Red Skelton, 84, the comedian of stage, radio, cinema and television who brought laughter to millions for more than 50 years with his horseplay, slapstick and clowning, died yesterday at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Mr. Skelton, the son of a circus clown, had a show business career that spanned the range of popular entertainment in the 20th century. He did the vaudeville halls in the 1930s and live radio in the 1940s. He was one of the few radio comedians to make a successful transition to television, and from 1951 to 1971, the Red Skelton show was a weekly hit on NBC and CBS.

He appeared in 43 motion pictures, including such comedies of the 1940s and 1950s as "Panama Hattie," "A Southern Yankee," "Whistling in Dixie" and "Whistling in Brooklyn," in which he had to pitch against the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team.

He was a props and facial grimaces comedian with a crushed porkpie hat whose shoes sometimes flew off when he sneezed. He roared with laughter and doubled over at his own jokes. His hair sometimes stood up straight like an electrified Einstein, and his mouth stretched like a rubber band when he went cross-eyed. Typical of his humor was a scene from the movie "The Fuller Brush Man," when a stack of prefabricated house fronts fell over him, but he was unhurt because he was standing in the doorway.

On radio and television, Mr. Skelton had a repertoire of regular characters that included Clem Kadiddlehopper, a slow-witted country bumpkin; the punch-drunk prizefighter Cauliflower McPugg; the drunk Willie Lump-Lump; the lawman of the Old West Sheriff Deadeye; the con man San Fernando Red; Bolivar Shagnasty; the cross-eyed sea gulls Gertrude and Heathcliffe; and the "mean widdle kid," who created chaos everywhere. The kid's favorite expression was, "I dood it."

Not until television brought the opportunity of pantomime did Mr. Skelton create the character Freddie the Freeloader, a hobo who never spoke.

During his two decades on television, Mr. Skelton's show was telecast weekly in prime time on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesday nights. The format was a monologue by Mr. Skelton, performances by guest stars and comedy skits with them. Orchestra leader David Rose was with "The Red Skelton Show" during its years on the radio in the 1940s and remained on the program throughout its television run. Every show ended with Mr. Skelton's trademark "Good night and God bless." The program was ranked in the top 10 for eight seasons.

But in 1971, it was terminated. Television executives said it remained popular with old and young viewers but had lost relevance and appeal for those viewers in their middle years who were the main targets of TV advertisers. In his later years, Mr. Skelton took his act on the road, doing as many as 75 shows a year into his early eighties.

Although best known as a clown and screwball comedian, he was also quick with the one-liner and the ad lib. In a divorce suit, one of his former wives said he tried to explain his failure to come home one night by saying, "I spent the night on Sunset Boulevard waiting for a red light to change."

He once observed to The Washington Post that "the cemeteries are filled with people we just couldn't live without." At a White House luncheon during the Roosevelt administration, he grabbed the president's arm, warning: "Be careful what you drink Mr. President. I got rolled in a place like this once." He was said to have been one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's favorites after that.

Richard Bernard Skelton was born in Vincennes, Ind., two months after the death of his father, a grocer who had once been a circus clown. He was the youngest of four sons and the only redhead in the family. His older brothers gave him the nickname that would stay with him all his life.

He grew up in Vincennes and Mansfield, Ohio, selling newspapers at age 7. In an autobiography, "I'll Tell All," he wrote that his show business career began at age 10 when he fell off the stage while auditioning for a medicine show. Although he broke several bottles of medicine, he managed to make the audience laugh, and his career as a comic was launched.

As a young teenager, he played in minstrel shows on Ohio and Missouri river showboats, then did the burlesque circuit in such cities as Indianapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis and Buffalo.

For three years, he had a half-hour vaudeville act in which he ate 12 doughnuts in different ways for each of three daily shows. One result of this was a gain of 35 pounds.

In 1937, he made his debut on Broadway and also on radio as a guest on the Rudy Vallee program. In 1938, his irreverent humor brought him to the attention of comedian Mickey Rooney, who arranged for MGM Studios to sign him to do his doughnut routine in a Douglas Fairbanks-Ginger Rogers motion picture, "Having a Wonderful Time."

