From the Stars and Stripes archives

Red Skelton's film idea — It grows on you

Comedian Red Skelton waves as he and his wife, Georgia, arrive in Tokyo in July, 1963.


By STEVE STIBBENS | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 12, 1963

TOKYO — Red Skelton, the rubber-faced funnyman, says he's figured out a. way to revolutionize the centuries-old art of Japanese bonsai, or dwarf tree, gardening.

In fact, that's why he's here. The veteran comedian is in Japan this month to scout locations for his next movie, a story he wrote about an American who disguises himself as a Japanese bonsai gardener.

"It's all about this ex-GI who tries to corner the bonsai market in Southern California" he explained. "But he couldn't back it there so he reverses his name from O'Shay to Yahso-san and comes, back to Japan."

Red says the movie, to be called "Kasa-san" or Mr. Umbrella, is "just a lot of fun with all kinds of screwball stuff."

"O'Shay, or Yahso-san, has this crazy idea that he. can trick the little bonsai trees into growing 24 hours a day," he said. "He rigs up lights that come on at sunset and move over the trees from East to West all night.

"The trees simply think it's day all the time."

With this method, says Skelton, the trees age about 100 years in three months.

The comedian said he has been writing the script during his spare time for the past six years. It all grew out: of an interest in Japanese gardening he picked up during a trip to Japan.

In fact, the comedian's' favorite subject is his Japanese garden at his home in Palm Springs. And, like the cigar-chomping tycoon he sometimes plays, Skelton built it in a big way.

"I planned this thing for a year," he said. "Then, after the bulldozers got through, it only took me three months to get things growing."

The garden covers an acre in a desert where nothing is supposed to grow. But, according to about 150 color photographs Red proudly passes around, the grass is green and the trees are small — bonsai, remember.

The comedian, traveling with his red-headed wife, Georgia, and a friend, hotel owner Jack Entratter, said he is also scouting locations to film three episodes for his weekly television series.

Red Skelton's welcoming committee at the Tokyo airport included Japanese entertainer Junzaburo Ban, foreground.

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