Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson; 16 June 1890 – 23 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.
Laurel began his career in music hall, where he appropriated a number of his standard comic devices: the bowler hat, the deep comic gravity and the nonsensical understatement. His performances polished his skills at pantomime and music hall sketches. Laurel was a member of "Fred Karno's Army", where he was Charlie Chaplin's understudy. With Chaplin, the two arrived in the United States on the same ship from the United Kingdom with the Karno troupe. Laurel began his film career in 1917 and made his final appearance in 1951. From 1928 onwards, he appeared exclusively with Hardy. Laurel officially retired from the screen following his comedy partner's death in 1957.
In 1961, Laurel was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. Laurel and Hardy ranked top among best double acts and seventh overall in a 2005 UK poll to find the Comedians' Comedian. In 2009, a bronze statue of the duo was unveiled in Laurel's home town of Ulverston.
Laurel was a heavy smoker until suddenly quitting around 1960. In January 1965, he underwent a series of x-rays for an infection on the roof of his mouth. He died on 23 February 1965, aged 74, four days after suffering a heart attack on 19 February. Just minutes away from death, Laurel told his nurse that 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 Laurel, "I'd rather be doing that than this!" A few minutes later, the nurse looked in on him again and found that he had died quietly in his armchair.
At his funeral, silent screen comedian Buster Keaton was overheard talking about Laurel's talent: "Chaplin wasn't the funniest, I wasn't the funniest, this man was the funniest." Dick Van Dyke gave the eulogy at Laurel's funeral, as a friend, protégé, and occasional impressionist of Laurel during his later years; he read "The Clown's Prayer". Laurel had earlier quipped: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again." Laurel was cremated and his ashes were interred in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery.