Do you remember seeing Laurel and Hardy on the big screen in the days of ABC Saturday cinema?
Along with Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, they were guaranteed to entertain a cinema full of unaccompanied children who’d spent sixpence on a ticket and the rest of their pocket money on sweets or ice cream – and maybe a Beano comic.
Nowadays, there’d be a “don’t try this at home” warning before any screening, but there were no such concerns back in the day, not even for the slip hazard presented by ice cream being hurled at the host or entertainer on the stage!
Not everyone in the Spring Chicken Community is a Laurel and Hardy fan, but many share fond memories of the comedy duo:
“I remember going to the village hall to see film shows. Laurel and Hardy were always so funny. Sometimes the film reel would break, and we’d have to wait whilst the projectionist repaired it. We’d all boo! Great fun, and innocent pleasures.”
Those who grew up laughing at the slapstick antics of the hapless pair share an appreciation of the timeless, innocent fun. According to comments posted by Facebook followers, a large part of the on-going appeal is that Laurel and Hardy is entertainment that can be enjoyed by the whole family:
“I loved these two growing up, as did my father and my grandfather. My son also grew up laughing at them and I’ve now got the full DVD box set which entertains my niece who is just 8 years old. They will still be funny 100 years from now!”
“Never a bad word said, and never anything you can’t share with your children or grandchildren. They still make me laugh!”
Stan and Ollie
Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston, Lancashire in 1890. In 1912 at the age of 22, he left Britain to travel to America with the Fred Karno Troupe. At the time, he was a supporting act and understudy to Charlie Chaplin, and he never imagined his trip would be anything other than a temporary change of scenery. As it was, he stayed, but it would be 1927 before a chance pairing with Oliver Hardy sparked a partnership that led to over 100 films, and a friendship that would last a lifetime.
Oliver Hardy was born in Harlem, Georgia in 1892. His birth name was Norvell, but he used his father’s name as his stage name. In his early career, he was also known as Babe, a nickname that grew from his Italian barber’s habit of saying “That’s nice-a baby” when applying talc to his face.
Their first film together as a pair was Putting Pants on Philip, released in 1927, but the Laurel and Hardy characters they became known and loved as first began to develop in The Second Hundred Years, released in the same year. In 1932, the pair won an Oscar for The Music Box, the famous short in which they attempt to deliver a piano up a steep flight of stairs, then in 1951, Atoll ‘K’ became their last film together, and their 107th as Laurel and Hardy.
Long after the days of ABC Saturday cinema ended, Laurel and Hardy continued to entertain and inspire a whole new generation. The classic films were regularly shown on TV into the 1970s and the youngsters they inspired include John Cleese, Stephen Fry, Steve Coogan, Steve Martin, and Matt Lucas. They even made it to No.2 in the charts when their rendition of “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” from the 1937 film Way Out West was pipped to the top spot by Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 1975!
Gone but Not Forgotten
Oliver Hardy died in 1957 after suffering a stroke, and Stan Laurel died in 1965 after suffering a heart attack. Stan officially retired after Ollie’s death, but his sense of humour never left him. He’s famously quoted to have said:
“If any of you cry at my funeral, I’ll never speak to you again!”
There are numerous plaques and statues commemorating the comedy duo around the globe, including Stan’s hometown of Ulverston, and, as so many in the Spring Chicken Community have said, they have earned their place in comedic history, and their genius is set to be remembered for many more generations to come.
“Quite simply, they were the best. They used to make me cry with laughter when I was a kid, and they still do now. In a time when you didn’t need to swear or say anything about sex, creed, colour or religion to get a laugh, sometimes all they had to do was just look at the camera. Absolute legends.”