Hardy survivors

Lost Stan and Ollie tapes unearthed

Rare Laurel and Hardy recordings lost by the BBC have been unearthed for a new radio documentary.

The lost tapes include the revelation that the duo were planning their own movie version of Robin Hood, which never came to fruition, and a recording of their first post-war stage tour of Britain.

Stan and Ollie made seven BBC appearances between 1932 and 1955, but the corporation’s old policy of not keeping material meant that only one short TV spot, filmed in the US, survived in its archives

Glenn Mitchell, who wrote and presents the Radio 4 documentary Laurel And Hardy On Tour, called the programme ‘a triumph over the BBC's old archiving policy’.

‘What should have been a treasure trove of material is represented by only one survivor,’ he said.

However, the team did manage to track down recording, including a tape of their stage act in which they performed a sketch about obtaining drivers' licences, a song – Shine On Harvest Moon - and an unscheduled moment where Laurel puts Hardy on the spot by announcing his partner will dance.

From the same tour are interviews in Paris - where a pushy reporter pressures Stan to do his famous cry - and Brussels; plus a recording in which the duo launch a charity appeal for disabled ex-servicemen.

Mitchell adds: ‘Initially we were concerned over the lack of audio from these visits but eventually we were forced to omit quite a lot because of the programme's duration.

‘I, personally, would like to remake this show at a later date for an hour slot, in order to tell the full story and to use all the clips in full ... and there are some great stories.’

Laurel & Hardy On Tour goes out on Radio 4 next Thursday (July 27) at 11:30am.

It will be the second BBC radio documentary about Stan and Ollie within ten days, as this Tuesday (July 18) Radio 2 will air Another Fine Mess: 80 Years of Laurel and Hardy.

This show will be hosted by 92-year-old Norman Wisdom,  who recorded his links just days before his heart operation this month.

Executive producer Ashley Byrne said: ‘We're delighted to have Sir Norman on board. He's one of the few people still alive who actually knew Stan and Ollie.

The show includes an exclusive interview with one of the few actresses still alive who worked with the duo, Jean Darling.

Byrne said: ‘Her anecdotes give us a real insight into what Stan and Ollie were like as characters off the film lot.’


Published: 16 Jul 2006

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