Today in History... Stan Laurel dies, aged 74

Stan Laurel formed one half of the most popular comedy teams of the early-to-mid Classical Hollywood era, appearing in 106 films and on stage throughout America and Europe.

Born in Lancashire, England, in 1890, Laurel originally intended to forget acting and pursue a career as a writer and director.

Fate, however, intervened. In 1927, a fellow member of the Hal Roach Studios comedy All Star Players injured himself in a kitchen mishap, leaving Laurel to stand-in.

Funny men: Laurel and Hardy

That injured actor was Oliver Hardy - and it wasn't long before they began appearing together onscreen.

The Laurel and Hardy series was born, with early appearances including in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup.

The duo continued starring in films together until their final movie, Atoll K, filmed from 1950-51. After that, they retired from the screen.

On August 7, 1957, Oliver Hardy died. Laurel didn't attend his funeral - "Babe would understand," he reportedly said at the time. According to those who knew Laurel, he was utterly devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered.

Laurel chose to never act again without his long-time friend. Instead, he returned to where he began: writing gags and sketches for other comedians.

In 1961, Laurel was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy which, by then, had included involvement in up-to 190 films.

This collection of Laurel and Hardy scripts and scenarios sold for $21,960

Years later, several days after suffering a heart attack, aged 74, Laurel told a nurse he wouldn't mind going skiing right at that very moment.

The nurse responded that she wasn't aware that Laurel was a skier.

"I'm not," said Laurel. "I'd rather be doing that then have all these needles stuck into me!" Minutes later, the nurse looked in on Laurel to find he had died.

Perhaps the greatest compliment ever paid Laurel was overheard at his funeral, said by fellow silent comedy legend Buster Keaton.

"Charle Chaplin wasn't the funniest," said Keaton, "I wasn't the funniest - this man was the funniest."

Today, Laurel and Hardy's work remains perennially classic, and the talent which underpinned it still inspires comedians and actors to this day.

Collectors eager to get a piece of that magic had an opportunity as recently as last week, when a collection of original working Laurel and Hardy scripts appeared at auction.

The collection of scripts and scenarios - including for 1927's The Second Hundred Years War, their "first official" film and 1935's Thicker than Water, their final short - went under the hammer.

It sold to a lucky winning bidder at Bonhams for $21,960.



Images: Bonhams


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