As you probably know, Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born in Ulverston Lancashire today, 16th June – in 1890. Ulverston is now of course in Cumbria and is the home of the Laurel and Hardy Museum.
While we all know about Stan, here’s some trivia – not in any particular order, some of which you might not have heard, interspersed with some wonderful still images. Many of these are not often seen, certainly not in such a high resolution and are taken from across his career. Again – not in any particular order!
Born as Arthur Stanley Jefferson, theatre was in his blood as his father, Arthur Jefferson, was a theatre manager and his mother, Margaret Jefferson, was an actress.
Stan and Charlie Chaplin travelled together to America with the Fred Karno Troupe. and often shared a room while on tour. Despite this, Chaplin doesn’t mention Stan once in his autobiography.
When Stan moved to the United States, he registered for military service during the First World War. He was never called up however due to his resident alien status and apparently his flat feet(!) and deafness…
Stan occasionally used the phrase ‘the Little fellow’ to describe his on screen character, at five feet eight he was in fact taller than than Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon, and all of the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. The height and weight of Babe (six foot two) contributed to his being considered a smaller man.
The popular ‘Simpsons’ catchphrase, ‘D’oh!’ has its origins in the Laurel and Hardy films. Much loved Scottish actor James Finlayson, or ‘Fin’ who appeared 33 times with Laurel and Hardy often said it when exasperated!
In the films where Bowlers were worn – there were a great many other hats he used – Stan wore a Bowler hat a size or two smaller so that it sat higher on his head. In the films where they mix up their hats, Ollie wore a larger size than normal so that it would look humorously oversized on Stan while Stan’s was substituted for an even smaller size to go on Ollie’s head.
Stan Laurel was presented with the Annual Screen Actors Guild award in the sixties ‘for outstanding achievement in foster the finest ideals of the acting profession and advancing the principles of good citizenship.’
Stan had a chequered marital life! He married his first wife once, his second wife twice, and his third wife three times. He then went back and married his second wife for athird time, and concluded by marrying his fourth wife once.
He and Babe were contracted by Hal Roach Jr to star in a series of TV specials – to be called ‘Laurel and Hardy’s Fabulous Fables’ but they were never made due to Stan’s and then Babe’s failing health.
Beside his passion for comedy and film-making Stan’s did have other interests. These included fishing and hydroponic gardening (a process in which plants are grown in chemical solutions rather than soil). He once successfully cross-bred a potato with an onion! Perhaps unsurprisingly, he struggled to get anyone to sample the results.
Stan’s first film Nuts in May (1917) in which he played a mental patient, won him a contract with Universal but the contract was not renewed and he returned to vaudeville.
When Babe died in 1957, Stan was devastated. He retired from acting and refused to perform on stage or act in another film without him. Sadly, he was too ill to attend the funeral of his best friend, saying, “Babe would understand”.
By 1926 Stan had decided that his true vocation was in writing and directing instead of performing comedy.
Stan was the creative force behind most of the Laurel and Hardy catalogue. He worked non-stop, often long into the night writing and editing their films. When asked a question about a gag or story line, Babe would always point to Stan and simply say “ask Stan”.
Peter Sellers, a big fan of Stan’s said of the voice he used for ‘Chance’ the gardener in Being There ” … very clear enunciation, slightly American with a touch of Stan Laurel mixed in”. Tony Hancock was also a fan and also visited Stan in the 60’s
As a boy, his early education took place at a kindergarten in a house in Dockwray Square, North Shields, where his family lived, and at King James 1 Grammar school in Bishop Auckland, as a boarder. Stan said he thought this was because he was always getting into mischief and trouble at home.
In his final years, Stan’s personal phone number was in the phone book so fans could contact him and he replied to all his fan-mail by hand – on his little typewriter. Dick Van Dyke was desperate to meet his hero, and famously just found his number in the phone book, called him up and the pair became firm friends
Stan outlived Babe who passed away at 65 in August 1957. Like Babe, Stan was a heavy smoker but decided to quit suddenly around 1960. Five years later he died of a heart attack on February 23 1965.
We hope you’ve found a thing or two you didn’t know about Stan, or perhaps have seen an image for the first time. If you’d like to leave your own birthday tribute, or just would like to leave a comment, please use the box below. We’d live to hear from you and all thoughts will receive a response on this page