Dramatic Glasgow visit for Laurel and Hardy
GLASGOW loved Laurel and Hardy.
The masters of comedy visited the city several times over the course of their career, and always to great welcomes from huge crowds, desperate to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
Stan and Ollie were massive stars, famous for films such as Unaccustomed As We Are and Pardon Us, and the Oscar-winning The Music Box, which won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject.
Their most eventful visit to Glasgow by far, however, involved a dramatic building collapse, massive crowds and injured spectators.
It was July 1932, and Stan and Ollie were met with 8000 adoring fans when they arrived in Central Station.
As the two men made their way to the concourse, a huge surge from the eager crowd pushed them towards the station’s Hope Street exit.
People were fainting, others scrabbling in panic to avoid the crush, and the terrified stars had to be whisked out of the side door on to the main street.
The Evening Citizen, an early Glasgow evening newspaper, reported: “Suddenly a stone balustrade in Hope Street, skirting the wall of the hotel, collapsed outwards onto the pavement owing to the pressure of the crowd, and a number of persons were knocked over by falling masonry.
“The heap of broken stonework fortunately formed a barricade which protected the surging crowd from falling into a basement seven feet below.
“Immediately help was forthcoming for the injured persons. Three ambulance wagons arrived on the scene, and nine men were removed to the Royal Infirmary.”
The experience left Laurel and Hardy shaken, with ripped clothes, damages shoes and a missing watched (it was pinched from Stan’s wrist in the chaos) but they went ahead with their personal appearance at La Scala Cinema later that day.
It was an emotional evening for Stan, who lived in Langside when he was a child – he attended Queen’s Park School – and he spoke movingly about his fond memories of Glasgow.
Laurel and Hardy’s next visit to the city was in June 1947, when they performed at the Empire for two weeks. This time, around 5000 people gathered at the station to welcome them and a police cordon prevented the horrible scenes of 1932 from being repeated.
The Empire show was a hit (Ollie and Stan wore kilts for the last five days of the run) and while they were in town, they also managed to visit Lauder Ha’ in Strathaven, the Metropole Theatre on Stockwell Street where Stan’s father had been the lessee, and Eastwood Park in Giffnock.
The duo came back to Glasgow twice more for runs at the Empire – in 1952, with their sketch A Spot of Trouble (which would be met with mixed reviews) and in 1954, right in the middle of a city-wide power cut and a freezing cold winter.
This visit features in the film, Stan and Ollie, starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly and it was their last time in the city.
The following month, Ollie suffered a mild heart attack, and they cut the tour short, never to return.
Oliver Hardy died in 1957, his partner eight years later in 1965.
Are you a Laurel and Hardy fan? Were you there when the duo visited Glasgow? What are your memories of the stars?
Which other famous faces have you seen in the city?