Stan Laurel

English actor (1890–1965)

Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson; 16 June 189023 February 1965) was an English comic actor, writer, and film director who was part of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. He appeared with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles.

Young Stan Laurel, circa 1920

QuotesEdit

 

If they ever do a film of my life—and I hope they won't—I'd like Dick to play me. He's one of the very, very few comedians around who knows how to use his body for real comedy.
 

It's a strange thing, but we really only got to know each other in the last years of his life.
When we were making pictures together, we never saw each other off the set. As soon as the picture was finished, he'd go his way and I'd go mine. We both had our own circle of friends and our own interests. [...] After we were out of pictures, we did a lot of touring in Europe together and that's when we got to know each other intimately.
  • It has to be visual stuff. Too many radio writers are writing radio gags for television, which is a visual medium.
  • It's a strange thing, but we really only got to know each other in the last years of his life. When we were making pictures together, we never saw each other off the set. As soon as the picture was finished, he'd go his way and I'd go mine. We both had our own circle of friends and our own interests. [...] After we were out of pictures, we did a lot of touring in Europe together and that's when we got to know each other intimately. You couldn't help it—you had to be together much of the time at theatres, in hotels, at press parties and on trains.
    • "Stan Laurel Recalls Career in Comedy" by Bob Thomas (AP) Plainfield Courier-News (December 4, 1957), p. 51
  • [He can't stand to watch their old comedies on TV because] because they're so cut up. [...] I wish I could have edited them. They seem too slow nowadays. That was because we had to leave time between the gags for the audience to laugh. You don't need that spread in TV.
    • Ibid.
  • I don't see many people anymore. It's a long way out here to Santa Monica. And I can't go any place. I have diabetes and still haven't completely recovered from the stroke I had in 1955, so all I can do is stay in the apartment here and watch the ocean and television. About the only visitor I have, except for my family, is Jerry Lewis. He's been after me to work as a comedy consultant on his movies. Once he came out here and stayed seven hours. We had a lot of laughs. But, as for working again, I can't. I'm all washed up in this business.
    • As quoted in "French Mime Calls Stan 'Greatest'" by James Bacon (AP), Binghamton Press (February 25, 1961), p. 15
  • We had different hobbies. He likes horses and golf. You know my hobby—and I married them all.
    • Ibid.
  • I suppose we had very little of what you'd call family life. We were very seldom all together. I was almost always either in boarding school or living with my grandparents in Ulverston were I was born, but still, strange as it may seem, we were always a close family.
    • As quoted in Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy (1961) by James McCabe, p. 17
  • I remember one time Charlie and I were walking over to the theater all dressed up, hanky up the sleeve, spats, double-breasted coat, carrying canes—and on the way there we became aware of Nature's urgent call. Now, public conveniences are a regular part of English life, but they certainly aren't in America. We searched high and low and couldn't find accommodation. Finally, in desperation, we asked a cop where the nearest public convenience was. "The nearest what?" the cop yelled. We asked again, very politely. He finally got our drift and said very loudly, "Aw, hell, you'll have to go to a saloon, mister!" Mind you, we were now in a pretty anxious state. We got to a saloon and started down the aisle, as it were, when we realized that we hadn't purchased anything to warrant our use of the facilities. These polite Englishmen. So, tortured as we were, we marched up to the bar very bravely, ordered a beer and sipped it for a few seconds before we flew away.
    • As quoted in Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy (1961) by James McCabe, pp. 34–35
  • I wish they’d re-release When Knights Were Cold... I guess maybe I’d like to see it again because it has one beautifully funny sequence that I’ve never seen in movies, either before or since. We had an army of knights in a chase sequence. There were over three hundred of them working with basket horses… the circus-clown type horses, with the men’s legs extending beneath the little papier-mâché horses built around them. It was hilarious, like some of those circus routines. There were a lot of routines we did in those days that have been forgotten today. Comics today rely too much on the line gag and not the visual gag. I think that Hollywood comics these days are talking too much and not doing enough.
