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Red Skelton was one of the first to recognize that television was a coming medium of entertainment. He was not the only Hollywood personality to do this, but the difference between them and him is that he was on top on the big screen. Many had careers extended or a new lease on life was given to Hollywood names that no longer had box office pull. That was not true with Red Skelton, when he debuted in 1951 on CBS television he was on top of his box office appeal.
What a rich array of characters he brought to the small screen. Anyone my age and a bit younger remembers Clem Kadiddlehopper, San Fernando Red, Freddie the Freeloader and so many more. These are indelible impressions formed on America's consciousness when it needed a laugh or two.
The thing that always impresses me about Red Skelton is that he was so good at all types of comedy, he was quick with some unwritten dialog, he could do standup, he was a pantomimist the equal of Harpo Marx in my opinion. No less an authority than Groucho Marx thought that. I think Red Skelton would have been a big star on the silent screen when pantomime was what it was all about.
He was the son of a former circus clown turned druggist and that's where he got his love for entertaining. He always described himself as a first and foremost a clown. But he was the proverbial sad clown, he had a lot of troubles in life with the substance abuse of his wife Georgia, and the death of their son Richard from leukemia. I well remember that being a big news item when I was a lad.
He said he was put on earth to make people laugh, and Red, so you did.
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