LAUREL and Hardy’s final visit to these shores, in 1953/54, is the subject of Jon S. Baird’s excellent film, Stan & Ollie, which has just been released on DVD. Steve Coogan plays Laurel opposite John C Reilly’s Hardy.
The film covers the duo’s performance at the Glasgow Empire, in March 1954.
On their visit here they were photographed (right) with one Jack Ritchie. Their time at the Empire coincided with a serious power-cut in the city, an occurrence mentioned by the Evening Times’s Meg Munro in her interview with the duo and their respective wives. She observed that the four had so far visited Denmark, Sweden, France and Belgium, and were planning to go to Australia and New Zealand.
The couples led separate social lives. “It’s better that way,” said Laurel. “We all see so much of each other when we are working that we feel we can stay friendly by not getting in each other’s hair all the time.” Munro interviewed Hardy and his wife, Lucille, in their hotel bedroom, and Laurel and Ida in the Empire dressing-room.
Lucille spoke of her passion for collecting miniature horse ornaments; Oliver said he was trailed by autograph-hunters whenever he stepped outside, which was why he didn’t really know Glasgow despite having made several visits.
Laurel, who spent his boyhood days in Glasgow, said he enjoyed Ida’s exotic Russian dishes, but what he most enjoyed was real ‘home’ food: tripe and onions, rice pudding and haggis.
Reviewers spoke warmly of Laurel and Hardy’s stint at the Empire, the Glasgow Herald’s critic saying that their entire act, “put over so unaffectedly, was good fun of its kind”; Hardy had opened by saying their act was ‘a bit of nonsense’ but our critic observed: “’Nonsense’ can be a lot more preferable than pretentious, clever stuff.”