Stan and Ollie Backstage in Dublin 1952

This nice item was sent in to the Chumps by original Beau Chumps Member Derek W who now lives in Ireland but occasionally joins us on Zoom for virtual tent meetings.

It’s a piece that appeared in the ‘Stage and Screen’ section of the Limerick Leader on Monday June 9th, 1952; a scan of the first page of the article can be found below. There are also some interesting thoughts from the Grand Sheik of the Jitterbugs tent of Dublin, Liam Muldowney, towards the end of the item.

Derek says “The pictures were taken in 1952 [on Friday June 6th – which would seem to have been the penultimate day in Dublin] when Earl Connolly, who was the entertainment writer for the Limerick Leader, his wife and friends – all from Limerick – met the boys backstage. I met Mrs Connolly in Limerick a few years back. Sadly Mr Connolly had passed away by then, but I spent time with Mrs Connolly. She is the only one now living from that photo and I got a copy from the original she still has in her home. She said it was great meeting them and Stan did the hair routine; she said he was very funny. It’s great that there are Laurel and Hardy stories were you end up living. “

This is a copy of Mrs Connolly’s original which was taken in the dressing room on Friday June 6th 1952 With Stan and Babe, it shows, Mrs and Mr Connolly at left, Mr Jim Marshall, Mr J.A. O’Carroll, Mrs P,J, Murphy and Ida Laurel

A.J. Marriott’s remarkable Laurel and Hardy: The British Tours has the boys playing The Olympia in Dublin for two weeks from March 27th before they moved on to the Grand Opera House in Belfast, again for two weeks (from June 9th) . Not that there’s any doubt as to the veracity of the cutting, but he doesn’t appear to touch on it in the book.

What we do know from A.J.s book though (P185), is that the first show in Dublin “was cancelled because the scenery couldn’t be brought over [from the previous engagement in Liverpool] in time. So Laurel and Hardy’s first [ever] show on Irish soil got underway on Tuesday and the Dublin Evening Mail saw it as follows”:

A howl of laughter greeted Laurel and Hardy as they walked on stage at the Olympia theatre, looking exactly as they doing all their films. The laughter came from the adult members of the audience who had been fans for the past twenty-five years old were obviously delighted to see their old mannerisms and facial expressions brought so wonderfully to life before their eyes. Their act is ideal for children of all ages putting the maximum of slapstick, but it has a very special appeal for those who have been faithful followers and will, therefore, recognise many of the scenes. There is not enough of them, but the time they are with us is filled with laughter.

A scan of the first page of the Article by Earl Connolly is below, and a transcript of the article which had parts on three pages follows:

For nigh on thirty years screen comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made audiences rock with laughter at their hilarious escapades. When fate brought them together, the stout American and thin Englishman, a partnership was born which was destined to be unique in cinema history.

Down through the years their formula for merriment has not changed one iota. They still wear the same bowler hats, carry the same props (a violin case and a carpet bag) and avail of the same stock situations. Yet they never fail to raise a laugh.

The Boys on stage at the Dublin Olympia Theatre (with thanks to Neville Wiltshire)

Maybe it’s because at sometime or another you have identified yourself with the ridiculous situations in which they find themselves. Whatever it is, they are the world’s greatest comedians and their nearest rivals have yet to be born. Their brand of humour – good, clean wholesome fun is as fresh today in their streamlined talkies as when they first flashed across the screen in two-reel comedies.

Last Friday night, I fulfilled a lifelong ambition when I met the comedy kings in person. When I entered the dressing room of Stan Laurel in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, it was as if he had stepped down from a cinema screen. In appearance, he is exactly as you have seen him in countless films. There the resemblance ends. He greets you in a deep cultured voice, friendly to the extreme and at once endears himself as one who loves to meet his public. When I ask him about the future plans he said that “next year we hope to go into television and to make some films specially for that medium.”

Earl Connolly fulfils a lifelong ambition, backstage with Stan and Babe in a copy of another of Mrs Connolly’s originals

Just then his 22 stone partner came along. Oliver is stouter in person than on the screen but his big warm smile is something that audiences would love to see for themselves. He is a joyful person who speaks with a with a strong pronounced American accent. Describing Stanley as “my right arm” it was obvious that they are the happiest pair on earth. To my question “What do you think of Irish audiences?” He bounced back with the question “What do Irish audiences think of us?” My answer was an emphatic “You are still top favourites in this country”. This pleased the pair master exponents of slapstick and pantomime.  Rare ingredients of today’s screen fare.

Seeing them together convinces one that this lovable pair are happy in the knowledge that they have made the world laugh. They make you feel that you have been their friend for years, and a half-an- hour slipped by as we discussed films and audiences. All that time they were most helpful and co-operative

Their Stage Act

Their stage act incorporates most of the routines that you have seen them do on the screen, all instantly recognisable. Trying to sleep on a bench with Stan having only a few inches to manoeuvre in; Ollie breaking into a house while Stan has already come in by the front door and many, many more that the screen kings have created and retained through the years.

The Birds of a Feather sketch. Onstage in 1952.

To see them in person was a rare privilege and on behalf of the legion of fans here may I thank them most sincerely for so generously giving me so much of their very valuable time in order to make this story possible.

Thank you Ollie and Stan.

Laurel and Hardy send greetings to audiences

During the course of this exclusive interview with Laurel and Hardy (the only one granted to a provincial theatre film correspondent, I understand) they also made a recording (on tape) for a Mr. J.A. O’Carroll.

This greeting extends their regards to the rural audiences on Mr O’Carroll’s movie circuit in County Limerick and Tipperary. It will be played to them this week prior to the screening of the main feature.

Another shot of Laurel and Hardy onstage during the 1952 tour.

Stan asked to hear the complete recording which included a special introduction by Mr. O’Carroll and the two comedians expressed keen interest in the apparatus used and praised the high quality of the sound. Coming from men who have heard ‘playbacks’ of ‘soundtracks’ of their voices on Hollywood’s most expensive equipment. This was praise indeed.

The comedy Kings posed for several pictures with individual members of our party and altogether made the occasion on memorable and pleasant one.

It would be interesting indeed to find out if said recording is still out there, but Grand Sheik, Liam Muldowney, says “Most of Carroll’s cinemas are long gone and his archive of film etc. was donated to the General Film Distributors film library in Dublin. I have been in touch many times and spoke with enthusiastic people who were just as interested in finding this audio rarity…”

“No joy… I’ll keep searching but as it would have been a reel to reel recording, chances are slim….”

Liam added “The photo we found of them onstage at the Olympia theatre in Dublin was the first time Birds of a Feather was performed in front of an audience. It was a charity show in aid of the Red Cross and to help build a church in Dublin. Only in Ireland… I contacted the church in question and they said they were unaware but would have prayers said for Stan and Ollie I’m currently on the case with the national broadcasters archive section.”

Well, we can only hope that at least one – and preferably both – of Liam’s efforts come to fruition. We’re confident that here is still loads of Laurel and Hardy stuff out there to find, and it keeps popping up, so we live in hope.

Liam has published an excellent book ‘Near Dublin’ details here , where amongst other things, you can fund out what Babe thought of the selection of Irish Whiskey on offer!

Stan was supposed to be off the booze by then (Or so wife Ida thought) so I’m not so sure that his thoughts will be on record…

Babe with Stan, arriving in Southampton for the 1952 tour

“We hope you enjoyed our bit of nonsense” was something Ollie said at the end of their act, and we hope you enjoyed reading this account too. Please feel free to leave any thoughts or comments you may have in the comments/reply section below.

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