Laurel circa 1920
Arthur Stanley Jefferson
16 June 1890
|Died||23 February 1965 74) (aged|
Santa Monica, California, United States
(m. 1926;div. 1934)
Virginia Ruth Rogers
(m. 1935;div. 1937)
(m. 1941;div. 1946)
Vera Ivanova Shuvalova
(m. 1938;div. 1940)
Ida Kitaeva Raphael
|Partner(s)||Mae Charlotte Dahlberg (1919–1925)|
|Children||2 (Lois Laurel and Stan Robert Laurel)|
Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson; 16 June 1890 – 23 February 1965) was an English comic actor, writer, and film director who was part of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.He appeared with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles.
Laurel began his career in music hall, where he developed a number of his standard comic devices, including the bowler hat, the deep comic gravity, and the nonsensical understatement. His performances polished his skills at pantomime and music hall sketches. He was a member of "Fred Karno's Army", where he was Charlie Chaplin's understudy.He and Chaplin arrived in the United States on the same ship from the United Kingdom with the Karno troupe. Laurel began his film career in 1917 and made his final appearance in 1951. He appeared with his comic partner Oliver Hardy in the film short The Lucky Dog in 1921, although they did not become an official team until late 1927. He then appeared exclusively with Hardy until retiring following his comedy partner's death in 1957.
In 1960, Laurel was given an Academy Honorary Award for his pioneering work in comedy, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. Laurel and Hardy were ranked top among best double acts and seventh overall in a 2005 UK poll to find the Comedians' Comedian.In 2019, Laurel topped a list of the greatest British comedians compiled by a panel on the television channel Gold. In 2009, a bronze statue of the duo was unveiled in Laurel's home town of Ulverston.
Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born in his grandparents' house on 16 June 1890 in Argyle Street, Ulverston, Lancashire, to Arthur Jefferson, a theatre manager from Bishop Auckland, and Margaret (née Metcalfe), an actress from Ulverston. He was one of five children.
His parents were both active in the theatre and always very busy. In his early years, Laurel spent much time living with his maternal grandmother, Sarah Metcalfe.He attended school at King James I Grammar School in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and the King's School in Tynemouth, Northumberland.
He moved with his parents to Glasgow, Scotland, where he completed his education at Rutherglen Academy. His father managed Glasgow's Metropole Theatre, where Laurel began work. His boyhood hero was Dan Leno, one of the greatest English music hall comedians.With a natural affinity for the theatre, Laurel gave his first professional performance on stage at the Panopticon in Glasgow at the age of sixteen, where he polished his skills at pantomime and music hall sketches. It was the music hall from where he drew his standard comic devices, including his bowler hat and nonsensical understatement.
In 1912 Laurel worked together with Ted Desmond on tour in Netherlands and Belgium as a comedy double act known as the Barto Bros. Their act, which involved them dressing as Romans, finished when Laurel was offered a spot in an American touring troupe. After Laurel left England for America the pair maintained a life-long friendship, sending letters and photos that documented Laurel's rise from an unknown British comedy actor in 1913 to one of the biggest names in Hollywood in the 1950s. The correspondence, spanning around 50 years and including photos of them being reunited in the US, was put up for auction by Mr Desmond's grandson Geoffrey Nolan in 2018.
He joined Fred Karno's troupe of actors in 1910 with the stage name of "Stan Jefferson"; the troupe also included a young Charlie Chaplin. The music hall nurtured him, and he acted as Chaplin's understudy for some time.Karno was a pioneer of slapstick, and in his biography Laurel stated, "Fred Karno didn't teach Charlie [Chaplin] and me all we know about comedy. He just taught us most of it". Chaplin and Laurel arrived in the United States on the same ship from Britain with the Karno troupe and toured the country. During the First World War, Laurel registered for military service in America on 5 June 1917, as required under the Selective Service Act. He was not called up; his registration card states his status as resident alien and his deafness as exemptions.
