Stan Laurel Biography

Director, Actor, Writer, Comedian (1890–1965)
Stan Laurel was an English comedic actor, movie director and writer who was one-half of the famous duo Laurel and Hardy. With Oliver Hardy, Laurel appeared in over 100 films, beginning in the 1920s silent film era.

Who Was Stan Laurel?

Born on June 16, 1890, in northwest England, Stan Laurel began acting in his teens. In the early 1900s, he worked for Fred Karno's vaudeville act and traveled to the United States, becoming Charlie Chaplin's understudy. Laurel's first appearance with Oliver Hardy was in 1917, but it would take a decade later for the two to cement their comedic partnership after their film, Putting Pants on Philip, turned them into huge stars. From there, Laurel — with his signature bowler hat and his whiny face in tow — would go on to make over 100 films with Hardy, including The Flying Deuces, Busy Bodies, Helpmates and Men O' War.

Spouses & Children

Laurel was married four times (one wife he married twice) and had two children.

His wives were: Lois Neilson (m. 1926-1934), with whom he had a daughter named Lois and later a son named Stanley who died at nine days old, Virginia Ruth Rogers (m. 1935-1937; 1941-1946), Vera Ivanova Shuvalova (m. 1938-1940), and Ida Kitaeva Raphael (m. 1946-his death).

Birthplace & Early Years

Laurel was born on June 16, 1890, as Arthur Stanley Jefferson in the northwest English region of Ulverston, Lancashire. His family was deeply involved in theatre — his father Arthur worked as a theatre manager, while his mother Margaret was a stage actress.

Laurel followed in his parents' footsteps and started his theatrical career at age 16 in Glasgow, Scotland. Around 1910 Laurel got involved with Karno's vaudeville act and became Chaplin's understudy, traveling with the troupe to the U.S. on two separate occasions.

Stan Laurel

Movies

Soon, Laurel found himself back in America, this time acting on the big screen. His first foray into film was in 1917 appearing in the comedy, Nuts in May, to great applause. This led to more film work, giving him an opportunity to work with comic greats like Hal Roach and Broncho Billy.

Around 1920 Laurel had his first collaboration with his famous other half, Oliver Hardy, in The Lucky Dog (1921), but the duo didn't begin working together again until a few years later. In the meantime, Laurel remained busy under contract with director/producer Joe Rock, famously producing a dozen two-reel comedies.

Although a decade would pass, Laurel and Hardy would discover their double act had great promise after their film, Putting Pants on Philip (1927), became a box office hit.

Soon, they blossomed into one of the most popular comedy teams of the era, and in the course of two decades, would produce over 100 films together, including Men O' War (1929), Laughing Gravy (1931), Busy Bodies (1933), Helpmates (1932), and The Flying Deuces (1939).

The duo would retire from film in 1950 but took their comedy on the road, touring throughout England for years.

Laurel was reportedly devastated when Hardy died in 1957 and retired from acting, although he was known to be generous with his time by keeping in touch with his fans.

In 1960 he was given an honorary Oscar for his contributions to cinematic comedy.

Death

A heavy smoker, Laurel died on February 23, 1965, after suffering from a heart attack days prior. It was said that minutes before he died, he was speaking to his nurse about skiing. When the nurse said she didn't realize he was a skier, he had purportedly replied: "I'm not. I'd rather be doing that than this!" Minutes later, the nurse discovered he had quietly passed away in his armchair.

Laurel's body was cremated and his remains interred at Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

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