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FROM RAGS TO RICHES AND BACK AGAIN; Letters reveal truth behind an extraordinary Hollywood career.

Byline: JONNY GREATREX

MIDLAND silent movie star Charlie Hall begged a Hollywood pal for a loan to allow him to return to Tinseltown, never-before-seen letters have revealed.

In a story worthy of any big screen blockbuster, the actor best known as Laurel and Hardy's long-term sidekick went from rags to riches and back again.

Birmingham-born Hall made it big after moving to the US and working as a stagehand.

He appeared in nearly 50 films with the legendary double act but later found himself back in the UK working in a humble gas mask factory after a bustup with studio bosses.

Letters published in a new book charting his life reveal he wrote to double Oscar-winning director George Stevens asking for 200 dollars so he could make his way back to Hollywood.

He wrote: "I have been working in a gas mask factory, first four weeks at the large salary of pounds 3, 12 shillings and six pence, equal to about 11 dollars and that seems to be my destiny.

"If I remain here of course they retire you when you are 65 and give you the large sum of two and a half dollars a week for life.

"Well George, I am appealing to you for another loan of 200 dollars to help me until I get going back in Hollywood.

"If you would be kind enough to do me that favour I promise to repay you on a monthly basis.

"I will not take a drink or buy a car until I have repaid you this promise."

Hall even said he would hitch-hike all the way back to Los Angeles if Stevens would lend him the cash for a sea crossing to New York.

Another letter was written as Hall returned to the UK in 1937 and tells of a rocky boat journey where everyone's meals ended up in their lap.

The letters were kept by relatives of the actor, who fi-nally returned to the States Legends and was buried alongside his wife Wilma in Glendale, California, following his death in December 1959.

And now they have appeared in a book devoted to Hall, who also worked with Hollywood legends including Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Abbott and Costello.

Called This Is More Than I Can Stand, it was written by John Ullah, Grand Sheik of the Birmingham branch of the Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society, and will be released on March 26.

John, 58, from Erdington, Birmingham, said: "No one has seen these letters before, I got them from his family in the USA.

"It is great to get so close to him through his personal correspondence. I couldn't believe his family still had them.

"Imagine if a manual worker from Brum went to the States and appeared with the stars of today. They would be famous but Charlie is almost forgotten."

Of the letter in which Hall begged for a loan, John added: "His frustrations are obvious.

"He hated life back in Birmingham.

"Imagine working in a film with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and 18 months later working back in a factory in Birmingham.

"Birmingham should be proud of Charlie. After all he appeared with many of Hollywood's greatest stars." Hall's last film appearance came in So You Want To Play The Piano in 1956.

CAPTION(S):

GREATS: Charlie at work with Laurel and Hardy. ACCESS: Author John Ullah and partner Mandy Finney.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Mar 18, 2012
Words:571
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