    • As quoted in Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy (1961) by James McCabe, p. 109
  • The only thing worth remembering about it, I guess, is that the part of the whimpering butler that I played in it gave me the first real mannerism that definitely became a part of my later character when I was teamed with Hardy. In the film, I was a very timid chap, running around and reacting with horror to everything that went on around me. To emphasize this, I cried at one point, screwed my face up—and have used it ever since. Funny thing about that cry, though; it's the only mannerism I ever used in the films that I didn't like. I remember years later when we would be improvising something on the set and we came to a pause where we couldn't think of anything to do—or had a dull moment—Roach would always insist that I use the cry. It always got a laugh, and it sure became a part of my standard equipment, but somehow I never had any affection for it.
  • We never tried to use funny clothing. Of course, there were times when we would wear odd garments for a special humorous effect, but as far as our two characters were concerned, we never tried to get very far from what was real. We always wore a stand-up collar but there wasn't anything unreal about them, especially in the twenties and early thirties. Stand-up collars were formal and slightly different, but never too obviously so. They gave us, together with our derbies, a something we felt these characters needed—a kind of phony dignity. There's nothing funnier than a guy being dignified and dumb. [...] The derby hat to me has always seemed part of a comic's make-up for as far back as I can remember. I'm sure that's why Charlie wore one. Most of the comics we saw as boys wore them, so I guess you'd say that's one item that's strictly in the public domain.
    • Op. cit., p. 135
  • So terribly funny. He can still make me laugh like crazy after all these years.
  • Another 'great,' and I use that word very carefully, not the way Milton Berle uses it. One of the reasons I love Buster so much is because he lives comedy as well as practices it. Some of his things are better than Chaplin's.
  • He and Jolson were wonderful entertainers the like of which you don't see anymore. They weren't comedians really, but funny singing entertainers of the kind I used to see and love in the English music hall. It's a shame that young performers these days aren't remotely like them.
  • A real craftsman. He knows what consistent comedy characterization is. The only criticism I have is that once in a while he holds after his laughs too long. He milks those holds on occasion and he shouldn't.
  • Something rare these days—a wit.
  • He keeps imitating himself, but he has much talent and I think in time he will do first rate comedy. I hope so. But he he's going to have to learn artistic discipline.
  • If they ever do a film of my life—and I hope they won't—I'd like Dick to play me. He's one of the very, very few comedians around who knows how to use his body for real comedy.
  • Who are these people? What are they? I don't understand this business of their being billed as 'stars'. What are they stars of? Who made them stars? As far as I can see, they don't do anything but read some questions from cards or a machine. The terrible thing about some of them is that they think they can act or read funny lines, for God's sake. And even worse than that is the fact that the audience seems to accept them on these terms. These people aren't talents, or even bad talents. They are simply non-talents.
    • On television M.C.'s; op. cit., p. 243
  • About those boys, I don't care how rough you treat them. I can't tell you how much it hurt me to do those pictures, and how ashamed I am of them. We wouldn't have done them if we didn't have to eat. I kept thinking that sooner or later they would let us do the pictures in our own way, but it just got worse and worse, and we couldn't take it any more. I didn't always see eye to eye with Roach, but for the most part he left us alone, and I'll always be grateful to Hal for that. But those Fox people! You can give it to them good.
    • On the exceedingly demoralizing half-decade—1941 through 1945, primarily with 20th Century Fox—by which point they were little more than hired players, reading lines; op. cit., p. 238
  • I hope that the motto can be blue and grey, showing two derbies with these words superimposed: "Two Minds Without a Single Thought."

