Stanley Laurel, best known from the comic duo Laurel and Hardy, was born June 16, 1890 in Ulverston, Cumbria, England. His birth name was Arthur Stanley Jefferson.
Stanley’s father, A.J. Jefferson, was a vaudeville actor and stage manager, and introducing Stanley to his first stage appearance by the early age of 16.
Laurel began travelling with Fred Karno’s vaudeville act, and was an understudy for comedic icon Charles Chaplin. One of Laurel’s acts mimicked Chaplin, and eventually developed this act into “The Keystone Trio”. It was very successful.
The troupe travelled back and forth from the United States to England, and soon Laurel was offered a role that encouraged him to stay in the United States. In 1917 he was in his first silent movie called “Soup to Nuts” that is considered a classic today.
Laurel’s fame grew with each of his performances, and after achieving substantial financial success he opened his own production company called Stan Laurel Productions. He financed low budget musical westerns, which were his favorite genre, but they were not financially successful. His accountants encouraged him to drop this financial burden and eventually he gave it up.
Laurel had one common law wife and married five times. He lived with his common law wife Mae Laurel from 1918 to 1925. They had one son together who died nine days after his birth in 1930. His first marriage to Lois Nielson was in 1925 and lasted 10 years. His second marriage to Virginia Ruth Rogers was in 1935 and lasted two years. Three years later he married his third wife, Vera Ivanova Shuvalova, and that marriage lasted two years. He remarried Virginia for another five years, from 1941 to 1946. And his fifth marriage was to Ida Kitaeva in 1946.
In 1926 he was cast in a role with Oliver Hardy. They became lifelong friends. Laurel was the creative force behind the team. He is credited for working late into the night to write and edit their films.
It is believed that when Hardy died in 1957 Laurel suffered a nervous breakdown and never fully recovered. He was offered many roles after Hardy died, but he did not accept them.
Laurel died on February 23, 1965 of heart failure. His good friend Dick Van Dyke delivered his eulogy at the funeral. He is interred at Forest Lawn, Los Angeles, California.