April 1952: Hollywood greats Laurel and Hardy were on one of their last ever tours of the UK and Ireland with their music hall act before heading back to the US.
Their slapstick comedy films had made them worldwide superstars after they got together in 1927, and produced hit after hit on the silver screen through the decades right up until the 1950s.
On Monday night April 21 they appeared at the Granada in Shrewsbury – an unusual venue for them as it was the first time they had done their show in person at a cinema. Although the Granada was no stranger to the top acts of the day.
Stan Laurel, born in Cumbria, was married to Russian woman Ida Kitaeva Raphael – his fourth and final wife. He’d been married to three other woman previously, one of them he married twice!
Stan and Ida stayed at a hotel in Shrewsbury. Ida had locked £50 in her make up box thinking it would be safe and they both headed off to the theater for the performance.
But during show somebody sneaked into their hotel room.
Stan described what happened in a letter he wrote shortly afterwards to his good friend and fellow Hollywood actor Booth Colman (famous for playing Dr. Zaius in the 1968 film Planet of the Apes).
“Had big excitement last Saturday night at the Hotel in Shrewsbury while we were at the Theatre – someone robbed our room (Hotel) & took £50.00 in notes – Eda had locked away in her make-up kit – They took it out of room & forced it open in a Public Toilet in the hallway. It was discovered by the management & when we got back a dozen detectives were investigating etc. I think an inside job. Of course we shall never see it again – so no use worrying about it – or writing about – could have been worse.
Got a laugh re you sitting with [Howard] Hughes & [Ronald] Colman – Hope you got up for a bow when Colman was announced! & then gave him an argument about using your name to get into Pictures!”
They left Shrewsbury and went to Edinburgh, with Stan just getting over a cold, to finish up their tour before heading back to Hollywood.
They returned to the UK a year later for their final tour. In 1957 Oliver Hardy died after a series of strokes. Stan Laurel lived until 1965. Both were buried in Hollywood.
So which hotel were they staying at? And did the detectives ever get catch the culprit?
The story below in the Aberdeen Evening Express is the only record of the theft I can find in the British Newspaper Archive.
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Aberdeen Evening Express – Monday 28 April 1952