Quotes about LaurelEdit

 

Stan Laurel is a slap-stick comedian who really can act, and it is not only due to the situations which are given him that the fun is raised, but by the use he makes of them.
Kinematograph Weekly
(Jun 7, 1923)
(reviewing Laurel's performance as "Rhubarb Vaselino")
  • Stan Laurel is a slap-stick comedian who really can act, and it is not only due to the situations which are given him that the fun is raised, but by the use he makes of them. He occasionally copies little actions used by Charlie Chaplin, but he does not literally imitate him, and since he has found it necessary to copy someone, he could not have found a better model.
  • Laurel is now one of Hal Roach's stars, and his comedies have given him plenty of room in which to sparkle. The Laurel brand of screen nonsense is a combination of fine burlesque and pure [[absurdity]. In three of his recent two-reel subjects he built up screamingly funny travesties of well-known feature productions and appears to have entered into a field in which he has no competition. Laurel's keen sense of values has made possible a new and welcome type of motion picture comedies. From time to time burlesques of current screen successes have been brought out, but no comedian but Laurel has seen the possibilities in this line of work. For general all-around nonsense Laurel easily wins the palm. It may not appear strikingly original to hitch a horse to a sulky, wrong end to, but as it is done on the screen in a comedy to be released soon it is a high point of fun. Laurel's personality and his utterly inane grin have much to do with "putting over" such bits of business and it is to these two possessions that he undoubtedly owes his success.
  • Ollie's projection of emotions like frustration, agitation and shyness was masterful, and so was Stan Laurel's conception of the harried, ineffectual soul.
    • Jerry Lewis, as quoted in "Tuning in on TV: It's Not Just for Laughs" by Don Nelsen, New York Daily News (April 14, 1957), Coloroto Magazine, p. 4
  • Chaplin, Dullin, Copeau, Barrault and Stan Laurel have shown that it is possible to combine the best of tradition with modern and individual approaches.
    • Marcel Marceau, as quoted in "Eloquence Without Words: The Art of Marcel Marceau," The Stage (February 14, 1952), p. 1
  • I am now in the home of the master.
    • Marcel Marceau, as quoted in "French Mime Calls Stan 'Greatest'" by James Bacon (AP), Binghamton Press (February 25, 1961), p. 15
  • All mimes in the world owe much to Stan Laurel. To them, Stan Laurel is a maître. He is of the mime that goes back through history to the very oldest days of the juggler and the comic troubadour. In those days they did not need much of a story. What they had principally was lazzi—or comic tricks. These perhaps look simple—like bumping into someone you don't see at first and then backing off in surprise and fear—but these things are not easy to do and do gracefully and do funnily. [...] Now, there are many people who can do these things in a funny way but it is only a master like Stan or Charlie who can do these things in a very, very funny way to make us laugh out loud, heartily. Stan comes from the same school as Charlie—the music hall. And so many great artists come from there. They all speak the universal language of the movement of the body. They can be both comic and tragic, sometimes at the same moment. Both Stan and Charlie have different styles, of course, and Charlie developed more into social comedy, but they are basically the same kind of comedians if you watch them closely.
    • Marcel Marceau, as quoted in Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy (1961) by James McCabe, pp. 207–208
  • He was forever leaving home, away for two or three days at a time. He refused to explain where he had been when he returned. [...] And he frequently told me that I could not get a divorce fast enough to suit him. I decided life with a film comedian was anything but funny.
  • I don't know what would have happened to the Laurel and Hardy films if it hadn't been for Stan. He was the one who usually took an idea from Roach would have and bring it to life. He was usually the one who suggested to Babe the various things that could be done. In a sense, he is the spirit behind the films—but all of it could not have happened if those three men hadn't met at the right place and at the right time.
    • Charley Rogers, as quoted in Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy (1961) by James McCabe, pp. 99–100
  • Stan's a good boy, but he's got a marrying complex.
    • Virginia Ruth Rogers (the spouse in two of Laurel's five marriages), as quoted in "Stan Laurel's Divorce Fought; First Wife Tells of Seeing Woman With Comedian," Oakland Tribune (January 15, 1938), p. 13
  • Stan's influence decided me to go into show business in the first place, and his influence molded my point of view, my attitude about comedy.
    • Dick Van Dyke, as quoted in Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy (1961) by James McCabe, pp. 3–4
  • When Stan passed away, his little desk there was awash with fan mail that had been pouring in from all over the world as it had been for most of his later life; he insisted on sitting there, at that little portable typewriter and answering every one of them, personally, and of course he was so far back—months and months behind in the answering, but he wouldn't give up. He never gave up on anything; he never gave up on life and most of all, he never gave up that God-given mirth that he had.
    • Dick Van Dyke, op. cit., p. 4

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