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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
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Laurel and Hardy’s Tragic Final Tour

As Stan & Ollie, starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly, hits the cinemas, Jonny Wilkes shines a spotlight on what really happened on the 1953 theatre tour by history’s greatest double act
The inseparable pals are all smiles on arrival in London in the autumn of 1953

The Boys sailed into Cobh Harbour, in Cork, Ireland, on 9 September 1953, not expecting their arrival to cause a fuss. After a smooth voyage, with calm seas all the way from New York City, the pair hadn’t thought to make a big publicity event of when and where they would be returning to Europe. But despite their best days being solidly behind them, the great Laurel and Hardy were still beloved comedy icons. !e surprise spectacle that welcomed them was nearly overwhelming.

Comedic capers en route to Britain in 1947

“The love and affection we found that day in Cobh was simply unbelievable,” wrote Stan Laurel, the thin one, to a friend. “Tere were hundreds of boats blowing whistles and mobs and mobs of people screaming on the docks.” The whole town, it seemed, came to greet them and schools had been specially closed so the children would not miss out. Laurel later received a letter from someone at the Bank of Ireland “telling me that all the staff, due to the excitement, left the bank wide open to come and see us, then realising, they all rushed back!”

It all became too much when, as Laurel wrote, “all the church bells in Cobh started to ring out our theme song Dance of the Cuckoos and Babe [Hardy] looked at me and we cried. I’ll never forget that day Never.”

So began a demanding – and ultimately doomed – theatre tour of Britain and Ireland in the most encouraging of circumstances. This must have brought back much-appreciated happy memories of previous visits. Laurel and Hardy had toured at the height of their fame in 1932, the year they won their only Oscar for the uproarious short The Music Box, which sees the duo attempt to deliver a piano up a toweringly long flight of stairs.

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About BBC History Revealed

Today, Che Guevara is best known as one of the 20th century's iconic images. But the events of the Cuban Revolution, in which he was a key figure 60 years ago, would have wide-reaching consequences - including almost bringing about a third world war. What made it such a global affair, with superpowers going eyeball to eyeball? Plus: Cousins Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots have an almighty falling out (leading to one losing her head), outlandish medical cures, Roman Emperor Constantine, the great Thames Frost Fairs of the Victorian era, and more.