- Category : Entertainment-Comedy
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Eden 2
Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson; June 16, 1890 – February 23, 1965) was an English comic actor, writer and director, famous as part of the comedy double-act Laurel and Hardy, whose career stretched from the silent films of the early 20th century until post-World War II. Laurel's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is situated at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on June 16, 1890 in Ulverston, Lancashire (now Cumbria), England. His parents, Arthur and Madge (Margaret) Jefferson, were both active in the theatre and Stan's home life was a happy one. In his early years, he spent much time living with his grandmother Sarah Metcalfe, he attended school in Rutherglen's stonelaw high school his father managed a number of different theatres. Stan had a natural affinity for the theatre, with his first professional performance on stage at the Britannia Panopticon in Glasgow, Scotland, at the age of 16. In 1910, he joined Fred Karno's troupe of actors, which also included a young Charlie Chaplin. For some time, Stan acted as Chaplin's understudy. The Karno troupe toured America, and brought both Chaplin and Laurel to the United States for the first time. From 1916 to 1918, he teamed up with Alice and Baldwin Cooke, who become lifelong friends. In 1918, Laurel appeared briefly with Oliver Hardy in a silent film short The Lucky Dog.
It was around this time that Stan met Mae Dahlberg, who was to have a great impact on his life. Also about this time, Stan adopted the stage name of Laurel, at Dahlberg's suggestion. The pair were performing together when Laurel was offered $75.00 per week to star in two-reel comedies. After the making of his first film, Nuts in May, Universal offered him a contract. The contract was short-lived, however, and was cancelled during a reorganisation at the studio.
By 1924, Laurel had forsaken his stage career to work full time in films, now under contract with Joe Rock. The contract called for Laurel to make twelve two-reel comedies. The contract also had one unusual stipulation, that Dahlberg was not to appear in any of the films. It was felt that her temperament was hindering his career. In 1925, when she started interfering with Laurel's work, Rock offered her a cash settlement and a one-way ticket back to her native Australia, which she accepted. In 1926, he married his first wife, Lois Nielson.
He was also good friends with Jimmy Finlayson before the team of Laurel and Hardy appeared.
Laurel and Hardy
Main article: Laurel and Hardy
Laurel went on to join the Hal Roach studio, and began directing films, including a 1926 production called Yes, Yes, Nanette. It was his intention to work primarily as a writer and director, but fate stepped in. In 1927, Oliver Hardy, another member of the Hal Roach Studios Comedy All Star players, was injured in a kitchen mishap and Laurel was asked to return to the front of the cameras. Laurel and Hardy began sharing screen time together in Slipping Wives, Duck Soup and With Love and Hisses. It soon became obvious that the two men had a certain comic on screen chemistry. Roach Studios' supervising director Leo McCarey noticed the audience reaction to the two and had begun intentionally teaming them together, leading to the creation of the Laurel and Hardy series late that year.
Together, the two men began producing a huge body of short films, including The Battle of the Century, Should Married Men Go Home?, Two Tars, Be Big!, Big Business, and many others. Laurel and Hardy successfully made the transition to talking films with the short Unaccustomed As We Are in 1929. In the same year they appeared in their first feature in one of the revue sequences of The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and the following year they appeared as the comic relief in a lavish all-colour (in Technicolor) musical feature entitled: The Rogue Song. In 1931, their own first starring feature, Pardon Us was released, although they continued to make both features and shorts until 1935, including their 1932 three-reeler The Music Box which won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject.
Trouble at Roach Studio
During the 1930s, Laurel was involved in a dispute with Hal Roach and ended up having his contract terminated. After undergoing a trial over drunk-driving charges, he counter-sued the Roach studio. Eventually, the case was dropped and Laurel returned to Roach. Meanwhile, Laurel had divorced his first wife and married Virginia Ruth Rogers in 1935, whom he divorced to marry his third wife Vera Ivanova Shuvalova ("Illeana") in 1938. However, by 1941, he had once again married Virginia Ruth Rogers.
