Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Birth and early youth
Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born on June 16, 1890 in his grandparent's house in Ulverston, Lancashire. He was the second of five children. His father, A. J. Jefferson, managed a number of different theatres; his mother was an actress. Arthur lived with his grandparents until the age of six, when he moved in with his father and began his education. As a child, Laurel liked the theatre so much that when he was nine he set up a theatre in the attic featuring neighbourhood children as supporting actors.
The first school Jefferson went to was in Gainford. He later went to school in Bishop Auckland, Tynemouth, and in Glasgow, where he finished his education and went to work in the box office of the Metropole Theatre, which his father managed. His father encouraged him to get into theatre management, but Stan had other plans.
At sixteen, he went to Mr. E. Pickard for a ‘try out’ in his theatre. The act went reasonably well. Although his father did not like the idea, he encouraged him in the field of comedy. In 1907, Stan joined a number of travelling groups until finally he became a member of Fred Karno's travelling group as a bit player. He quickly became the understudy to the group's star performer, Charlie Chaplin. The group went to the United States, but eventually broke up - so Stan and some fellow members tried their luck in vaudeville. From 1916 to 1918, Laurel teamed up with Alice and Baldwin Cooke , who would become lifelong friends.
It was around this time he met Mae Dahlberg . Mae became his partner in cinema, and from 1919 to 1925, the two were married. It was also at this time that he got his stage name of Stan Laurel, at Mae's suggestion. He and Mae worked together to make two-reel comedies . After making their first movie, Nuts in May, Universal offered him a contract, which he accepted. The contract was small, and was cancelled because of a reorganisation in the studio. Mae and Stan got back to the act, although he later worked with Bronco Billy Anderson.
Hal Roach Studios
In 1924, he signed a contract with Joe Rock . The contract asked Stan to make twelve two-reel comedies. In 1925 Mae began interfering in Stan's work, and Joe Rock offered her some cash and a one-way ticket to her native Australia. Without any problems, Laurel then finished the twelve movies. He next joined the Hal Roach studio as a writer and director, but because of the contract with Rock, he wasn't allowed to act. However, he couldn't stay away from the camera long and he soon got back to acting. Much of his work was with Oliver Hardy (1892-1957), but Laurel was also teamed with Lois Nielson , whom he wed in August 1926.
Laurel and Hardy
In 1927, the team of Laurel and Hardy was finally born with the release of the movie Duck Soup. On December 10th, 1927, another birth took place: Laurel's daughter Lois. In 1929, Stan and Ollie (Oliver Hardy's nickname) made a transition from making silent movies to talking pictures. Their first talking picture was Unaccustomed as we are.
At Roach Studio , Stan did not have the creative control he wanted, but it was nonetheless productive and profitable. Stan arranged for his lifelong friends, Alice and Baldwin Cooke, to work at the studio. In 1930, Lois Nielson, his wife, gave birth to a boy. However, he was two months premature and died nine days later. In spite of his sorrow, Laurel began filming Pardon us.
In December 1931, he began the filming of The Music Box. It was one of his best films. It won an Oscar for "Best Comedy Short Subject" in 1932. Stan, Oliver Hardy and their families left for a vacation. Their vacation was impeded by the hordes of fans who continuously greeted them. During the trip, Stan and Ollie got to know each other more and soon became best friends. "Babe was like a brother to me. We seemed to sense each other. Funny, we never really got to know each other personally until we took the tours together. When we made pictures, it was all business even though it was fun. Between pictures, we hardly saw each other. His life outside the studio was sports, and my life was practically all work. Even after work was over, I loved editing and cutting the pictures, something he was not interested in. But, whatever I did was tops with him. There were never any arguments between us, never," Stan Laurel later said about Oliver "Babe" Hardy.
In 1933, Stan met a woman called Ruth Rogers. They began seeing each other socially. Lois Nielson filed for divorce in October 1933. To make matters worse, Laurel's brother, who had moved to the USA, died during a routine dental procedure. In April 1934 Stan and Ruth married. In 1935, when Laurel and Hardy began making the film Bonnie Scotland, Stan's wife Ruth frequently visited him on the set and made suggestions on their next film, Way Out West. In 1936, the marriage between Stanley and Ruth ended in divorce. To make matters worse, Mae Dahlberg came back and sued Stan for alimony saying that she had been Stan’s wife from 1919 to 1925. And if that was not enough Stan Laurel’s contract with Hal Roach was about to expire. He did not want to extend his contract because of what he went through, but Roach insisted on him doing so. As a solution, Stan formed the Stan Laurel Production Company , which made films for Roach. The first film the Stan Laurel Production Company produced was Swiss Miss.
On January 1, 1938, he married Vera Illiana Shuvalova . Ruth Rogers flew to their honeymoon, where she raised a riot saying that their divorce was not final. Like Mae Dahlberg, Illiana had a bad temper and brought problems to him almost immediately. The two quickly divorced in May of 1940.
Trouble at Roach Studio
Stan kept having trouble with Hal Roach and ended up having his contract terminated. After undergoing a trial over drunk driving charges, he counter-sued the Roach studio. Eventually, the case was dropped and Stan returned to Roach.
After returning to Roach studios, the first film Laurel and Hardy made was A Chump At Oxford. Their followup title, Flying Deuces is one of their most famous movies. After that, they made Saps At Sea, which was the last film under Roach's employ. On April 1940, their contract expired.
Remarriage to second wife
In 1941, Stan remarried Ruth Rogers . In 1943, Ruth filed for divorce but withdrew the divorce suit later. In 1945, Ruth filed for divorce again. In 1946, the divorce was granted. After the divorce he got married to Ida Kitaeva Raphael , a Russian opera singer. Unlike the series of previous marriages, this one was successful. "No more divorces for Stan Laurel," as Raphael said.
In 1947, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy did a tour of Europe. The tour was intended to go for six weeks but the tour was so successful it was extended to eleven months. They did not return until January 1948.
In 1949, Laurel and Hardy signed a contract at Fox studios to make one motion picture and nine more over the following five months. Stan discovered he had diabetes, so he encouraged Oliver Hardy to make two movies without him. In 1950, they were asked to make a film in France. The film, Utopia, was a disaster. The script needed a lot of fixing and they both got seriously ill during the filming. When they came home, they spent most of their time recovering. In 1952, they did another tour of Europe. This tour was very successful. They again toured Europe in 1953. Stan fell ill and was unable to perform for several weeks. In May 1954, Oliver Hardy had a heart attack that made them call off the tour. In 1955, they were planning to do a television series, The Fable of Laurel and Hardy, based on children's stories. However, the plans were delayed because Stan had a stroke. He recovered and just when he was planning to get back to work, Oliver Hardy had a serious stroke. He was paralyzed and stayed in bed for several months. On August 17, 1957, Oliver Hardy died. Due to his own poor health, Arthur could not attend Oliver Hardy’s funeral. After that, Stan realized he would never act again, but he did gags and sketches for fellow comedians. People who knew Laurel said he was absolutely devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered for the rest of his life.
Life after Laurel and Hardy
In 1961, Arthur Stanley Jefferson won a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in the field of comedy. He achieved his lifelong dream as a comedian and had been involved in nearly 190 movies. He died on February 23, 1965, several days after suffering a heart attack. Laurel even joked about his own death: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again."
Stan Laurel is buried in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
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