Richard "Red" Skelton (July 18, 1913 – September 17, 1997) was an American entertainer. He was best known for his national radio and television acts between 1937 and 1971, and as host of the television program The Red Skelton Show. He has stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio and television, and also appeared in burlesque, vaudeville, films, nightclubs, and casinos, all while he pursued an entirely separate career as an artist.
Skelton began developing his comedic and pantomime skills from the age of 10, when he became part of a traveling medicine show. He then spent time on a showboat, worked the burlesque circuit, then entered into vaudeville in 1934. The "Doughnut Dunkers" pantomime sketch, which he wrote together with his wife, launched a career for him in vaudeville, radio, and films. His radio career began in 1937 with a guest appearance on The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour which led to his becoming the host of Avalon Time in 1938. He became the host of The Raleigh Cigarette Program in 1941 where many of his comedy characters were created, and he had a regularly scheduled radio program until 1957. 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
After 1937 appearances on The Rudy Vallee Show, Skelton became a regular in 1939 on NBC's Avalon Time, sponsored by Avalon Cigarettes. On October 7, 1941, Skelton premiered his own radio show, The Raleigh Cigarette Program, developing routines involving a number of recurring characters, including punch-drunk boxer Cauliflower McPugg, inebriated Willie Lump-Lump and "mean widdle kid" Junior, whose favorite phrase ("I dood it!") became part of the American lexicon. There was con man San Fernando Red with his pair of crosseyed seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliffe, and singing cabdriver Clem Kadiddlehopper, a country bumpkin with a big heart and a slow wit. Clem had an unintentional knack for upstaging high society slickers, even if he couldn't manipulate his cynical father: "When the stork brought you, Clem, I shoulda shot him on sight!" Skelton also helped sell WWII war bonds on the top-rated show, which featured Ozzie and Harriet Nelson in the supporting cast, plus the Ozzie Nelson Orchestra and announcer Truman Bradley. Harriet Nelson was the show's vocalist.
Skelton was drafted in March 1944, and the popular series was discontinued June 6, 1944. Shipped overseas to serve with an Army entertainment unit as a private, Skelton had a nervous breakdown in Italy, spent three months in a hospital and was discharged in September, 1945. He once joked about his military career, "I was the only celebrity who went in and came out a private." On December 4, 1945, The Raleigh Cigarette Program resumed where it left off with Skelton introducing some new characters, including Bolivar Shagnasty and J. Newton Numbskull. Lurene Tuttle and Verna Felton appeared as Junior's mother and grandmother. David Forrester and David Rose led the orchestra, featuring vocalist Anita Ellis. The announcers were Pat McGeehan and Rod O'Connor. The series ended May 20, 1949, and that fall he moved to CBS. Ironically, given that his peak of popularity came with his television show, in recent years recordings of the Red Skelton radio show have become much easier to come by than the TV show.
Originally posted 2018-01-10 15:02:45.