Over the years, Mr. Skelton also wrote motion picture scripts and short stories, and he painted. He was a major supporter of children's charities, including the Shriners' Crippled Children's Hospital and the Red Skelton Foundation in Vincennes.

In 1930, he met Edna Marie Stilwell, an usher at the Gaity Theatre in Kansas City. They were married, and she later became his vaudeville partner and manager. In 1943, they were divorced.

He married Georgia Davis in 1945. Their son, Richard, died of leukemia at age 9 in 1958. That marriage also ended in divorce, and in 1976, Mr. Skelton married his third wife, Lothian. Other survivors include a daughter, Valentina Alonso, from his second marriage. MARKS X. DiSALVO Program and Budget Officer

Marks X. DiSalvo, 82, a program and budget analyst for the Air Force Systems Command who retired in 1971 after 33 years of government service, died Sept. 16 at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital of complications related to bladder cancer.

After retiring from federal service, Mr. DiSalvo was office manager for Head Construction Co., which worked on the Metrorail system in Washington, and then a field engineer for other Metro contractors in the Washington area.

Later, he became a real estate broker and founded Accent Realty Inc. in Suitland. He retired about 1988.

Mr. DiSalvo, a resident of Fort Washington, was born in New York. He attended Columbus University in Washington, Pace College in New York and Dayton University in Ohio. During World War II, he served in the Navy and participated in combat operations in the Pacific.

His government career included service with the regional Public Housing Administration budget office for New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He worked for the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio before moving to the Washington area in 1961.

Mr. DiSalvo was a member of St. John's Catholic Church in Clinton, the Knights of Columbus in Forestville, the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Morningside, the American Legion in Clinton and the Prince George's County Association of Realtors.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Mildred C. DiSalvo of Fort Washington; three sons, Mark DiSalvo of Fort Washington, John J. DiSalvo of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and Frank J. DiSalvo of Upper Marlboro; a brother; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. OTTO A. ATZERT Lawyer

Otto A. Atzert, 86, a lawyer and specialist in international barter, died of pneumonia Sept. 11 at his home in Silver Spring.

Mr. Atzert was born in Flieden, Germany, and settled in Washington in 1935. He graduated from American University and received a law degree from George Washington University.

After World War II, he returned to Germany and was posted in Berlin and Weisbaden, working on reconstruction for the U.S. Military Government.

Later, he worked in Washington for the Department of Agriculture and for W.R. Grace Co. In the 1960s, he was a vice president in New York of the Philipp Brothers division of the Minerals and Chemicals Philipp Corp.

Subsequently, he returned to the Department of Agriculture, where he traveled extensively, specializing in negotiating international barter contracts for the Foreign Agricultural Service. He retired from the department about 1975.

He was a member of St. Michaels Catholic Church in Silver Spring.

His avocations included gardening, hunting and studying foreign languages.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Anna Heller Atzert of Silver Spring; four children, Elizabeth Atzert of Silver Spring, Alexander Atzert of Laytonsville, Stephen Atzert of Cape May Court House, N.J., and Philip Atzert of Silver Spring; a sister and a brother in Germany; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. ROBERT P. THURBER Transportation Official

Robert P. Thurber, 56, who retired from the Department of Transportation in June as deputy director of the office of environment and safety, died of a brain tumor Sept. 15 at his home in Bethesda.

A former urban planner at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Thurber joined DOT in 1970 as an environmental program analyst. He was later chief of the aviation regulations and coordination division and supervised publication of the 1980 DOT publication, "Aesthetics in Transportation." It set out guidelines for incorporating design, art and architecture into transportation facilities.

Mr. Thurber was born in Cambridge, Mass., and raised in Wellesley Hills, Mass. He was a cum laude graduate of Harvard University and received a master's degree in city planning from the University of California at Berkeley. He moved to the Washington area 30 years ago.

He was a founding director of the National Association of Environmental Professionals and a member of the American Institute of Planners, American Society of Planning Officials and Bethesda Friends Meeting. He was a licensed private pilot. His other interests included piano, guitar, accordion and tennis.

Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Jane M. Thurber of Bethesda; three sons, Mark Thurber of Stanford, Calif., and Derek Thurber and Brian Thurber, both of Bethesda; a sister; and a brother. CAPTION: RED SKELTON