Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel c1920.jpg
Laurel circa 1920
Arthur Stanley Jefferson

(1890-06-16)16 June 1890
Died23 February 1965(1965-02-23) (aged 74)
OccupationActor, writer, comedian, entertainer, film director
  • Lois Neilson (m. 1926–1934; divorced)
  • Virginia Ruth Rogers (m. 1935–1937; 1941–1946; divorced twice)
  • Vera Ivanova Shuvalova (m. 1938–1940; divorced)
  • Ida Kitaeva Raphael (m. 1946–1965; his death)
Partner(s)Mae Charlotte Dahlberg (1919–1925)
Stan Laurel signature.svg

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.[1] He appeared with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles.[2]

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.[2][3] He and Chaplin arrived in the United States on the same ship from the United Kingdom with the Karno troupe.[4] Laurel began his film career in 1917 and made his final appearance in 1951. He appeared with his comic partner in Oliver Hardy from 1923, although they did not become an official team until late 1927[5]he appeared exclusively with Hardy until retiring following his comedy partner's death in 1957.

In 1960, Laurel was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. Laurel and Hardy ranked top among best double acts and seventh overall in a 2005 UK poll to find the Comedians' Comedian.[6] In 2009, a bronze statue of the duo was unveiled in Laurel's home town of Ulverston.

Early life

Plaque at Laurel's birthplace in Ulverston

Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born in his grandparents' house on 16 June 1890 in Argyll 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.[7]

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.[3] He attended school at King James I Grammar School in Bishop Auckland, County Durham,[8] and the King's School in Tynemouth, Northumberland.[9]

Stan Laurel plaque, Britannia Music Hall, Glasgow

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.[3] 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.[10] It was the music hall from where he drew his standard comic devices, including his bowler hat and nonsensical understatement.[3]

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.[2][3] 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".[11] Chaplin and Laurel arrived in the United States on the same ship from Britain with the Karno troupe and toured the country.[4] 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 resident alien and deafness as exemptions.[12][13]

Laurel and Hardy appeared for the first time together in The Lucky Dog.

Between 1916 and 1918, he teamed up with Alice Cooke and Baldwin Cooke, who became his lifelong friends. Amongst other performers, Laurel worked briefly alongside Oliver Hardy in the silent film short The Lucky Dog (1921),[7] 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.[N 1] 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.[15] 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).

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українська: Стен Лорел