Stan Laurel dies

February 23, 1965

By Peter Bowen | February 23, 2010
Stan Laurel Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel may have died from complications from a heart attack in 1965, but his professional life had ended eight years earlier when his longtime comedy partner Oliver Hardy passed away from a severe stroke.

Stan Laurel may have died from complications from a heart attack in 1965, but his professional life had ended eight years earlier when his longtime comedy partner Oliver Hardy passed away from a severe stroke. Although Laurel began show business alone, he never felt his career took off until he teamed up with Hardy, the oversized blubbery comic who gave the rail-thin Laurel’s idiot persona heft and humor. Born in England in 1890, Laurel took to acting early (even briefly serving as Charles Chaplin’s understudy) before moving to America and beginning a film career. By 1927, Laurel was about to give up acting for directing and writing when he started to work with Oliver Hardy. The pair’s comic chemistry was obvious from the start and Hal Roach studio immediately set into motion a series of Laurel and Hardy short film comedies. By the time they stopped making films in 1950, the two had appeared in well over 100 films. Despite their equal billing, Laurel was the real creative force behind the team—writing, directing, and editing their work. Throughout the fifties, the two continued to perform in theater performances. After Hardy’s death, Laurel suffered a brief breakdown, unable to even attend his friend’s funeral. While he was routinely asked to perform, even being offered a plum role in Stanley Krammer’s 1963 big-budget comedy It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, he stayed home, communicating to fans, even taking phone calls from anyone he wanted to speak to him. Dick Van Dyke became a close friend by simply looking him up in the phone book.  Despite his sorrow, Laurel never lost his sense of humor. When he died, his epitaph read: “If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again."

Read more about Stan Laurel in a piece by his biographer, Simon Louvish »

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