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Archive for June 16, 2011

Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on the 16th of June in Ulverston, Cumbria in England, 1890. His father was a vaudeville performer and this led Arthur to being a stage performer too. He didn’t get much schooling and this led to the joining of Fred Karno’s Troupe where Arthur was understudy to the future star, Charles Chaplin. In 1912 they went on a tour to America where Chaplin remained, but Stan went straight back to England. In 1916 he returned to the States and did an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin and the act was called “The Keystone Trio” and it was quite successful.

In 1917 Stan made his first movie entitled ‘Nuts in May’ (1917) and at the first screening among the people in the audience were Chaplin himself and producer Carl Laemmle who were both impressed. This led onto more short comedies with such greats as ‘Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson’ and Hal Roach. Stan now changed his surname to Laurel thus given the name Stan Laurel. In 1917 Laurel had in fact appeared in a film called ‘The Lucky Dog’ (1921) with an actor in the cast by the name of Babe Hardy. They formed a friendship but not a very good one. Stan later said they did not see each other for another 2 or 3 years.

It was in 1925 that Hardy and Laurel had met again at the Hal Roach studios and at that point in time Laurel was directing movies at the studio with Hardy in the cast for a couple of years. Among these films were ‘Yes, Yes, Nanette’ (1925) and ‘Wandering Papas’ (1926) written & directed by Stan Laurel and starring Babe who now acted under his real name, Oliver Hardy. In 1926 they began appearing together but not yet as a team. One of the directors at the Hal Roach studio known around the world as director of such great movies ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ (1945) and ‘Going My Way’ (1944), Leo McCarey joined these comic geniuses and an immediate partnership unfolded. Laurel & Hardy appeared in ‘Putting Pants on Philip’ (1927) which led them to stardom. In 1931, their own first starring feature, ‘Pardon Us’ was released, although 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. The duo’s subsequent feature films included ‘Sons of the Desert’ (1933), ‘Babes in Toyland’ (1934), ‘Bonnie Scotland’ (1935), ‘The Bohemian Girl’ (1936), ‘Way Out West’ (1937) (which includes the famous song “Trail of the Lonesome Pine”), ‘Swiss Miss’ (1938) and ‘Block-Heads’ (1938).

They made two more films for Roach, ‘A Chump at Oxford’ (filmed in 1939, released 1940) and ‘Saps at Sea’ (1940). Both of these films were released through United Artists, as Roach’s distribution arrangement with MGM had ended in 1938. As their new agreement with Roach was non-exclusive, Laurel and Hardy also starred in ‘The Flying Deuces’ (1939), produced and released by RKO Pictures. Laurel & Hardy are now known as one of the greatest of all comedy teams.

Laurel & Hardy retired from films in 1950 but Stan & Oliver went on a tour of England and appeared in many stage shows for years. In 1961, Stan Laurel was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy. In 1964 he was the Life Achievement recipient from the Screen Actors Guild. 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 apartment in the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica, California. Like most people my age, I grew up watching the Laurel & Hardy shorts and features on television, they remain as great today as they were in their prime. Stan Laurel, Legend.