AS THE third man in the world famous double act Laurel Hardy, Charlie Hall was the unrecognised and forgotten fall-guy of the act.
But for West Devon resident Dena Logan he has always been a very important member of her family even though he lived in America.
Her comic relative was her father Ronnie’s uncle and visited him when he was a boy in hospital recovering from an operation - making a special visit while on holiday with Laurel and Hardy.
Dena’s father is no longer alive and her mother died only last December, but her parents always spoke fondly of Charlie and how he made them laugh. Her lounge has a gallery of black and white photos as tribute to the funny threesome, with pride of place to Charlie.
Dena, 61, of Lydford, gets some solace from the loss of her mother by looking at the photographs and Laurel and Hardy memorabilia.
She said: ‘My mum only died recently and my dad’s long gone, but they always said he made them laugh, even when he wasn’t around and even after he died. Just talking about Charlie also made them laugh. Dad told me about when Charlie turned up at the hospital in 1947 to see him after his operation when he was in England on tour with Stan and Ollie. Staff flocked onto his ward and he made all the nurses swoon with his sharp American suit and fashionable dap shoes – he made quite an impression, especially when he gave my dad a huge box of chocolates.
The funny threesome also kept in touch with Dena’s parents throughout their lives with birthday and Christmas presents and cards. Pride of place is a small promotional book about the act, sent by Stan Laurel to Ronnie as a Christmas present signed with a message to him inside.
Dena said: ‘I’m very proud to have such a famous relative in my family. I think Charlie was amazing. He came from an ordinary background in Aston in Birmingham, and never forgot his roots. He was one of nine children. He was the sidekick and fall-guy who was always the loser and but of the others’ jokes. He often played the jealous husband whose wives are smitten by lecherous Hardy. He is loved in Birmingham where there’s a pub named after him.
‘All three loved England, after all Laurel came from Cumbria. They all wanted to stay in England and not return to Hollywood. On one occasion they took an unnsanctioned week’s holiday in the Caribbean, but the studio boss Al Roach fired Charlie. Charlie was made the scapegoat for the idea, just like the films, but the studio could not afford to sack their two main stars. It was a huge shame and setback for Charlie because he was blacklisted. But he had a great career and acted with the top stars of the time. He did come back to England and then returned to the States when the Second World War started in Europe. He acted with Buster Keaton late in his careeer, but gradually he faded away.’
Charlie appeared in 50 Laurel and Hardy films. He started off life as a carpenter and bus polisher and went to the Birmingham School of Art. His Hollywood career began after boarding a ship for the States, little knowing what lay in store, to act with greats such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. On board the ship he met the agent of Charlie Chaplin, a major early stepping stone in his career because he received a letter of recommendation from the agent to ease his way. Aged 21, it took a few years before he headed west to Hollywood and met Stan and Ollie, becoming their friends, which helped the acting chemistry so obvious in so many of their comic creations.
In an echo of their slapstick comedy capers, it is said that the pair played an outrageous prank on their new friend, marrying him off to a girl in Mexico while he was too drunk to object. Charlie took his bride back to California, but the marriage was short lived. Dena said: ‘It’s amazing that Laurel and Hardy films are still watched and they are so recognisable. My sons are relatively young, yet even they know who they are. They are also very pleased to have such a famous act linked to their family.’