After returning to Roach studios, the first film Laurel and Hardy made was A Chump at Oxford. After that, they made Saps at Sea, which was the last film under Roach's employment. In April 1940, their contract expired.
In 1939, Laurel and Hardy signed a contract at 20th Century Fox to make one motion picture and nine more over the following five months. During the war years, their work became more standardised and less successful. Laurel discovered he had diabetes, so he encouraged Oliver Hardy to make two films without him. In 1946, he divorced Virginia Ruth Rogers and married Ida Kitaeva Raphael. With Ida, he enjoyed a happy marriage until his death.
In 1950, Laurel and Hardy were invited to France to make a feature film. The film, a French/Italian co-production titled Atoll K, was a disaster. (The film was titled Utopia in the US and Robinson Crusoeland in the UK.) Both stars were noticeably ill during the filming. When they returned home, they spent most of their time recovering. In 1952, Laurel and Hardy did another tour of Europe. This tour was very successful and they toured Europe again in 1953.
During this tour, Laurel fell ill and was unable to perform for several weeks. In May 1954, Oliver Hardy had a heart attack that made them call off the tour. In 1955, they were planning to do a television series, The Fable of Laurel and Hardy, based on children's stories. However, the plans were delayed because Laurel suffered a stroke. He recovered and just when he was planning to get back to work, Oliver Hardy had a massive stroke on 15 September 1956. He was paralyzed and bedridden for several months, unable to speak or move.
On 7 August 1957, Oliver Hardy died. Due to his own poor health, Laurel did not attend his funeral, stating "Babe would understand". A subsequent letter to a fan claimed he was advised by his doctor not to attend due to his own ill-health. Afterwards, Laurel decided he would never act again without his long-time friend, but he did write gags and sketches for fellow comedians. People who knew Laurel said he was absolutely devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered. On one occasion following Hardy's passing, Stan Laurel was browsing a local stationary shop, the shopkeeper approached him recognising him but not knowing who he was. When asked, Laurel replied "Oliver Hardy." The shopkeeper then asked "whatever happened to the other guy?". Laurel solemnly replied "He went barmy."
Life after Laurel and Hardy
In 1961, Laurel won a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in the field of comedy. He had achieved his lifelong dream as a comedian and had been involved in nearly 190 films. He spent his final years living in a small apartment in the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica. Always gracious to fans, he spent much of this time meticulously answering fan mail. His phone number was listed in the Santa Monica telephone directory, and fans were amazed that they could simply dial the number and find themselves talking to Stan Laurel. Jerry Lewis was among the comedians to visit Laurel, who offered suggestions for Lewis' production of The Bellboy (1960).
He died on February 23, 1965, several days after suffering a heart attack. A comedian until the very last, Stan Laurel, just minutes away from death, told to his nurse he would not mind going skiing right at that very moment. Somewhat taken aback, the nurse replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. "I'm not," said Stan, "I'd rather be doing that than have all these needles stuck into me!". A few minutes later the nurse looked in on him again and found that Stan had quietly slipped away.
Dick Van Dyke, a friend and protege of Laurel's during his later years, gave the eulogy at his funeral; the great silent screen comedian Buster Keaton was overheard at Laurel's funeral giving his assessment of the comedian's considerable talents: "Chaplin wasn't the funniest, I wasn't the funniest, this man was the funniest".
Laurel even wrote his own epitaph; "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again." He was buried at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
In 1989 a statue of Laurel was erected in Dockwray Square, North Shields, Northumberland, England where he lived at No. 8 from 1897 to 1902, and where the steps down from the Square to the North Shields Fish Quay were said to have inspired the piano-moving scene in The Music Box. In 2006, BBC Four showed a drama based on Laurel meeting Hardy on his deathbed and reminiscing about their career called Stan.