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Red Skelton Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (38) | Personal Quotes (10)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 18 July 1913Vincennes, Indiana, USA
Date of Death 17 September 1997Rancho Mirage, California, USA  (pneumonia)
Birth NameRichard Red Skelton
Nicknames America's Clown Prince
The Marcel Marceau of Television
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The son of a former circus clown turned grocer and a cleaning woman, Red Skelton was introduced to show business at the age of seven by Ed Wynn, at a vaudeville show in Vincennes. At age 10, he left home to travel with a medicine show through the Midwest, and joined the vaudeville circuit at age 15. At age 18, he married Edna Marie Stilwell, an usher who became his vaudeville partner and later his chief writer and manager. He debuted on Broadway and radio in 1937 and on film in 1938. His ex-wife/manager negotiated a seven-year Hollywood contract for him in 1951, the same year The Red Skelton Hour (1951) premiered on NBC. For two decades, until 1971, his show consistently stayed in the top twenty, both on NBC and CBS. His numerous characters, including Clem Kaddiddlehopper, George Appleby, and the seagulls Gertrude and Heathcliffe delighted audiences for decades. First and foremost, he considered himself a clown, although not the greatest, and his paintings of clowns brought in a fortune after he left television. His home life was not completely happy--two divorces and a son Richard who died of leukemia at age nine--and he did not hang around with other comedians. He continued performing live until illness, and he was a longtime supporter of children's charities. Red Skelton died at age 84 of pneumonia in Rancho Mirage, California on September 17, 1997.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: <anthony-adam@tamu.edu>

Spouse (3)

Lothian Toland (8 October 1973 - 17 September 1997) (his death)
Georgia Davis (9 March 1945 - 6 September 1973) (divorced) (2 children)
Edna Marie Stilwell (1 June 1932 - 18 February 1943) (divorced)

Trade Mark (5)

His wide variety of characters such as Sheriff Dead Eye, Clem Kadiddlehopper, etc.
Performs and does characters with his brown hat. He performs different characters by changing the way the hat looks and how he wears it
Always ended his TV show and specials with, "Good night and may God bless."
Red hair
Dimples

Trivia (38)

