Friday, February 23, 2007


On this day in 1965, we lost one of the most amzing comedians of all times, Mr. Stanley Arthur Jefferson better known in the world of slapstick comedy as the incredible Stan Laurel. My affection for this man is boundless. I can watch him together with Oliver Hardy countless times (and I have) and still laugh at the same places and find new delights to laugh at. Of course his teaming with Oliver Hardy was a pure God-send and was a total accident. Oliver Hardy had burned himself removing a huge leg of lamb from his home oven and couldn't appear with another actor for a certain picture-- the delay for Hardy's recovery that the burn required made the other actor forced to go on to his next comittment-- and Stan (who was only going to direct the picture) was asked to fill in. Well that was the most happy accident of all time. The chemistry between Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy was a brew made in heaven itself.
They made some of the funniest pictures of all time including the one film that I picture here: "The Music Box" which was the only Laurel & Hardy film to receive an Oscar. I've seen them all including the classic "Big Business". In this film Laurel & Hardy are selling Christmas trees and try to sell one to Scottish comic star Jimmy Finlayson. He refuses and slams the door-- and that would be funny enough-- but in this film the tree gets stuck in the door and the war begins. Pretty sooon the entire house is demolished. Now here is the funny part: Hal roach had arranged to purchase the house in its and its considerable contents because the owner was moving to Europe and didn't want to moving expenses. Well guess what? The film makers went to the WRONG house on the same street and because nobody locked their houses in those days, the Hal Roach Studio crew just set up and started filming the whole scripted scenario. Can you imagine coming home to find laurel & hardy destroying your home? The secret to understanding the Laurel & hardy team is to understand that Oliver Hardy was dumber than Stan but didn't know it!In 1961, Laurel won a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in the field of comedy. He had achieved his lifelong dream as a comedian and had been involved in nearly 190 movies. He spent his final years living in a small apartment in the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica. Always gracious to fans, he spent much of this time meticulously answering fan mail. His phone number was listed in the Santa Monica telephone directory, and fans were amazed that they could simply dial the number and find themselves talking to Stan Laurel.
He died on this day February 23, 1965 several days after suffering a heart attack. A comedian until the very last, Stan Laurel, just minutes away from death, told to his nurse he would not mind going skiing right at that very moment. Somewhat taken aback, the nurse replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. "I'm not," said Stan, "I'd rather be doing that than have all these needles stuck into me!". A few minutes later the nurse looked in on him again and found that Stan Laurel had quietly slipped away.Dick Van Dyke a friend and protege of Laurel's during his later years, gave the eulogy at his funeral; the great silent screen comedian Buster Keaton was overheard at Laurel's funeral giving his assessment of the comedian's considerable talents: "Chaplin wasn't the funniest, I wasn't the funniest, this man was the funniest".Stan Laurel even wrote his own epitaph; "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again." He was buried at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
In 1989 a statue of Laurel was erected in Dockwray Square, North Shields , where he lived at No. 8 from 1897 to 1902 , and where the steps down from the Square to the North Shields Fish Quay were said to have inspired the piano-moving scene in The Music Box!

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