wed 01/12/2021

First Person: The Laurel and Hardy Roadshow | reviews, news & interviews

First Person: The Laurel and Hardy Roadshow

First Person: The Laurel and Hardy Roadshow

A lifelong passion for the legendary comic duo informs two touring double bills

Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into. Ross Owen as one of his heroes

I was born in 1968 which, for any Laurel and Hardy fan, was a great time to be around. By the early Seventies, at the age of three or four, I remember Laurel and Hardy films being on television during the day. My mum would put them on and I would be glued to the TV while she got on with her chores, although she would always end up sitting down and watching the film with me and cracking up laughing.

Looking back now, I’m not entirely sure whether she put them on for my benefit or hers, but that’s how I was first introduced to Laurel & Hardy. At that time there were only three channels – BBC One, BBC Two and ITV. All of them showed Laurel and Hardy films pretty frequently. ITV would often show the full-length feature films while the BBC regularly showed the classic Hal Roach shorts, usually in the form of a double bill. It’s a downright shame that they don’t get shown on TV anymore. New generations are missing out on two of the most iconic characters ever to appear on film.

Even when I first discovered the internet in 2005, Laurel and Hardy didn’t have much of a presence online. So I teamed up with a couple of fellow fans and created The Laurel & Hardy Forum, which is now widely recognised as the biggest database of articles, news, multimedia and discussions about the pair on the web. Members include luminaries such as Stan Laurel’s daughter, Lois. Over the past 10 years the forum has grown incredibly, with thousands of registered members from around the world making contributions daily. We also made the transition to twitter and our account @Stan_and_Ollie has brought together almost 30,000 followers.

One of the really magical aspects of Stan and Ollie’s brand of comedy is that they appeal to all ages. Back in June, to celebrate the 125th centenary of Stan Laurel’s birth, I teamed up with cinemas to put on 19 screenings of Laurel and Hardy films across the UK and Ireland, under the label "The Laurel and Hardy Roadshow". At the screenings I attended, I witnessed with my own eyes three generations of families at the cinema together, all belly-laughing out loud. I’ve never seen anything like it. Watching the boys on a big screen with a packed audience is how these films were made to be seen, so when you see them in a cinema you get a whole new experience of Laurel and Hardy

It concerns me that Laurel and Hardy could be forgotten. It’s already happening. During an interview I had with a radio DJ a few months back, he said he had never seen a Laurel and Hardy film and didn’t even know they spoke in their films. I was dumbfounded.

So, to continue our mission to introduce the next generation to Laurel and Hardy and to give lifelong fans the rare opportunity to see them on the big screen at their local cinema, this Autumn national cinemas will screen a mini-season of Laurel and Hardy double bills, for the first time ever in high definition.

On October 20 and 25, cinemas across the UK and Ireland will screen a hilarious double bill featuring the feature-length comedy Way Out West (pictured above left) and the classic short Towed In A Hole (above). That will be followed by another double bill on November 15 and 17, this time the feature-length Block-Heads and the Oscar-winning short The Music Box.

We chose these titles after running a poll to ask fans which Stan and Ollie films they would most like to see in cinemas. All four contain memorable scenes popular with fans, who we hope will introduce their families to the wholesome fun and the magic of Laurel and Hardy. Tickets and a list of participating cinemas for both double bills can be found at The Laurel and Hardy Roadshow.

Ross Owen is a radio presenter and producer, founder of The Laurel and Hardy Forum and administrator of @Stan_and_Ollie on twitter

Comments

Could you name and shame the DJ please? I can't imagine anyone over the age of five not knowing who the brilliant duo are! (Especially in the western world!)

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