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As Ihers See Us:Laurel & Hardy Putting Pants on Philip in Bonnie Scotland

SCOTLAND’S cinematic legacy is evident when Scotland and the Scots are the central focus: historical epics like Braveheart and Mary Queen of Scots, beloved comedies like Whisky Galore and Local Hero, and idiosyncratic films like Trainspotting and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie are some of the first titles which spring to mind when you think of Scottish cinema. Yet the land and her people have influences far beyond geographical and demographical boundaries, reaching to the very core of Old Hollywood itself.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a hugely prolific and iconic duo who exemplified the Classical Hollywood age, spanning both the silent and talkie eras, shorts and feature length, and a legendary music hall tour which became the basis for the recent biopic Stan & Ollie (out on DVD this March). Aberdeenshire’s Jon S. Baird, who directed the 2013 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth, leapt at the chance to direct, and Scottish stars take important roles: Paisley’s Keith MacPherson plays “the third man” of the duo, James Finlayson, while Forres’ Shirley Henderson portrays Hardy’s wife Lucille (there’s also a cheeky cameo from Alex McLeish). With stars John C. Reilly & Steve Coogan wearing kilts to the world premiere in tribute to the famous Empire photo, Laurel & Hardy’s Caledonian connections are well represented on the screen and behind the scenes.

Laurel & Hardy’s Caledonian connections are well represented on the screen and behind the scenes

The Scottish similitude to Laurel & Hardy goes far back, before they even came into showbusiness. Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Cumbria, to actress Margaret and theatre manager Arthur Jefferson.

He moved with his family to Scotland by 1905, when he was just a teenager. At first, Stan lived in Buchanan Drive in Rutherglen, later moving to nearby Stonelaw Road: while there, he attended school at Stonelaw High School and Queen’s Park Secondary School. His father managed Metropole Theatre in Glasgow, and young Stan soon began working there. It wouldn’t be long until he made his professional stage debut at the Panopticon in Glasgow, drawing from pantomime and music hall performance in a set that took weeks to prepare. Sadly, Margaret died in 1908 while Stan was away: she is buried in Cathcart Cemetary, ensuring that Laurel’s mind & heart will ever be linked to his time in Scotland.

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About iScot Magazine

The 52nd issue in the colossal series that is iScot The Mag! The magazine for folks who don’t do mags!