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Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel's Southampton departure
Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel was virtually unknown when sailed from Southampton in 1910

Among the passengers onboard a ship sailing out of Southampton a century ago were two performers who would become some of the 20th Century's biggest stars.

Charles Chaplin and Stanley Jefferson, known later as Stan Laurel, were onboard SS Cairnrona bound for Canada.

The pair were part of a touring group of actors, clowns and slapstick comics.

Southampton comedy fans are calling for more recognition of the city's role in the landmark in comic history.

Transatlantic departures

SS Cairnrona was a converted cattle boat taking Fred Karno's vaudeville company to the US.

The troop conquered America, performing sketches and slapstick jokes on stage in the days before television and cinema.

On the 1910 trip, Stan Laurel was understudy to Charles Chaplain who was already a big music hall star in England.

At the time, Southampton was the gateway to the world - with great liners taking the rich and famous, politicians, royalty as well as steerage passengers across the Atlantic.

Charlie Chaplain in 1910
Charlie Chaplain became one of the biggest stars of early cinema

Keegan Wilson, editor of the Southampton-based magazine, Pop Cult, researched the journey after reading a biography of Stan Laurel.

Historians Mr Wilson had spoken to originally thought the departure was in 1912.

But on examining the national maritime records, he discovered the pair in fact embarked from Southampton in 1910.

The confusion may have occurred as Stan Laurel returned to England and made another voyage to the US in 1912.

Comedy greats

Mr Wilson insists the fact that two would-be greats of comedy travelled through the city is cause for celebration.

He said: "It's just a pleasure to bring to people's attention the Hollywood greats and the important people who came in and out of Southampton.

"They were very funny, hugely influential, inventive, clever and are still a force in comedy."

Stan Laurel was born in Lancashire. While in the US in the 1920s he met Oliver Hardy and the pair formed one of the most familiar and popular double acts in cinema history.

Although he had left Southampton a virtual unknown in 1910, on 23 July 1932 Stan Laurel famously sailed back into the city aboard the Aquitania along with Oliver Hardy.

The pair were two of the biggest celebrities of their day and were greeted by thousands of cheering fans.

Charlie Chaplin had been a well-known music hall performer in London and, after moving to Hollywood, went on to be the first global superstar of silent cinema.

To mark the anniversary of the departure of SS Cairnrona,Harbour Lights Picturehouse cinema is screening Laurel and Hardy in The Flying Deuces and Charlie Chaplin's A Dog's Life on Wednesday, 22 September.

Stan Laurel photo collection sold
08 Sep 10 |  England
Chaplin film to be shown for first time
17 Jul 10 |  Entertainment & Arts


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