COLLECTING FILM FUN MEMORABILIA
By Rob Lewis
Earlier this year I visited the TV, RADIO, and TOY MUSEUM, in Montacute, which is a very interesting place. Among the many exhibits are several original “FILM FUN” annuals with the ‘Boys’ on the cover, I just love the artwork on these, so much so I wanted to find out more, with a view to collecting them myself. Here is how ‘Laurel and Hardy’ fitted in to this publication.
In 1920, an editor at Amalgamated Press, London, came up with the idea of publishing a comic for children, dedicated to film comedians. The name chosen was ‘Film Fun,’ which started its life on 17th January 1920. The first issue featured a Harold Lloyd cartoon-strip on the front cover which, today, is worth around £200.
To give you an idea of the comic’s popularity, a couple of months after its launch, Film Fun ran a competition for readers which offered a £500 prize - a huge sum ninety years ago. This attracted 70,000 entries, which is quite staggering even by today’s standards. The comic had healthy sales of between 300,000 and 400, 000 copies, which any modern-day magazine publisher would dearly love to equal – or get anywhere near. In fact, it had the largest-circulation and was the longest-running comic paper in the U.K. - or indeed the World.
“Film Fun” featured many famous comedians, mainly stars of the ‘two-reel’ era*, and included such stars as, James Aubrey, Ben Turpin, Chester Conklin, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, among many. Laurel and Hardy were first featured in a double-page centre-spread of “Film Fun” in the November 1930 issue. It took fours before they made the front cover, but they then stayed there for twenty years. In all, the Laurel and Hardy comic strips appeared in FILM FUN annuals right up until 1959.
Some of their films were put in as written stories, illustrated with film stills from the actual film - ‘Fraternally Yours’ and ‘Any Old Port’ being two examples. Later comic strips in the annuals were printed in a form of colour.
Bill Wakefield is the man synonymous with the artwork for the ‘Laurel and Hardy’ comic strips, although he was also the artist behind some twenty other strips. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bill’s son Terry began worked at Amalgamated Press, and drew ‘the Boys’ from 1946. It was thanks to these comics that ‘Laurel and Hardy’ remained in the public eye in the U.K.; which, in turn, almost certainly popularised their films to a second generation.
This illustration was drawn for the ‘FILM FUNSTERS’ Laurel & Hardy Club in the 1970’s. With thanks to Glenn Mitchell.
Thanks to the Internet, and Memorabilia Shows these annuals are no longer ‘lost treasures, and can be picked up from a very reasonable £6, up to £65 for some of the rarer editions. One of the most sought-after FILM FUN collectibles is ‘The Laurel & Hardy Book of Wisecracks’ which was a one-off given away with one particular issue of the comic. It is a 5¾” x 4” thirty-six page booklet. This one went for £90, although I know of one which went for a few hundred. This info came from the eBay description:
I am not sure what number comic it came in or which year, and it could be any time from around the mid-1930s to around the late 1940s. The front and back covers are printed in colour. The rest is all black and white. The title would lead you to expect a book of jokes of perhaps two or four lines each, but actually the booklet contains three or four stories with Laurel and Hardy, including a couple that read as scripts. (Those two stories are titled “A Waiting Game” - set in a restaurant; and” A Life on the Ocean Wave” - set on a ship). There are many photos of Stan and Ollie, and also quite a few illustrations in the same style as the ones in Film Fun each week.
Researched with the help of the book, ‘The Wonderful World Of Film Fun’ by Graham King and Ron Saxby.
* A film’s length was often depicted in ‘reels,’ One reel of film lasts on average 10 mins, so most of the ‘Laurel & Hardy’ titles ran for 20 mins. (known as two-reelers). A feature usually ran for six to eight reels.
Go here for all your Laurel and Hardy Collectables
You may also be interested in our NEW FILM & TV STORE