The legendary comedy duo were honoured with a dramatic retelling of their lives on BBC Two last night. Directed by Jon S. Baird, ‘Stan & Ollie’ looks at how the pair delighted audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. British actor Steve Coogan shows he has an ear for a tune in his role as Cumbria-born Stan Laurel. And, sharing the screen with him is John C. Reilly, who gets into the character of Oliver Hardy — with the help of some prosthetics.
The film shows how Laurel and Hardy’s fame in America began to dwindle as they cut ties with Hollywood.
The story, which focuses on the men’s friendship, sees them tour Britain and Ireland in the mid-Fifties.
In real life, Laurel and Hardy’s incessant tours were extremely “demanding” and took their toll on the pair’s health, according to Simon Louvish, an author with extensive knowledge of the two.
He penned the 2002 biography, ‘Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy: The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy’.
In an interview with Time magazine in 2018, the year ‘Stan & Ollie’ came out, he discussed their time on the road.
Laurel and Hardy’s ‘demanding’ tours took serious toll on comedy duo’s health (Image: GETTY)
Laurel and Hardy: Legendary duo (Image: GETTY)
He said: “They embraced these demanding tours which were quite physically exhausting.”
The expert had not seen ‘Stan & Ollie’, which portrays Laurel and Hardy as having tense disagreements with one another.
Mr Louvish claimed that any animosity between the pair in real life was not because they disliked one another, but due to them being worn out.
He explained: “They were both very ill in their later years.”
Their British tour in 1953 and 1954 would be their last due to their declining health.
Steve Coogan and John C Reilly: Play comedians (Image: GETTY)
Laurel and Hardy first broke into the public consciousness in the mid-Twenties thanks to Hal Roach.
The Hollywood producer put the two men together and the public soon warmed to their iconic little-and-large partnership.
Despite starting out in silent movies, the duo later made the transition to pictures with sound – two of the only stars to successfully do so at the time.
Mr Louvish claimed that the pair were bright spots on the bleak landscape of America during the economic depression in the Thirties.
He said: “During the Great Depression, people were so desperate, and they needed comedy.
Films: Laurel and Hardy in early career (Image: GETTY)
“Here are two bums wandering about. They come from nowhere. They have no money.
“They’re always trying to do the right thing, but get into a fine mess.
“They take failure and make it into something you can laugh about.”
In their later years, Laurel and Hardy were determined to keep performing despite their health issues and lack of material.
Stars: Laurel and Hardy went on British tour (Image: GETTY)