Stan Laurel roots traced back to North Shields, Tyneside

PUBLISHED: 18:20 07 September 2011 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

The book cover shows Laurel’s boyhood home in North Shields

The book cover shows Laurel’s boyhood home in North Shields

Jo Haywood is charmed by a new book tracing the North East roots of a comic legend

Stan Laurel, the man, was an internationally-acclaimed comedy great who lived the high life in the USA. But Stan Laurel, the boy, didnt exist at all.
Instead, if you trace Laurels life back from the Hollywood heights to his earliest days, you find Arthur Stanley Jefferson, a scruffy little tyke messing about by the River Tyne in North Shields.

These early years as part of a theatrical family plying their precarious trade in the North East provide the heart and soul of a new book, The Making of Stan Laurel: Echoes of a British Boyhood, by retired sociologist Danny Lawrence, who was born and raised just yards from his Hollywood heros home.

Stan the man never forgot his life as Stan the boy, said the author. Friendships forged in his boyhood years lasted a lifetime and he corresponded and reminisced with people from the North East until his death at the age of 74 in 1965.

This painstakingly-researched book will interest die-hard Laurel & Hardy fans of which there are many, despite the fact that their last film was made in the middle of the last century and film fans alike, as it plunders the archives for stories from Hollywoods forays into early cinema.

But it will also interest those with an interest in human nature, most notably how a man is created by his childhood.

Stans boyhood is echoed in many of his films, said Danny. My own interest in him dates back to my own boyhood when I learned that the same man who graced the silver screen and made us all laugh had once lived in my home town.

I was born in North Shields in the closing days of 1940, when Stan at 50 was at the height of his international fame. I was brought up just across from the town hall where he was lauded on his return in 1947. And, in 1953, I even appeared on the same spot on the same stage where he had stood during a charity concert the year before.

A great many people have helped the author to create this detailed account of Laurels colourful life, but it is his own personal insights and asides that make it worth reading.

I introduced my own grandchildren to Laurel & Hardys films, said Danny. Although brought up in a world of PCs, games consoles and high-definition widescreen TVs, they laughed helplessly and asked for more. That is a remarkable achievement for two comic actors born in 1890 and 1892 respectively.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of North East Life

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