Red Skelton had a net worth of $30 million and was an American comedian.
Red Skelton, a red-haired, rubber-faced comic who was one of MGM’s top performers in the 1940s, specialized at wacky, bubble-headed characterizations and sketches like his famous “Guzzler’s Gin” performance, in which he grew outrageously drunk while doing a commercial for the powerful drink. He is less fondly regarded now, and his defenders claim that his finest work was on American radio and television. He was often compared to Buster Keaton – he recreated numerous Keaton films, and Keaton was a gagman for him at MGM – but he is less warmly remembered today.
Richard Bennett Skelton was born in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1910, and began singing for money on the street when he was seven years old. When he was two months old, his father, a circus clown, died, and his mother worked as a charlady (Red was the youngest of her four sons). Skelton dropped out of school at the age of ten to join a traveling medicine show, spending the remainder of his life entertaining anywhere he could find an audience, including showboats, minstrel acts, circuses, and burlesque theaters. When he established a duo act with Edna Stillwell, a former usher, he went from burlesque to more respectable music halls (they married in 1931).
Red Skelton was one of the most well-known comedians in the world. For his emotionally intense comedic acts, he became known as “The Sentimental Clown” and “America’s Clown Prince” throughout the course of his long and hilarious career. He began his career as a stand-up comedian for troubadour or burlesque performances, and he quickly garnered a big following.
Red Skelton’s career began to take off as he received more radio and television appearances, and he ultimately began to act in films. Skelton, the son of a circus clown, went on to become one of America’s most popular comedians, and he owed it all to his family, whom he felt would have prevented him from catching the “showbiz bug.” He went on the road as a full-time entertainer, performing in everything from medical shows and cabaret performances to circuses and grandstands.
Red Skelton is recognized by his colleagues and viewers for notable parts such as “Clem Kaddiddlehopper” and “George Appleby.” His professional life was fruitful, but his personal life was not. He became more of a social hermit after two divorces and a personal loss, which harmed his career. In addition, he was a patron of several children’s charities.
In 1965, Skelton made his final movie appearance as a Neanderthal man attempting to be a flying bird in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, which was one of the film’s comic highlights. Despite his affluence, he continued to perform in nightclubs and on television on occasion and had a successful sideline as a clown painter. Skelton once remarked, “I don’t want to be dubbed the best.” “I just want to be remembered as a clown because it is the pinnacle of my career in my opinion. It implies you can sing, dance, and, most importantly, make others laugh.”
He married Georgia Maureen Davis, a model, in 1945. They had two children, but the younger Richard died of leukemia in 1958, shortly before his tenth birthday, and the bereaved Skelton began a rigorous work schedule as treatment. Red and Georgia separated in 1972, and he married Lothian Toland, the daughter of cinematographer Gregg Toland, the following year.
Skelton died at the age of 84 on 17 September 1997 in California.
He delivered a farewell performance at Carnegie Hall in 1990, at the age of 80, with the billing simply stating “One of America’s Clowns.”