Actor, screenwriter, and producer Stan Laurel was born to British stage performers. He started acting on stage in his mid-teens in music halls and theaters before touring the U.S. in 1910 and 1912 as Charlie Chaplin's understudy. He remained in the States to perform in vaudeville and, in 1917, supplemented his stage work by appearing as clownish misfit types in comedy shorts often spoofing dramatic films of the period. One of these was a two-reeler called Lucky Dog (1918), in which he appeared totally by accident with Oliver Hardy. The two would not appear together again until 1926, when they both found themselves working for comedy producer Hal Roach. Laurel, who had been hired by Roach as a gagman/director, was persuaded to appear in front of the camera and, thus, auspiciously again with Hardy. It soon became obvious that the two men had a certain comic onscreen chemistry, and they ended up starring together as an incredibly popular comedy team in more fifty films in the 1930s and early '40s, with their 1932 three-reeler The Music Box winning an Oscar for Best Short Subject. Laurel, the creative member of the team, had numerous run-ins with producer Roach; the actor wanted the team's films to aspire to the higher quality productions of their contemporaries, while Roach was firmly content with maintaining a low-budget norm. Laurel had a few short-lived victories, serving as producer on the team's Our Relations (1936) and Way out West (1937). The team left Roach in 1940 to seek more artistic control over their work, but were given even less at Fox and MGM. In the late '40s and early '50s, they enjoyed touring English music halls while continuing to make films. After Hardy's death in 1957, Laurel stopped performing but kept active. He died from a heart attack in 1965.
Biography by Bruce Lawton
- Understudied Charlie Chaplin early in his stage career.
- Appeared in more than 100 films (both shorts and features) with Oliver Hardy.
- Insisted upon personally responding to the thousands of fan letters he received throughout his career.
- Received a star on the Walk of Fame in 1960.
- Was eulogized at his 1965 funeral by Dick Van Dyke, whom he had become a close friend with and mentor to late in his life.
- Appeared in the collage on the cover of the legendary Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.