STAN and Ollie. Laurel and Hardy. A pair adored and loved for generations. Stanley Arthur Jefferson and Norvell Hardy are quite simply the funniest men who ever lived.
Their influence seen in almost every comic double-act since, whether that be Abbott and Costello, Little and Large, The Two Ronnies or Morcambe and Wise.
Stan Laurel was born 125 years ago today and to celebrate that milestone, Vue cinemas at the Omni Centre are hosting a rare big screen outing for two of their most famous films, Sons of the Desert and County Hospital.
The screening, part of a nationwide celebration that has seen Laurel and Hardy outsell Jurassic World in some cinemas was the brainchild of Ross Owen, founder of the Laurel and Hardy Forum.
“A Laurel and Hardy revival is well overdue and with the 125th anniversary of Stan Laurel’s birth, we felt the time was right to do something special,” he says.
“The last big revival of Laurel and Hardy was back in 1975 when they reached No 2 in the UK charts with Trail Of The Lonesome Pine, held off from the number one spot by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
“Even into the 80’s the BBC regularly showed the Laurel and Hardy classic shorts on BBC2.
“Since those days, apart from loyal fans from The Sons Of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society, flying the flag, there has been virtually nothing in recent years to introduce younger generations to Laurel and Hardy.
“The aim of these screenings is to invite families to come to the cinema; grandparents, mums, dads and the kids.
“We want to encourage people to put down their ipods, tablets, iphones and laptops for a couple of hours and come along and enjoy good family entertainment in the company of Laurel and Hardy... in a cinema... with a packed audience.
“The way they were made to be seen.”
In Sons of the Desert, Stan and Ollie are members of eponymous fraternal organisation. The boys are sworn in to attend the annual convention in Chicago, but realise they will need to somehow trick their wives into letting them go.
The only way out is to come up with a subterfuge for the wives - and Ollie’s plan is to have Stan bring a doctor, and bribe him to pretend Ollie needs convalescence in Honolulu for his nervous condition.
The short, County Hospital, perhaps one of their most famous short films, finds Stan visiting Ollie in hospital, bringing a gift of some hard-boiled eggs and nuts, which he proceeds to eat himself.
The celebration started as the result of a single Tweet on the social media network Twitter, reveals Owen.
He explains, “Back in April 2014 I sent the following tweet from my twitter account @stan_and_ollie
#LaurelAndHardy films were made to be seen on the big screen with a big audience. If you ever get that chance... don’t miss it!!
“It wasn’t until someone tweeted back, “Where can we see them in a cinema?” that I realised it was time for a major Laurel and Hardy revival.
“I knew Stan Laurel’s 125th birthday was coming up so I decided to do some research and make some enquiries with a view to getting the boys back on the big screen.
“I tweeted Showcase Cinemas and asked them if they would be interested in showing Laurel and Hardy on the big screen which resulted in an email from director of event cinema at Showcase, James Dobbin who quickly embraced the idea and it wasn’t long before other cinemas such as Vue came on board.
“We’ve now got Laurel and Hardy playing in selected cinemas across the UK and Ireland throughout June.
“The demand is so high, not only here but throughout Europe and the USA, that we’re already planning on more screenings worldwide later in the year.
“What started as a single tweet has turned into the beginning of the biggest Laurel and Hardy revival since 1975. What better way to introduce the boys to the next generation.”
Laurel and Hardy Double Bill, Vue, Omni Centre, tonight, 7.30pm, £10-£14.30, www.myvue.com
STAN and Ollie visited the Capital on four occasions. In 1932 thousands of fans welcomed them to the city at the Waverley. They stayed at the North British Station Hotel, visited the Castle and then appeared at The Playhouse, then a cinema.
Fifteen years later, in 1947, they returned, staying at The Caledonian for a week, during which they made many public appearances and selling out the Empire Theatre, now the Festival Theatre.
Five years on they were back, again playing the Empire. In 1954 the pair visited Edinburgh for the final time.