The Karno troupe broke up in the spring of 1914. Stan joined with two other former Karno performers, Edgar Hurley and his wife Ethel (known as "Wren") to form "The Three Comiques". On the advice of booking agent Gordon Bostock, they call themselves "the Keystone Trio". Stan started to do his character as an imitation of Charlie Chaplin and the Hurleys began to do their parts as silent comedians Chester Conklin and Mabel Normand. They played successfully from February through October 1915, until the Hurleys and Stan parted ways.Between 1916 and 1918, he teamed up with Alice Cooke and Baldwin Cooke, who became his lifelong friends, to form the Stan Jefferson Trio.
Amongst other performers, Laurel worked briefly alongside Oliver Hardy in the silent film short The Lucky Dog (1921),before the two were a team. It was around this time that Laurel met Mae Dahlberg. Around the same time, he adopted the stage name of Laurel at Dahlberg's suggestion that his stage name Stan Jefferson was unlucky, due to it having thirteen letters. The pair were performing together when Laurel was offered $75 a week to star in two-reel comedies. After making his first film Nuts in May , Universal offered him a contract. The contract was soon cancelled during a reorganisation at the studio. Among the films in which Dahlberg and Laurel appeared together was the 1922 parody Mud and Sand .
By 1924, Laurel had given up the stage for full-time film work, under contract with Joe Rock for 12 two-reel comedies. The contract had one unusual stipulation: that Dahlberg was not to appear in any of the films. Rock thought that her temperament was hindering Laurel's career. In 1925, she started interfering with Laurel's work, so Rock offered her a cash settlement and a one-way ticket back to her native Australia, which she accepted.The 12 two-reel comedies were Mandarin Mix-Up (1924), Detained (1924), Monsieur Don't Care (1924), West of Hot Dog (1924), Somewhere in Wrong (1925), Twins (1925), Pie-Eyed (1925), The Snow Hawk (1925), Navy Blue Days (1925), The Sleuth (1925), Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde (1925) and Half a Man (1925).
Laurel next signed with the Hal Roach studio, where he began directing films, including a 1926 production called Yes, Yes, Nanette (in which Oliver Hardy had a part under the name "Babe" Hardy). It had been his intention to work primarily as a writer and director.
The same year, Hardy, a member of the Hal Roach Studios Comedy All Star players, was injured in a kitchen mishap and hospitalised. Because he was unable to work on the scheduled film, Get 'Em Young, Laurel was asked to return to acting to fill in. Starting early in 1927, Laurel and Hardy began sharing the screen in several short films, including Duck Soup , Slipping Wives and With Love and Hisses . The two became friends and their comic chemistry soon became obvious. Roach Studios' supervising director Leo McCarey noticed the audience reaction to them and began teaming them, leading to the creation of the Laurel and Hardy series later 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. They also 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 the lavish all-colour (in Technicolor) musical feature The Rogue Song . Their first starring feature Pardon Us was released in 1931. 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.
During the 1930s, Laurel was involved in a dispute with Hal Roach which resulted in the termination of his contract. Roach maintained separate contracts for Laurel and Hardy that expired at different times, so Hardy remained at the studio and was "teamed" with Harry Langdon for the 1939 film Zenobia . The studio discussed a series of films co-starring Hardy with Patsy Kelly to be called "The Hardy Family." But Laurel sued Roach over the contract dispute. Eventually, the case was dropped and Laurel returned to Roach. The first film that Laurel and Hardy made after Laurel returned was A Chump at Oxford . Subsequently, they made Saps at Sea , which was their last film for Roach.
In 1941, Laurel and Hardy signed a contract at 20th Century-Fox to make ten films over five years. Laurel found, to his shock, that he and Hardy were hired only as actors, and were not expected to contribute to the staging, writing, or editing of the productions. When the films proved very successful, Laurel and Hardy were granted more freedom and gradually added more of their own material. They had made six Fox features when the studio suddenly abandoned B-picture production in December 1944. The team had signed another contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1942, resulting in two more features.
