Oliver Hardy was born to Scottish/English parents in Harlem, Georgia on January 18, 1892. His…
The early life of Stan Laurel
While Stan Laurel was best know for being half of the famous duo of Laurel and Hardy he had a life both before and after with its own rich story. Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on June 16, 1890 in Ulverston in the county of Cumbria, England (then Ulverston, Lancanshire) to his parents Arthur and Madge Jefferson. Both were active in the theatre and helped form Laurel’s love of the theatre. He attended Kin James I Grammar School and The King’s school, during which time his father managed a number of theatres, including the Eden Theatre in Bishop Auckland, long since demolished.
Stan Laurel started as supporting comedian
Stan Laurel has a natural feel for the theatre, no doubt helped by the time spent around it, and his first professional performance was when he was sixteen, at the Britannia Panopticon in Glasglow, Scotland. Laurel started off in mostly supporting roles, working his way up the ladder until he became a supporting comedian. He crafted a comedy act largely derivative of famous music hall comedians of the day there which included the work of the likes of George Robey and Dan Leno.
Stan Laurel joined Fred Karno’s troupe
Stan Laurel joined Fred Karno’s troupe of actors in 1910 which included the likes of Charlie Chaplin. Laurel was Chaplin’s understudy for some time actually. The troupe is responsible for bringing Laurel and Chaplin to the United States for the first time and he immigrated in 1912. He teamed up with Alice and Bladwin Cooke from 1916 to 1918 and they became good friends. It was also during this time he appeared in ‘The Lucky Dog’ with Oliver Hardy in 1917.
Stan Laurel, Mae Dahlberg and Lois Nielson
About this time he met Mae Dahlberg who was a large influence in his life. He shortened his name to Stan worrying that Stanley Jefferson was too long to fit a playbill and he adopted the name of Laurel at her suggestion as well. They were performing together when he was offered a deal starring in two-reel comedies. By 1924 he had left behind his stage career to work exclusively in film.
Stan laurel was under contract to Joe Rock under the stipulation that Dahlberg did not appear in the films. She was considered to be a hindrance and was offered money to go back to her native Australia so Laurel could work without distractions. Hardly a year later, he married his first wife, Lois Nielson. Stan Laurel went on to join the Hal Roach studio and started directing films instead of starring in them, or at least that was his intention. Fate obviously had different intentions.
How panchromatic film helped Stan Laurel
One thing which almost held him back was his pale blue eyes. Movies of the time were often filmed in orthochromatic film which caused them to appear white as it was “blue blind” and gave him the appearance of blindness. Once panchromatic film was used his eyes showed up properly and his career started to be equally visible. George Stevens who was a cameraman for Hal Roach was able to get a supply of the panchromatic film and was Laurel’s cameraman for his short films at Roach. He later became an acclaimed director/producer no doubt from his thorough knowledge of film and how to best capture the actors on it.