Stan Laurel Overview:

Legendary actor, Stan Laurel, was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on Jun 16, 1890 in Ulverston, Cumbria. Laurel died at the age of 74 on Feb 23, 1965 in Santa Monica, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills) Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on June 16th, 1890 in Lancashire, England. He came from a theatrical family as his parents, Arthur and Margaret, were both very active in the theatre. His father was managed a series of theatres in northern England, using them as platform to also act and direct while his mother stayed busy acting. Due to his parent's busy schedule, Laurel spent his most formative years living with his grandmother. As a child, Laurel already demonstrated signs his natural theatrical tendencies. At the age of nine Stan designed and built a stage in attic of his house, using the space to stage his own plays. Laurel would become very well educated and attended a series of prestigious boarding schools, graduating at the age of sixteen from the Rutherglen Academy. Immediately after graduating, Laurel started working at the box office of Glasgow's Metropole Theatre, one of the many theaters that his father managed.

Early Vaudeville Career

In 1906, at the age of sixteen, he made his professional debut at the Pickard's Museum Music Hall in Glasgow. In the ensuing years he traveled with various theatrical groups, building is strength as a performer and comedian. In 1907 he toured with the Levy and Cardwell's Juvenile Pantomimes and the next he toured local music halls performing sketches written by his father. In 1910 Laurel joined Fred Karno's troupe of comedians, whose star at the time was none other then Charlie Chaplin. Laurel then went to act as his understand when the troupe headed east to the United Stated to tour the vaudeville circuit. In 1911 Laurel left the company with a fellow troupe member to form their own troupe called the Barto Brothers. They would tour for about a year before breaking up and in 1913 Laurel returned to the Karno Troupe. He again joined them on their tour of the United States. When Chaplin made the decision to remain in America, so did Laurel.

Move to America

In 1913 Laurel worked with husband-wife team Edgar and Wren Hurley to form The Three Comiques that eventual became the Keystone Trio, with Laurel working as a Chaplin impersonator. In 1916 he partnered with performers Alice and Baldwin Cooke, who would become the comedian's life long pals. The next year Laurel performed with famed Australian singer, Mae Charlotte Dahlberg. It was then that Stan Jefferson adopted the last name Laurel, with the duo performing under the stage names Stan and Mae Laurel. Later that year, after seeing the pair perform, Stan was offered the chance to star in a two-reel comedy short. He made his film debut opposite Mae with the 1917 slapstick short Nuts in May. After the success of Nuts in May, Laurel was immediately offered a contract with Universal Studios. In 1918 Laurel made over 15 comedy shorts for Universal, most of which co-starred Mae. After a shift in management at Universal, Laurel's contact was dissolved and Stan went back to vaudeville circuit with Mae.

For the next few years Laurel would vacillate between the stage and the screen. He remained busy on the Vaudeville circuit and therefore could not dedicate himself to one company. In the 1920s when not on stage, Laurel would bounce from studio to studio working a variety of parodies, his most famous being 1922's Mud and Sand.  By 1924, however, he made the decision to dedicate himself to film and all but abandoned the stage. He then signed a contract with producer Joe Rock to star in 12 two-reel comedies, including Detained, West of Hot Dog, and Half a Man.

Laurel and Hardy

After fulfilling his contract with Rock in 1926, Laurel was immediately offered a contract at Hal Roach Studio. During his first year at the studio, Laurel stepped away from acting to work behind the scene, hoping to redirect his career towards directing. His first film for the company was 1926's Yes, Yes, Nanette. He continued to direct for the next year until a freak accident put him back in the spotlight.

In 1927 Hal Roach Studio comedy-all star Oliver Hardy injured himself and Laurel was forced to step back into to pick up his slack. When Hardy returned, Laurel remained in front of the camera and was eventually paired with Hardy for the short films Slipping Wives and Duck Soup. The pair became fast friends and their comedic chemistry blossomed. Their first collaboration as the official "team" of Laurel and Hardy was with 1927's Putting Pants on Philip. The two quickly began producing a massive body of work, with Laurel taking control of the creative side of thing, working long into the night both writing and editing their material. By this time, Hal Roach had negotiated a deal with MGM studios to distribute the duos films. The studio then began to heavily promote their new comedy team and released films such as You're Darn Tooin', Big Business and Double Whooppee featuring a young Jean Harlow. While many silent comedians saw their careers come to an end with the coming of sound, Laurel and Hardy made the successful transition with their 1929 comedy short Unaccustomed As We Are. That same year Laurel and Hardy appeared in their first feature length film together, MGM studio's The Hollywood Revue of 1929.   By the end of the decade the duo was so popular that some theaters would bill their films above the features.

Feature Films

After years of working in the short-film format, in 1931 Laurel and Hardy made their first feature film as first billed, Pardon Us. The next year they starred in a three reel short comedy The Music Box. The film was the first ever to win the Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Comedy in 1932. For the next four years Laurel and Hardy would star in both feature and short length films, keeping incredibly busy. In 1933 the duo not only starred in the feature film Sons of Desert but seven short films as well. The teams biggest hit came two years later with 1935's Thicker Than Water. The pair's massive production would come to a halt by the mid-1930s, after Laurel was let go from his contract due to a heated dispute with Hal Roach. Because the Laural and Hardy maintained separate contract with differing stipulations, Hardy remained with Roach and worked with Harry Langdon for the comedy Zenbia. Laurel eventually return to the studio and the pair would make two more films, A Chump at Oxford and Saps at Sea.

Back to the Stage

After leaving Hal Roach, Laurel and Hardy returned to their roots: the stage, touring the nation from 1940-1941. During that time they also signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to make 10 films in five years. Although they originally hoped for some creative freedom, most of the films became increasing formulaic. In between making films, Laurel and Hardy remained on stage and performed for hundreds of service men during World War Two. They would make their last American film together in 1945 with The Bullfighter. Now with their contract obligations met, the two headed east to Laurel's homeland for their first tour of England. The six-week venture was massive success and includes a Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Due to the success of the tour, they would continue to work primarily on the stage for the next seven years. Their final film together was the 1951 French production Utopia.

In the 1950s the duo remained absent from the screen but toured relentlessly. In 1953 Laurel became ill and was forced to back out of several tour dates. The next year Hardy had a heart attack and was forced to cancel their 1954 tour all together. The next year Hardy would suffer a massive stroke, thus ending his career as a performer. In 1957, he would die.

Later Life

The Death of Oliver Hardy would have a profound impact on Laurel. He refused to performance with his trusted partner and entered quiet retirement. In 1961 he received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy. Stanley Laurel died on February 23rd, 1965 four days after a heart attack. He was 74 years old.  

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Laurel was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1991. He appears on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Laurel was never nominated for an Academy Award. However he won one Honorary Award in 1960 for his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy .

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Stan Laurel Quotes:

Lady Plumtree: Agnes, how long have you been here?
Stan: [in drag as the maid] About half an hour.
[realizing what she has said]
Stan: Oh, heh!
Stan: How silly of me! I'm so nervous. Heh, I mean half a year - to be exact, three months!

Stan: If you want me to go, I'll stay as long as you like.

Dr. Horace Meddick: What seems to be the trouble?
Stan: I think he's suffering from a nervous shakedown.

read more quotes from Stan Laurel...

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Stan Laurel Facts
Fell off a platform and tore ligaments in his right leg during the filming of Babes in Toyland (1934).

Dick Van Dyke delivered the eulogy at Laurel's funeral.

The 1937 Laurel and Hardy comedy Way Out West parodied the famous hitch-hiking scene from It Happened One Night, with Stan Laurel managing to stop a stage coach using the same technique.

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