Red Skelton’s “Summer Under the Stars” day is Wednesday, Aug. 19.
Turner Classic Movies will show fifteen Red Skelton films, most of which I’ve never seen. With perhaps one or two exceptions, they’ve been on TCM a number of times – there are no premieres in the list – but Skelton, for some inexplicable reason, remains one of the few stars of the 1940s that I don’t know very well. (In fact, I’m totally unfamiliar with his television work.)
That’s strange, I admit, as I actually find him more likable (though not necessarily funnier) than the majority of film comedians then or now, and his leading ladies were usually quite talented: Eleanor Powell, Jane Greer, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Maxwell, Arlene Dahl, Gloria DeHaven, Janet Blair, Esther Williams, Ann Rutherford. If they couldn’t act, they could dance; if they couldn’t act or dance, they could swim; if they couldn’t do any of that, they at least had a knack for looking great, whether in black and white or in color.
Of the scheduled Skelton films, I’ve only seen three: Having Wonderful Time, a minor comedy starring Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; Du Barry Was a Lady, a sumptuous (in color) mix of absurdist comedy and period piece that is perfectly watchable though unfortunately it lacks the edge of director Roy Del Ruth’s Warner Bros. films; and The Fuller Brush Man, co-starring a lovely Janet Blair and featuring a scene with, Marx Brothers-style, way too many people inside a closet, in addition to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which hero and heroine smack gangsters with the help of a jumping bed.
Also, I hope that TCM will show Skelton’s 1939 short Seeing Red, which is one of the quirkiest Vitaphone shorts I’ve seen.
Red Skelton movies
3:00 AM Having Wonderful Time (1938)
A New York girl finds love at a summer resort. Cast: Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lucille Ball. Director: Alfred Santell. Black and white. 70 min.
4:15 AM Ship Ahoy (1942)
A dancer sailing to Puerto Rico hides government messages in her tap routines. Cast: Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton, Bert Lahr. Director: Edward Buzzell. Black and white. 95 min.
7:45 AM Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
A night club employee dreams he’s Louis XV, and the star he idolizes is his lady love. Cast: Red Skelton, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Color. 101 min.
9:30 AM The Show-Off (1946)
A man’s loud-mouthed bumbling almost ruins his new wife’s family. Cast: Red Skelton, Marilyn Maxwell, Marjorie Main. Director: Harry Beaumont. Black and white. 83 min.
11:00 AM A Southern Yankee (1948)
A bellboy masquerades as a spy and lands behind enemy lines during the Civil War. Cast: Red Skelton, Arlene Dahl, Brian Donlevy. Director: Edward Sedgwick. Black and white. 90 min.
12:45 PM Watch the Birdie (1950)
A photographer falls for a rich girl and gets mixed up with crooks. Cast: Red Skelton, Arlene Dahl, Ann Miller. Director: Jack Donohue. Black and white. 71 min.
2:00 PM The Yellow Cab Man (1950)
An inventor’s unbreakable glass attracts the attention of businessmen and gangsters. Cast: Red Skelton, Gloria DeHaven, Walter Slezak. Director: Jack Donohue. Black and white. 84 min.
3:30 PM Excuse My Dust (1951)
An inventor’s new automobile could put his girlfriend’s livery stable out of business. Cast: Red Skelton, Sally Forrest, Macdonald Carey. Director: Roy Rowland. Black and white. 83 min.
5:00 PM Whistling in the Dark (1941)
A radio detective is kidnapped and forced to plan the perfect murder. Cast: Red Skelton, Ann Rutherford, Conrad Veidt. Director: S. Sylvan Simon. Black and white. 78 min.
6:30 PM Whistling in Dixie (1942)
A radio detective’s southern honeymoon is cut short by the discovery of a murder. Cast: Red Skelton, Ann Rutherford, George Bancroft. Director: S. Sylvan Simon. Black and white. 74 min.
8:00 PM The Fuller Brush Man (1948)
A bumbling salesman gets mixed up in murder. Cast: Red Skelton, Janet Blair, Don McGuire. Director: S. Sylvan Simon. Black and white. 92 min.
11:30 PM Whistling in Brooklyn (1943)
A radio sleuth infiltrates the Brooklyn Dodgers to solve a murder. Cast: Red Skelton, Ann Rutherford, “Rags” Ragland. Director: S. Sylvan Simon. Black and white. 87 min.
1:00 AM The Clown (1953)
In this remake of The Champ, a drunken clown tries to make a comeback so he can keep his son. Cast: Red Skelton, Jane Greer, Tim Considine. Director: Robert Z. Leonard. Black and white. 91 min.