Red Skelton Festival 2019 Day 2

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After yesterday evening’s festivities, I was ready to begin a full day of Red Skelton Festival activities. My morning started off with me arriving to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center to set up for my presentation on Du Barry Was a Lady (1943) for that afternoon. After that, I had a bit of time until the activities for the day kicked off, so I spent some time at Skelton’s birthplace.

Red Skelton Birthplace:

Had I visited two days earlier, I would have been at Skelton’s birthplace on his birthday–July 18th. I thought it would be great to visit this spot since it relates closely to the mission of my blog and that a new plaque had been commemorated on the site since my last visit. The building is owned by Vincennes University, so it will be exciting to see how they will use it to continue celebrating Skelton’s legacy. I also filmed a video on the site, which is accessible here.

On the walk back from the house, I checked out the circle of Skelton-inspired clown statues decorated by various local organizations from around town.

Clown Parade:

The first event I attended for the day was the Clown Parade, which ran down the streets near the university and culminated at the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy (RSMAC). Here, various local organizations–particularly Shriners, in honor of Skelton’s participation in the group–appeared on various motorized devices. Because Skelton considered himself a clown, the participants frequently dress up in clown attire.

Red Skelton Museum: 

I spent some time revisiting RSMAC, since my first time visiting was shortly after the museum opened. The museum has grown substantially since then, with a broader array of exhibits that showcase various points in Skelton’s personal and professional life. The RSMAC has also expanded to a REDucation Room, in which educational programs for children are held.

While touring, I also noticed that the sign gifted to the museum after last night’s performance had found a happy home in one of the exhibits.

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Just after I toured the RSMAC, Collection Consultant Mark Kratzner took me to the RSMAC archives. Much of it is a treasure trove of materials from Skelton’s widow, Lothian Skelton, who contributes frequently and is in close communication with the museum staff. My favorite pieces to see were the costumes.

Du Barry Was a Lady (1943): 

After being inspired by the Skelton archives, I moved on to introduce the film that would close the festival. As I entered, I found the Circle City Clown Band wrapping up their performance.

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Soon enough, it was my turn to introduce the film for the afternoon. I find that one of the best ways to celebrate the legacies of classic film stars is to not only view their works but to share their works with others. Moreover, I delight in learning more about particular films and stars because it adds another level to my enjoyment of and appreciation for a film.

During my presentation, I discussed background information on the films lead actors, as well as the history of the story. I shared facts about the production of the film and some interesting trivia along the way. For individuals who were not able to attend the festival, I wrote an article about Du Barry Was a Lady, as well.

Wrap-Up: 

All in all, the RSF allowed me to return to town and see how much more effort has been put into celebrating the legacy of Skelton. From the growth of the RSMAC to the new plaque at his birthplace, Skelton’s roots in Vincennes are well remembered thanks to the efforts of the RSMAC.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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