There were few bigger Hollywood stars 90 years ago than comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
At a time when the burgeoning new ‘talky’ movies were still in their infancy, Stan and Ollie were on the crest of a wave when they stopped off on Tyneside during a high-profile publicity tour of the UK in the summer of 1932.
The local connections of Stan Laurel have been well-documented, and this wonderful piece of footage from the North East Film Archive recalls the famous pair’s visit to Tynemouth. Captured for posterity, the local newsreel was shot by enthusiast Arthur G Greaves, a member of Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association.
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There was a heatwave in the late July of 1932 and thousands of fans gathered outside Tynemouth’s Grand Hotel to see the two cinema comedy geniuses in the flesh. Though Hardy hailed from Georgia in the United States, Laurel was a local lad. Stan Jefferson, later to become Stan Laurel, was born in Ulverston, Cumbria into a theatrical family.
The family moved to 8, Dockray Square in North Shields when Stan was a young boy. His father would run the town’s Theatre Royal and Borough Theatre, as well as a host of other venues across Tyneside.
It has been said that the narrow flight of 52 steps down to North Shields Fish Quay was the inspiration for one of the greatest comedy scenes in cinema history when, in the Oscar-winning movie The Music Box, Stan and Ollie attempt to shift a piano up countless steps to a Los Angeles house at the top of a painfully high hill. The classic film was released just months before their visit to Tyneside.
Back In 1912, at the age of 20, Stan had travelled to the United States with the Fred Karno troupe alongside a young Charlie Chaplin, and eventually met his comedy partner Oliver Hardy. The rest is history.
During the well-publicised 1932 visit, Laurel told the local press on Tyneside: “I’m glad to have the chance of making a return visit to the North Shields area where I grew up. I have many, many memories. My only regret is that we are unable to stroll around and see the landmarks I remember as a child.” The pair were off to Scotland the very next day as their hectic UK tour continued.
If you would like to watch more archive footage like this, but in DVD form, Newcastle On Film has been specially produced by the North East Film Archive. Presented and narrated by Pam Royle – formerly of ITV Tyne Tees News fame – it pays homage to life on Tyneside and features lots of wonderful archive film footage.
The DVD Newcastle On Film is priced at £12 (including postage and packing), and all profits from the sale go back into the valuable work of the North East Film Archive. Buy it here. See more from the North East Film Archive on their website.