Used his "Guzzlers Gin" comedy sketch as his successful 1940 screen test for MGM. It was later filmed in Ziegfeld Follies (1945).
Clowns were his lifelong trademark. His clown paintings have sold for upwards of $80,000.
Skelton earned over $2.5 million annually at one time as an artist, after the cancellation of his variety show The Red Skelton Hour (1951).
His first wife, a former usher, negotiated his 1951 $5 million, seven-year Hollywood contract.
His father used to be a circus clown.
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction.
In 1986, as Clem Kaddiddlehopper, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Foolology from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
He insisted on getting his television skits done on the first take, even if it meant ad-libbing around blown lines and failed props. In one famous incident on live television, he managed to ad-lib while a cow defecated on stage ("Not only does she give milk, but also Pet-Ritz pies!").
Inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1989.
Inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.
He was a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
Served in the United States Army during World War II (1944-1945).
Star of "The Red Skelton Show" on NBC Radio (1941-1949) and CBS Radio (1949-1953).
Was the 1961 recipient of the prestigious Connor Award given by the brothers of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity based out of Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also an honorary brother of the fraternity.
A bridge was built and named after him that spans the Wabash River separating Indiana and Illinois on US 50, just outside his hometown of Vincennes, Indiana. Vincennes University is also building a Performing Arts Center in his memory.
He often made reference to his second wife, Georgia, as "Little Red."
In 1971, following a successful 30 year run on CBS (often placing among the top ten shows) his ratings finally slipped and The Red Skelton Hour (1951) was quickly canceled by the network. He never forgave them. Television historians have long suspected that he was a victim of the 1971 television purge that took place after the success of All in the Family (1971) wherein CBS rid itself of all "nice shows" and "rural shows" in favor of shows with edgier subject matter.
His daughter Valentina Marie Skelton was born on May 5, 1947. His son, Richard Freeman Skelton was born on May 20, 1948 and died on May 10, 1958 of leukemia, just 10 days before his 10th birthday.
He was extremely offended by "blue humor" and publicly made note of any comedian who used it because he felt that it cheapened the art of comedy. He very closely observed every skit that went on his show to make sure that it could not be twisted into a double entendre.
One of Red's writers filled in for him one night when he took a serious fall, injuring himself. That writer's name was Johnny Carson.
In 1960, he purchased the old Charles Chaplin Studios on La Brea Avenue, where he produced his weekly television shows. He established Red-Eo-Tape (Red-Tape) Video Productions. His three RCA TK-41 camera mobile units became the first live color production company in Hollywood.
Although famous for his "drunk" comedy sketches, he never drank and was, in fact, allergic to alcohol.
Got his first taste of the stage at "The Pantheon Theatre" in downtown Vincennes, Indiana, which is now being remodeled and the stage being named in his honor.
He became well-known as an outspoken proponent for the addition of the phrase "Under God" to the United States Pledge of Allegiance.
His brother Paul Skelton worked as an uncredited prop man on Irwin Allen series such as Lost in Space (1965).
In a People Magazine interview late in his life, Skelton admitted that he fudged his officially accepted birth year, but did not elaborate. The year 1910 is sometimes given instead of 1913, but Skelton's biographer Arthur Marx claims that the comedian told close associates he was really born in 1906.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television at 6650 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Radio at 6763 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Appears as the character Freddie the Freeloader on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Early TV Memories issue honoring The Red Skelton Hour (1951). The stamp was issued 11 August 2009.
Originally he had hoped to become a circus lion tamer, but gave up on that when he saw a man mauled to death by one of the big cats.
He was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party.
On May 10, 1976, his ex-wife Georgia Davis committed suicide by gunshot on the 18th anniversary of their son's Richard Freeman Skelton's death.
The day after his wedding on March 9, 1945, Skelton checked into the hospital for a tonsillectomy.
The pressures of entertaining troops, and fulfilling his duties as a soldier, resulted in Skelton's hospitalization for a nervous breakdown in 1945.
Often said that of all the characters he'd played, Freddie the Freeloader was by far his favorite. When asked why, he said that Freddie was the purest soul of his characters and that he was a tribute to the clowns that he knew and treasured.
Grandfather of Sabrina Alonso.
According to Skelton, in his appearance with Johnny Carson rebroadcast on TCM 7/19/14, his real name was Richard Red Skelton -- Red was really his middle name. When a teacher insisted he come up with a "real" middle name, he chose "Bernard" from the name of a local clothier, and the teacher was satisfied. He was surprised many years latter when FBI director J Edgar Hoover addressed him as "Bernard". It turned out that Bernard was in his FBI dossier.
His third wife, and widow, the former Lothian Toland, was the only daughter of preeminent cinematographer Gregg Toland.
In 1944 when Red Skelton was stationed at Camp Roberts in California his fellow soldiers, upon his arrival, tacked a sign on his barracks door that read: "Tour a Movie Star's Home -- Twenty-Five Cents.".

Personal Quotes (10)

My mother told me something I've never forgotten: 'Don't take life too seriously, son, you don't come out of it alive anyway.
His traditional TV sign-off: "Good night, and may God bless."
All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.
When Harry Cohn, the notorious - and much despised - head of Columbia Pictures died, seeing the crowd at his funeral prompted this famous Skelton riposte: "It just goes to show you, Harry was right -- If you give the public what they want, they'll always show up."
As a longtime painter, I carry around snapshots of my favorite paintings the way other old geezers my age carry around pictures of their grandkids. Grandchildren are wonderful, but a good painting can help support you in your old age.
I think most of today's comedians are victims of laughter...they get nervous and resort to an insult or a four-letter word for a quick, cheap laugh. That goes on night after night until the whole act is cheapened. But that doesn't last. Usually, a couple of years later they are remembered only as the old what's-his-name who used all the dirty words.
I'm nuts and I know it. But so long as I make 'em laugh, they ain't going to lock me up.
I always believed God puts each one of us here for a purpose and mine is to try to make people happy.
If I can make people smile, then I have served my purpose for God.
[on the large attendance at producer Harry Cohn's funeral] Well, it only proved what they always say - give the public something they want to see, and they'll come out for it.

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