Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire (now Ulverston, Cumbria), England. Oliver Hardy (born Oliver Norvell Hardy) was born in Harlem, Georgia near Augusta, Georgia, in the United States of America. He was nicknamed 'Babe'.
Laurel began his career as a comedian in English music halls where he was an understudy to Charles Chaplin in Fred Karno's comedy company. He emigrated to America in 1910 and resumed a vaudeville career. He made his first film appearance in 1917. He stayed in film and did minor and undistinguished work for Hal Roach, Anderson and Universal. While working for Roach he met Hardy. Before Hardy started his film career as an actor in 1913 (Outwitting Dad), he had been a cinema owner. The very first pre-Roach encounter of the two comedians in a film took place in The Lucky Dog (1920/21). They first appeared in the same Roach film in 45 Minutes From Hollywood (1926) and Roach saw something that led him to put them together in their 'first' two-reel film, Putting Pants on Philip (1927) directed by Leo McCarey, who went on to direct the majority of their early shorts. However their characterisations had yet to be discovered.
They made a great number of popular shorts before their first long feature with director James Parrott, Pardon Us (1931). The duo reduced the number of shorts they made to concentrate on longer, but clearly less satisfying, works from then on, but still made the classic short The Music Box in 1932. They stopped making shorts in 1935, until when their longer works were Pack Up Your Troubles (1932), Fra Diavolo (1933), Sons of the Desert (1933) and Babes in Toyland (1934). By 1936 the relationship between Laurel and Hardy was under strain and both of them were distanced from Roach. The duo's other films with MGM were Bonnie Scotland (1935), The Bohemian Girl (1936), Our Relations (1936), Way Out West (1937, which includes the famous song On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine), Swiss Miss (1938), and Blockheads (1938). In 1938 they left MGM and made three more films before in 1940 they split with Roach too. They set up their own production company, making a further eight films up to 1945. They made one final film together in 1951, the French-set Atoll K aka Utopia, directed by Léo Joannon.
Throughout their career the driving force was Laurel, who wrote the scripts and sometimes produced, and always insisted on being paid twice as much as Hardy.
The official Laurel and Hardy appreciation society is known as The Sons of the Desert after a fraternal society in the film of the same name. It was founded in New York in 1965 with the sanction of Stan Laurel.
Oliver Hardy died in 1957 and was interred in The Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, California. Laurel controversially did not attend his partner's funeral, explaining his absence with the line "Babe would understand." Stan Laurel died in Santa Monica in 1965 and is buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.
Their famous signature tune is known as the Cuckoo Song.