Published: 18/10/2015 12:28 - Updated: 16/10/2015 13:05

Big screen equals big laughs for classic comedy duo

Laurel and Hardy in 'Towed in a Hole'.
Laurel and Hardy in 'Towed in a Hole'.

COMEDY’S original double act, Laurel and Hardy, are returning to the big screen, and for Scottish fan Ross Owen, that is the best place to see them.

"It’s an opportunity for fans to go out and see them the way they were meant to be seen," said Owen, who runs the Laurel & Hardy Roadshow website

"It’s ideal for all the family — kids, grandparents, great-grandparents. When we did this in June, it was just incredible to hear kids laughing out loud. To hear three generations of families laughing at the same thing is almost unheard of.

"At the end of the screening, people were standing up clapping. The response has just been fantastic from the general public."

To mark the 125th birthday of Stan Laurel, the thinner Cumbrian-born half of the Anglo-American partnership who made his first stage performance in Glasgow, some of the duo’s most famous comedies have been restored in High Definition and are being screened in cinemas, including Vue in Inverness for a new generation of fans.

Vue’s first double bill brings together one of their most famous feature length films Way Out West — which was to make the posthumous pop-stars when their rendition of Trail of The Lonesome Pine reached number two in the charts in 1975 — and one of their most popular short comedies Towed in a Hole, when Stan and Ollie get into the fish business.

Laurel and Hardy made a total of 106 films together from 1921 to 1952, beginning in the silent era, but for Owen, their comedy remains timeless and just as funny half a century after Laurel’s death in 1965.

"Visual comedy doesn’t get old," Owen said.

"The biggest challenge to young kids being introduced to Laurel and Hardy is that they are in black and white, but they get over that very quickly. This time we are showing them in HD and the quality of them will be fantastic. If it helps bring a new audience to the cinema and take them away from their computer screens for a while, then that can only be a good thing in this day and age."

The much imitated comedy pair, who set the template for comedy duos, still have a devoted fan following with clubs like the Sons of The Desert, hosting regular conventions and screening dedicated to the pair.

"There are fan conventions all over the world every year," Owen said.

"Fans will travel from all over the world. If you host something in Glasgow, you have people from Italy, America and Germany. It’s still going strong."

Owen’s own introduction to the duo came watching them on the small screen as a youngster in Airdrie in the 1970s when Laurel and Hardy’s short films and features were a regular fixture of daytime screenings.

"In those days they popped up in magazines like Look-in. They were topical. They were even on Top of The Pops and the only thing that stopped them from being number one was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody," Owen pointed out.

Yet there is something special about seeing the pair on a cinema screen.

"The timing is different," Owen said.

"You laugh at things you wouldn’t laugh at on your own at home. You get the laugh where the initial mishap would happen, then the camera would cut to Stan’s reaction and you get the laugh from that and then it cut to Ollie’s reaction. You get three laughs from one gag.

"You would only laugh once watching that on telly, but when you see it on the screen, it is layered with laughs.

"I think we will continue to show them on the big screen as long as people want to see them. We’ve had responses from around the world, so we are going to take these films to Europe and America. Laurel and Hardy have truly international appeal in 2015.

"I know it’s just comedy and there are more important issues, but it’s nice to remember two people who were pioneers of slapstick and influenced so many other comedians. Why not celebrate them and let a new generation discover what all the fuss was about?"

• Laurel and Hardy will be back on the big screen in High Definition with a double bill of Way Out West and short film Towed in a Hole at Vue Inverness at 7pm on Tuesday 20th October and 2pm on Sunday 25th October.

A second HD screening of Block-Heads and Oscar winning short The Music Box will be shown on Sunday 15th and Tuesday 17th November. The films have been released in HD this year to mark the 125th anniversary of Stan Laurel’s birth.

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