Laurel and Hardy

Much-loved comedy duo Laurel and Hardy return to Norwich

The famous bowler hats and slapstick humour of comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy will be hitting the big screen in Norwich next month.

A signed picture of the pair, showing them in their most famous garb – the bowler hats. – Credit: EDP © 1999

A signed picture of the pair, showing them in their most famous garb – the bowler hats. – Credit: EDP © 1999

Vue Norwich, in Castle Mall, will be showing two of their classic films back-to-back as part of a national initiative to introduce a new generation to their on-screen antics.

The films being shown are Towed In A Hole and Way Out West.

However, this is not the first time that Laurel and Hardy have come to Norwich.

Performing at the Norwich Hippodrome in February 1954, they were welcomed as heroes and got an overwhelming reception from the public.

It was said that when the curtains opened at the theatre on St Giles Street, many in the audience could not believe their eyes. To see the pair that they loved watching at the cinema actually in the flesh stunned the crowd into silence.

Part of a national tour of the country it cost a record-breaking sum of more than £1,000 to bring Laurel and Hardy to the Hippodrome.

The Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press reported the decision to raise the price of all seats by 6d was ‘understandable in the circumstances.’ Our reviewer said: ‘Their act was like one of their best two-reeler comedies shortened a little to suit the stage.’

Meeting them backstage he commented: ‘They were perfect gentlemen with very good manners.’

During their visit they stayed at the Royal Hotel at the top of Prince of Wales Road and our photographer snapped them leaving the hotel for the Hippodrome.

On the way they said to the driver: ‘The stage door please – not the front entrance. That’s reserved for ladies and gentlemen.’

Stan Laurel had starred on the Hippodrome stage on previous occasions, playing the theatre in the early years of the 20th century with Fred Karno’s Barmy Army of silent comedians.

At the time Stan was busy learning the trade, understudying another promising young clown by the name of Charlie Chaplin, who, it is reported, also appeared in Norwich.

When he and Hardy hit the stage together, however, they were towards the end of their long and fruitful careers. Hardy died just three years later in 1957.

The Hippodrome itself was gone by 1964. The St Giles multi-storey car park now stands on the site.

Laurel and Hardy were seen on screen together in 106 films between the 1920s and 1950s, including 40 short sound films, 32 short silent films, 23 full length feature films and 11 guest/cameo appearances.

Towed In a Hole and Way Out West will be shown at Vue Norwich on Tuesday, October 20 at 7pm and Sunday, October 25 at 3pm. The Roadshow is also due to return to Vue Norwich with screenings of The Music Box and Block-Heads on Sunday, November 15 at 3pm and Tuesday, November 17 at 7pm.

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