelton Performing Arts Center was dedicated in February 2006 on the campus of Vincennes University, one block from the home in Vincennes where Skelton was born.