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  • When Stan and Ollie came to town in 1952...

    Henry James

    A NEW film chronicling the relationship between comedy icons Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy hits the screens this week.

    ‘Stan & Ollie’ stars Steve Coogan and John C Reilly and the movie is set in 1953 when the famous double act did a variety hall tour of Britain as their Hollywood film appearances had dried up.

    But did you know that just a few months before Laurel & Hardy appeared in Southport at the Garrick Theatre on Lord Street, which is now Mecca Bingo, on August, 1952.

    Between 1926 and 1950 Laurel and Hardy made 100 films together. They also received an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for their film The Music Box in 1932. The film sees the pair trying to get a piano up a huge flight of stairs.

    When they came to Southport, according to James Ford’s book ‘Hollywood Legends’ Stan Laurel, who was born in Cumbria, was suffering badly with diabetes.

    The pair stayed at The Prince of Wales Hotel and they performed at the Garrick Theatre at 6.20pm and 8.30pm twice nightly with a matinee on the Saturday at 2.30pm.

    The Southport Guardian reported on August 20, 1952 that “they asked for a police escort wherever they go because they are scared of being mobbed.”

    When they stayed in the town, they had a doctor and drugs flown specially from the US.

    Oliver Hardy, who was then 23 stone, asked for police help when they left the theatre, because when they arrived in the town, they had been met with big crowds. He said at the time: “We don’t want to go anywhere except the back of the stage and our hotel.”

    A 25 horsepower special bodied limousine took them the 200 yards from the Garrick Theatre to the Prince of Wales. Stan Laurel was staying on the first floor and Oliver Hardy on the second.

    The duo declined an invitation from the Southport Corporation to judge the English Rose heat while they were here.

    Oliver Hardy would die from a stroke five years later and Stan Laurel was too ill to go to his funeral.

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