Stan Jefferson, circa 1913

I was born in Ulverston, in the area of Lake Windermere — Barrow-in-Furness.

Stan Laurel
April 24, 1928

Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England, on June 16, 1890. Stan’s father, Arthur Jefferson managed a group of theaters in the northern part of England, where he also acted and directed. Showing an early inclination to follow in his father’s footsteps, Stan built a theater in the attic of his home when he was twelve years old, putting on plays of his own.

At the age of nineteen, Stan joined Fred Karno’s comedy company. Charlie Chaplin was its star, and Stan was his understudy. He traveled with Karno to the United States in 1910 and again in 1912. The troupe eventually split up when Charlie left to star in motion pictures. Stan went on to play American vaudeville houses and then entered the world of motion pictures himself.

Stan made his first two-reeler, “Nuts in May” in 1917. Around that time, Mae Dahlberg, his vaudeville partner and common-law wife, suggested he change last name to ‘Laurel.’ In 1926, Stan signed his first contract with Hal Roach Studios. Initially interested only in writing and directing, a freak on-set accident forced Stan in front of the camera in “The Lucky Dog,” where he was paired with a rotund Roach contract player named Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy, and the rest is history.


Glad you liked “The Finishing Touch.” We were kind of disappointed with it here—felt that it wasn’t up to our standard. Maybe it’s good that we feel that way sometimes—makes us try to do better.

Stan Laurel
April 24, 1928

At first there was no real effort to form a team. They appeared in a number of films together, but their first as a comedy team was 1927’s “Putting Pants on Philip.” That collaboration made a partnership inevitable. Skilled as a writer as well as a director, Stan quickly became the driving force behind the Laurel and Hardy phenomenon. He worked late nights, writing and editing their films.

Laurel and Hardy‘s shorts, produced by Hal Roach and released through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, were among the most successful in the business. With their trademark bowler hats, suits and ties, Stan and Ollie brought laughs to an audience looking for a diversion in the midst of the Great Depression. While most silent-film actors saw their careers decline with the advent of sound, Laurel and Hardy made a successful transition with 1929’s “Unaccustomed As We Are.”


Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy—“Two Minds without a Single Thought”

What do you think of the Talkies? It is a wonderful thing, but I like the silent ones better.

Stan Laurel
September 6, 1928

When audiences first heard Stan’s English accent and Babe’s Southern American accent, they accepted the duo without reservation. Their voices fit their now familiar characters. In a stroke of genius, the team skillfully included a mix of visual and verbal humor—adding dialogue that enhanced rather than replaced their popular sight gags. Finding themselves even more popular in ‘talkies,’ Laurel and Hardy rose to the occasion and starred in the classic short “The Music Box” (a reworking of their silent film “Hats Off”), which won the first Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Comedy in 1932.

But with great success came great sadness in his personal life. Stan parted with Mae in 1925 when she returned to Australia. In 1926, Stan married Lois Neilson. They had two children—a daughter, Lois, and a son, who died tragically 10 days after birth. They divorced in 1934 and Stan married Virginia Ruth Rogers. Three years (and another divorce) later, Stan married Vera Ivanova Shuvalova, only to divorce her and remarry Virginia Ruth Rogers in 1941.


I had a slight stroke and was in hospital several weeks for treatment. However, pleased to tell you I made a wonderful recovery and am nearly back to normal again.

Stan Laurel
December 24, 1955

Stan finally found true love when he divorced Virginia and married Ida Kitaeva in 1946. Ida brought Stan stability and remained by his side for the rest of his life. After making several ‘B” movies after their contract with Hal Roach expired, Stan and Babe retired from films in 1950 and went on to tour England, where they were greeted at each stop with tumultuous applause. In May of 1954, Oliver Hardy suffered a slight heart attack, which canceled their final tour.

Upon returning to the United States they embarked on a project to produce a series of films for television. On April 25, 1955, Stan had a stroke. He recovered slowly, but then Ollie had a severe stroke, from which he did not recover.

Ollie was paralyzed, and confined to his bed for several months before his death on August 7, 1957. Stan, under his doctor’s orders due to his own poor health, was unable to attend the funeral of his long-time partner and friend. After Oliver’s death, Stan realized he would never work again—although he kept busy writing gags and sketches for fellow comedians. He was recognized with a special Oscar for his pioneering work in the field of comedy in 1961.


Stan with his Oscar, a.k.a. “Mr. Clean”

I’m very thrilled to receive such a wonderful tribute. I only wish poor old Babe had been here to share this great honor, which he helped make possible.

Stan Laurel
December 10, 1956

In his later years he was arguably the most approachable of all movie stars, keeping his phone number in the phone book, welcoming all sorts of visitors—treating celebrities and non-celebrities like V.I.P.s—and responding to his fan mail personally. He hosted many visitors at his modest seaside apartment, including Dick Cavett, Jerry Lewis and Dick Van Dyke.

