Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on June 16, 1890, in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, to Arthur and Margaret (Madge) Jefferson. The English comic actor most well known for his part of the comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, died February 23, 1965, in Santa Monica, California, several days after having a heart attack. In addition to being an actor, Laurel was a writer and director. He enjoyed a long career which stretched from the silent films of the early twentieth century until after World War II.
Both of Laurel’s parents were active in the theater and he spent a lot of time in his early years living with his grandmother, Sarah Metcalfe, because his father managed several different theaters. His home life was happy, though, and he had a natural talent for the theater. His first professional performance came at the young age of sixteen in Glasgow, Scotland at the Britannia Panopticon.
In 1910, Laurel joined Fred Karno’s troupe of actors, which included Charlie Chaplin. Laurel acted as Chaplain’s understudy for some time. It was a tour with the Karno troupe that first brought both Laurel and Chaplain to the United States.
It was 1918 when Laurel appeared in a silent movie short The Lucky Dog. It was also about this time that he met Australian native, Mae Dahlberg, who would have a great impact on his life. It was at her suggestion that he took the stage name Laurel about the same time.
Dahlberg and Laurel were performing together when Laurel was offered a $75.00 contract to appear in two-reel comedy films. After the making of his first film Nuts in May, Universal offered Laurel a contract. The contract did not last long, however, being canceled during a reorganization of the studio. By 1924, Laurel was under contract with Joe Rock to work in films. The contract called for Laurel to make twelve two-reel comedies but held a stipulation that Mae Dahlberg was not to appear in any of the films. It was felt that her temperament was hindering his career and in 1925, when she began interfering in Laurel’s work, Rock offered Dahlberg a cash settlement and a one way ticket back to Australia, which she accepted.
It was in 1926 when Laurel married his first wife, Lois Nielson. Also that year he directed the production of Yes, Yes Nannette after joining the Hal Roach studio. He intended to mainly write and direct. However, fate had other plans for Stan Laurel.
Oliver Hardy, another member of the Hal Roach Studios Comedy All Stars players, was injured in a kitchen accident and Laurel was asked to step in.
Laurel and Hardy began sharing the screen together in Slipping Wives, Duck Soup, and With Love and Hisses. It soon became obvious Laurel and Hardy had a special on screen comic chemistry and Hal Roach Studios’ supervising director, Leo McCarey, began deliberately teaming them together. Creation of the Laurel and Hardy series came in late 1927.
Laurel’s first marriage ended in divorce and he married his second wife, Virginia Ruth Rogers, in 1935. He divorced Rogers to marry his third wife, Vera Ivanova Shuvalova, in 1938. By 1941 he had remarried Virginia Ruth Rogers. Laurel divorced Rogers again in 1946 and married Ida Kitaeva Raphael, finally enjoying a happy marriage until his death.
Both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were plagued with illness. During the war years Laurel discovered he had diabetes. In May, 1954, Hardy had a heart attack. In 1955 Laurel suffered a stroke. After recovering from the stroke the two were making plans to return to work when Hardy had a massive stroke September 15, 1956, leaving him bedridden several months, unable to speak or move. Hardy died August 7, 1957, and due to his own ill health, Stan Laurel was unable to attend his friend’s funeral. Though he would go on to write for fellow comedians he refused to ever appear before the cameras again without his longtime friend.
Though Laurel and Hardy starred in numerous funny shorts and films, one of the most memorable is the piano moving scene of The Music Box. The steps from the square to North Shields Fish Quay at Dockwray Square, North Shields, where Laurel lived from 1897-1902, is said to have been the inspiration for the scene. A statue was erected of Laurel in 1989 at Dockwray Square.
By 1961, when Stan Laurel won the Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in the field of comedy, he had been involved in almost 190 films.
The beloved actor and comedian is buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.