Revisiting his music hall days, Laurel returned to England in 1947 when he and Hardy went on a six-week tour of the United Kingdom performing in variety shows.Mobbed wherever they went, Laurel's homecoming to Ulverston took place in May, and the duo were greeted by thousands of fans outside the Coronation Hall. The Evening Mail noted: "Oliver Hardy remarked to our reporter that Stan had talked about Ulverston for the past 22 years and he thought he had to see it." The tour included a Royal Variety Performance in front of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London. The success of the tour led them to spend the next seven years touring the UK and Europe.
Around this time, Laurel found out that he had diabetes, so he encouraged Hardy to find solo projects, which he did, taking parts in John Wayne and Bing Crosby films.
In 1950, Laurel and Hardy were invited to France to make a feature film. The film was a disaster, a Franco-Italian co-production titled Atoll K . (The film was entitled Utopia in the US and Robinson Crusoeland in the UK.) Both stars were noticeably ill during the filming. Upon returning to the United States, they spent most of their time recovering. In 1952, Laurel and Hardy toured Europe successfully, and they returned in 1953 for another tour of the continent. During this tour, Laurel fell ill and was unable to perform for several weeks.
In May 1954, Hardy had a heart attack and cancelled the tour. In 1955, they were planning to do a television series called Laurel and Hardy's Fabulous Fables based on children's stories. The plans were delayed after Laurel suffered a stroke on 25 April 1955, from which he recovered. But as the team was planning to get back to work, Hardy had another stroke on 14 September 1956, and was unable to return to acting.
Oliver Hardy died on 7 August 1957. Laurel was too ill to attend his funeral and said, "Babe would understand".People who knew Laurel said that he was devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered from his grief. He refused to perform on stage or act in another film without his friend, although he continued to socialise with his fans.
In 1960, Stan Laurel was given an Academy Honorary Award "for his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy." He had achieved his lifelong dream as a comedian and had been involved in nearly 190 films. He lived his final years in a small flat in the Oceana Apartments in Santa Monica, California.Laurel was gracious to fans and spent much time answering fan mail. His phone number was also listed in the telephone directory and he would take calls from fans.
Jerry Lewis was among the comedians to visit Laurel, and Lewis received suggestions from him for the production of The Bellboy (1960). Lewis paid tribute to Laurel by naming his main character Stanley in the film, and having Bill Richmond play a version of Laurel as well.Dick Van Dyke told a similar story. When he was just starting his career, he looked up Laurel's phone number, called him, and then visited him at his home. Van Dyke played Laurel on "The Sam Pomerantz Scandals" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show . Laurel was offered a cameo role in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), but turned it down. He did not want to be on screen in his old age, especially without Hardy. The cameo appearance was then given to Jack Benny.
Laurel and Mae Dahlberg never married but lived together as common-law husband and wife from 1919 to 1925, before Dahlberg accepted a one-way ticket from Joe Rock to go back to her native Australia.In November 1937, Dahlberg was back in the US and sued Laurel for financial support. At the time, Laurel's second marriage was in the process of a divorce, with Dahlberg's legal suit adding to Laurel's woes. The matter was settled out of court. Dahlberg was described as a "relief project worker" by the court. Laurel was one of several popular British actors in Hollywood who never became a naturalised US citizen.
Laurel had four wives and married one of them a second time after their divorce. 10 December 1927. Their second child, Stanley was born two months premature in May 1930, but died after nine days. Laurel and Neilson divorced in December 1934. His daughter Lois died on 27 July 2017 aged 89.His first wife was Lois Neilson, whom he married on 13 August 1926. Together they had a daughter Lois on
In 1935, Laurel married Virginia Ruth Rogers (known as Ruth). In 1937, he filed for divorce, confessing that he was not over his ex-wife Lois, but Lois decided against a reconciliation. On New Year's Day 1938, Laurel married Vera Ivanova Shuvalova (known as Illeana), and Ruth accused him of bigamy, but their divorce had been finalised a couple of days before his new marriage. The new marriage was very volatile, and Illeana accused him of trying to bury her alive in the backyard of their San Fernando Valley home.He and Illeana separated in 1939 and divorced in 1940, with Illeana surrendering all claim to the Laurel surname on 1 February 1940 in exchange for $6,500. In 1941, Laurel remarried Virginia Ruth Rogers; they were divorced for the second time in early 1946. On 6 May 1946, he married Ida Kitaeva Raphael to whom he remained married until his death.
Laurel was a heavy smoker until suddenly quitting around 1960.In January 1965, he underwent a series of x-rays for an infection on the roof of his mouth. He died on 23 February 1965, aged 74, four days after suffering a heart attack. Minutes before his death, he told his nurse that he would not mind going skiing, and she replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. "I'm not," said Laurel, "I'd rather be doing that than this!" A few minutes later he died quietly in his armchair.
At his funeral, Buster Keaton said, "Chaplin wasn't the funniest. I wasn't the funniest; this man was the funniest." Dick Van Dyke gave the eulogyas a friend, protégé, and occasional impressionist of Laurel during his later years; he read The Clown's Prayer. Laurel had quipped, "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again." He was interred in Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
Laurel and Hardy are featured on the cover of the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band .In 1989, a statue of Laurel was erected in Dockwray Square, North Shields, Tyne and Wear, England, where he lived at No. 8 from 1897 to 1902. 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 a 2005 UK poll, Comedians' Comedian, Laurel and Hardy were ranked top double act, and seventh overall. Along with Hardy, Laurel was inducted into the Grand Order of Water Rats.
Neil Brand wrote a radio play entitled Stan , broadcast in 2004 on BBC Radio 4 and subsequently on BBC Radio 4 Extra,starring Tom Courtenay as Stan Laurel, in which Stan visits Oliver Hardy after Hardy has suffered his stroke and tries to say the things to his dying friend and partner that have been left unsaid. In 2006, BBC Four showed a drama called Stan, based on Brand's radio play, in which Laurel meets Hardy on his deathbed and reminisces about their career.
A plaque on the Bull Inn, Bottesford, Leicestershire, England, marks Laurel and Hardy appearing in Nottingham over Christmas 1952, and staying with Laurel's sister, Olga, who was the landlady of the pub.In 2008, a statue of Stan Laurel was unveiled in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, on the site of the Eden Theatre. In April 2009, a bronze statue of Laurel and Hardy was unveiled in Ulverston.
There is a Laurel and Hardy Museum in Stan's hometown of Ulverston. There are two Laurel and Hardy museums in Hardy's hometown of Harlem, Georgia. One is operated by the town of Harlem, and the other is a private museum owned and operated by Gary Russeth, a Harlem resident.
In 2013 Gail Louw and Jeffrey Holland debuted a short one-man play "...And this is my friend Mr Laurel" at the Camden Fringe festival. The play, starring Holland as Laurel, was taken on tour of the UK in 2014 until June 2015.
In the 2018 film Stan & Ollie , Steve Coogan portrayed Laurel (a performance which saw him nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role) and John C. Reilly played Hardy.Developed by BBC Films, the film is set in the twilight of their careers, and focuses on their farewell tour of Britain and Ireland's variety halls in 1953.
Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap, often resulting from inept use of props such as saws and ladders.
Laurel and Hardy were a comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy. The duo's signature tune is known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos". It was played over the opening credits of their films and has become as emblematic of the duo as their bowler hats.
The Music Box is a Laurel and Hardy short film comedy released in 1932. It was directed by James Parrott, produced by Hal Roach and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film, which depicts the pair attempting to move a piano up a long flight of steps, won the first Academy Award for Best Live Action Short (Comedy) in 1932. In 1997, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.'"
