When Laurel and Hardy came to Portsmouth
A film has just been released about thatÂ magical pair of jesters Laurel and Hardy. Starring Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C Reilly as Oliver Hardy, Stan & OllieÂ has opened to rave reviews.
As they neared retirement the duo toured BritainÂ playing to packed theatres. They appeared at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, in 1947 and for a week in 1952 at the Theatre Royal,Â Commercial Road. Colin Bradey, the archivist at the New Theatre Royal hasÂ provided these pictures.
First of all we see a letter written by Stan to a friend also called Stan. It was written while Stan Laurel was appearing at the theatre and aÂ month before they would return home.
It says:Â 'My Dear Stan. Needless to tell you how very sorry I am to hear about your operation and can fully sympathise knowing my own experience of those things. I hope by now you are feeling easier and will have a speedy recovery. Evelyn wrote & told me about it & naturally very upset anyway it's over with which is at least a relief to your mind and you can look forward to getting back into good shape again & enjoy your new home. We leave here October 8th for the States so not much time left now '“ the weeks just seem to fly. All for now Stan. All here join in every good wish. Kind thoughts always as ever. Stan Laurel.'
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We also see the poster promoting their show and an adÂ from The Evening News.Â
Their take for the week was 70 per centÂ of the box office which was a lot of money.
If the average seat price was 20p (4s) and 1,000Â people saw the show, over seven nights that is 7,000 times 20p divided by one hundred which equalsÂ Â£1,400. So 70 per centÂ of that isÂ Â£980 divided between them, not a bad income. Mind you, I expect they had expenses like managers, agents, hotels, travelling costs and staff.
Also on the bill was Harry Worth,Â famous in the '60s for the Harry Worth Show on BBC television.
'¢ Remember when British Railways filled their trains after the rush hour with cheap deals? Once theÂ rush had Â passed many trains were put into sidings until the evening so special services were laid on. As youÂ can see, onÂ Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the 1950sÂ you could get toÂ LondonÂ from Portsmouth for 10s 6d (53p).
When I was train crew foreman at Waterloo I asked if we could doÂ the same thing. I suggested a 12-car train leave Waterloo at 8.30am arrivingÂ at Portsmouth Harbour at 10am. That train could then be filled with Portsmouth passengers andÂ get toÂ Waterloo about 11.45am. Both trains to run non-stop. The idea was frowned on.