Stan Laurel probably wasn’t as funny as Oliver Hardy, or at least wasn’t as intuitively and naturally funny an actor. What Stan Laurel was, was an auteur, in his own way as compete an auteur as Woody Allen. And he was born on Bloomsday – June 16th (OK, fourteen years BEFORE Bloomsday, but still.)
Stan Laurel was that rarest of things, a perfectionist control freak who was NOT an egomaniac. A bunch of people were given end credit recognition for stuff that Stan Laurel actually did. Laurel and Hardy movies were never better than when Stan Laurel enjoyed complete creative control over every aspect of the production, but at no point did Stan Laurel require artistic or authorial credit for crafting such exquisite and controlled works of art . Furthermore, he was well aware that people wanted to see Laurel and Hardy movies, not Stan Laurel movies. In addition, Stan Laurel had immense respect for Oliver Hardy as a comic actor and wished to provide him with as many opportunities as possible to be as funny as possible.
Nowadays, when so many relationships are soured by jealousy, disappointment, fear, pride and distrust, it’s both chastening and inspiring to be reminded of two men whose many problems never included one another. Laurel and Hardy had problems with the studios, with contracts, with money, and their own poor health – but never with one another.
If we compare Laurel and Hardy with Simon and Garfunkel (and who doesn’t from time to time?), the contrast is striking.
Paul Simon sits scowling as Art Garfunkel gets applause for singing a Paul Simon song.
Stan Laurel was a nobler artist than Paul Simon. There. I said it.