Stan Laurel passed away on February 23, 1965, a few days after suffering a heart attack. Dick Van Dyke delivered the eulogy at his funeral saying, “The halls of Heaven must be ringing with Divine laughter.”

Amen.



Filmography

1917

Stan Jefferson
Nuts in May

1918

Stan Laurel
Bears and Bad Men
Frauds and Frenzies
Hickory Hiram
Huns and Hyphens
Just Rambling Along
No Place Like Jail
O, It’s Great to Be Crazy
Phoney Photos
Whose Zoo?

1920

Stan Laurel
Do You Love Your Wife?
Hoot Mon!
Hustling for Health
Mixed Nuts

1921

Laurel & Hardy
The Lucky Dog

1922

Stan Laurel
The Egg
Mud and Sand
The Pest
The Weak-End Party

1923

Stan Laurel
A Man About Town
Collars and Cuffs
Frozen Hearts
The Garage
Gas and Air
The Handy Man
Kill or Cure
Mother’s Joy
The Noon Whistle
Oranges and Lemons
Pick and Shovel
Roughest Africa
Save the Ship
Short Orders
Scorching Sands
The Soilers
Under Two Jags
When Knights Were Cold
White Wings
The Whole Truth

1924

Stan Laurel
Brothers Under the Chin
Detained
Mandarin Mix-Up
Monsieur Don’t Care
Near Dublin
Postage Due
Rupert of Hee Haw
Short Kilts
Smithy
West of Hot Dog
Wide Open Spaces
Zeb vs. Paprika

1925

Stan Laurel
Cowboys Cry for It
Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde
Half a Man
Navy Blue Days
Pie-Eyed
The Sleuth
The Snow Hawk
Somewhere in Wrong
Twins

1926

Stan Laurel
Get ‘Em Young
On the Front Page
Raggedy Rose
What's the World Coming To?

Laurel & Hardy
45 Minutes from Hollywood

1927

Stan Laurel
Eve’s Love Letters
Seeing the World

Laurel & Hardy
Duck Soup
Slipping Wives
Love ‘em and Weep
Why Girls Love Sailors
With Love and Hisses
Sugar Daddies
Sailors, Beware!
Now I’ll Tell One
The Second Hundred Years
Call of the Cuckoo
Hats Off
Do Detectives Think?
Putting Pants on Philip
The Battle of the Century

1928

Stan Laurel
Should Tall Men Marry?

Laurel & Hardy
Leave ‘Em Laughing
Flying Elephants
The Finishing Touch
From Soup to Nuts
You're Darn Tootin’
Their Purple Moment
Should Married Men Go Home?
Early to Bed
Two Tars
Habeas Corpus
We Faw Down

1929

Laurel & Hardy
Liberty
Wrong Again
That’s My Wife
Big Business
Unaccustomed As We Are
Double Whoopee
Berth Marks
Men O’ War
Perfect Day
They Go Boom
Bacon Grabbers
The Hoose-Gow
The Hollywood Revue of 1929
Angora Love

1930

Laurel & Hardy
Night Owls
The Rogue Song
Blotto
Brats
Below Zero
Hog Wild
The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case
Another Fine Mess

1931

Laurel & Hardy
Be Big!
Chickens Come Home
The Stolen Jools
Laughing Gravy
Our Wife
Pardon Us
Come Clean
One Good Turn
Beau Hunks
On the Loose

1932

Laurel & Hardy
Helpmates
Any Old Port!
The Music Box
County Hospital
The Chimp
Scram!
Pack Up Your Troubles
Their First Mistake
Towed in a Hole

1933

Laurel & Hardy
Twice Two
Me and My Pal
The Devil’s Brother
The Midnight Patrol
Busy Bodies
Wild Poses
Dirty Work
Sons of the Desert

1934

Laurel & Hardy
Oliver the Eighth
Hollywood Party
Going Bye-Bye!
Them Thar Hills
Babes in Toyland
The Live Ghost

1935

Laurel & Hardy
Tit for Tat
The Fixer Uppers
Thicker than Water
Bonnie Scotland

1936

Laurel & Hardy
The Bohemian Girl
On the Wrong Trek
Our Relations

1937

Laurel & Hardy
Way Out West
Pick a Star

1938

Laurel & Hardy
Swiss Miss
Block-Heads

1939

Laurel & Hardy
The Flying Deuces

1940

Laurel & Hardy
A Chump at Oxford
Saps at Sea

1941

Laurel & Hardy
Great Guns

1942

Laurel & Hardy
A-Haunting We Will Go

1943

Laurel & Hardy
The Tree in a Test Tube
Air Raid Wardens
Jitterbugs
The Dancing Masters

1944

Laurel & Hardy
Nothing but Trouble
The Big Noise

1945

Laurel & Hardy
The Bullfighters

1951

Laurel & Hardy
Atoll K