Oliver Norvell Hardy was an American comic actor and one half of Laurel and Hardy, the double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted from 1927 to 1955. He appeared with his comedy partner Stan Laurel in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles. He was credited with his first film, Outwitting Dad, in 1914. In most of his silent films before joining producer Hal Roach, he was billed on screen as Babe Hardy.
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting foolish or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comedian.
Charles Joseph Parrott, known professionally as Charley Chase, was an American comedian, actor, screenwriter and film director best known for his work in Hal Roach short film comedies. He was the elder brother of comedian/director James Parrott.
Frederick John Westcott, best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was an English theatre impresario of the British music hall. As a comedian of slapstick he is credited with popularizing the custard-pie-in-the-face gag. During the 1890s, in order to circumvent stage censorship, Karno developed a form of sketch comedy without dialogue.
James Finlayson was a Scottish-American actor who worked in both silent and sound comedies. Bald, with a fake moustache, Finlayson had many trademark comic mannerisms and is known for his squinting, outraged, "double take and fade away" head reaction, and characteristic expression "d'ooooooh", and as the best remembered comic foil of Laurel and Hardy.
Thicker than Water is a short film starring Laurel and Hardy, directed by James W.Horne, produced by Hal Roach, and released in 1935 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The short also features James Finlayson and Daphne Pollard in supporting roles. It was the last two-reel comedy starring the comedy team, as Hal Roach decided to move them into feature films.
Zenobia is a 1939 comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Oliver Hardy, Harry Langdon, Billie Burke, Alice Brady, James Ellison, Jean Parker, June Lang, Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniel. The source of the film was the 1891 short story "Zenobia's Infidelity" by H.C. Bunner, which was originally purchased by producer Hal Roach as a vehicle for Roland Young.
Duck Soup is a silent comedy short film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy prior to their official billing as the duo Laurel and Hardy. The team appeared in a total of 107 films between 1921 and 1951.
Block-Heads is a 1938 comedy film directed by John G. Blystone and starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It was produced by Hal Roach Studios for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film, a reworking of elements from the Laurel and Hardy shorts We Faw Down (1928) and Unaccustomed As We Are (1929), was Roach's final film for MGM.
Flying Elephants is a two-reel silent film from 1928 directed by Frank Butler and produced by Hal Roach. It stars Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as a pair of battling cavemen.
Another Fine Mess is a 1930 short comedy film directed by James Parrott and starring Laurel and Hardy. It is based on the 1908 play Home from the Honeymoon by Arthur J. Jefferson, Stan Laurel's father, and is a remake of their earlier silent film, Duck Soup.
The Fixer Uppers is a 1935 short film starring Laurel and Hardy, directed by Charles Rogers and produced by Hal Roach.
Mae Dahlberg, sometimes known as Mae Laurel, was an Australian-born music hall and vaudeville performer and actress, later active in Hollywood silent films. She was Stan Laurel's professional partner and common-law wife from 1917 to 1925.
The Comic is a 1969 American Pathécolor comedy film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Carl Reiner. It stars Dick Van Dyke as Billy Bright, Michele Lee as Bright's love interest, and Reiner himself and Mickey Rooney as Bright's friends and work colleagues. Reiner wrote the screenplay with Aaron Ruben; it was inspired by the end of silent film era and, in part, by the life of silent film superstar Buster Keaton.
Bert Tracey was a British silent film and talkie actor. He also directed one film, Boots! Boots!, in 1934 which marked the film debut of George Formby as an adult. Tracy was born on June 16, 1889 in Manchester, England. He acted in 47 silent films including The Kentucky Derby (1922) and Law or Loyalty (1926).
Stan & Ollie is a 2018 biographical comedy-drama film directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Jeff Pope. Based on the later years of the lives of the comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, the film stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It premiered on 21 October 2018 at the closing night gala of the BFI London Film Festival. The film was released in the United States on 28 December 2018 and in the United Kingdom on 11 January 2019.
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