Hollywood - A couple of guys who like to fish went down to the sea the other day, armed with $5,000 worth of fishing tackle. For seven hours they cruised up and down the waves off Catalina Island. But they didn't catch a thing; not even a cold.
One of the guys was Stan Laurel, who finds time to act in the movies when he isn't fishing. On screen he's funny. Fishing he's amazingly unfunny.
The other was your correspondent, who fully expected the expensive array of piscatorial gadgets to lure nothing short of a whale, and who half expected that more impetuous inhabitants of the deep would leap aboard the star's boat, demanding autographed hooks.
Neither of these things happened. Our primary objectives were swordfish, but apparently they were off somewhere else. Perhaps they were off somewhere else. Perhaps they were stanging their annual summer fencing tournament, and couldn't be bothered.
But we had a lot of fun just the same. Laurel's boat, the Ruth L., a 50-foot cabin cruiser, is one of the fastest on the Pacific coast. Hits around 35 knots, wide open. There's a galley, sleeping room for eight, and a pair of comfortable fishing chairs at the stern.
There's a captain, too, a lanky gent with a frozen face. Laurel wouldn't know what to do if the engines sputtered and died, and he seldom takes the wheel himself. The skipper also baits Mr. Laurel's hooks, rules the galley, and keeps everything amazingly ship-shape.
The captain would wash dishes, too, if Laurel didn't like that chore himself. But Stan doesn't wash 'em in approved manner. He grabs a plate like a discus, leans overboard and lets the rushing water lick the plate clean. "Fun," he said. We tried it, too. It was fun.
Ruth Laurel, the comedian's pretty blond wife for whom the boat is named, also likes to fish. She accompanied us and, like all good anglers, didn't moan because the fish wouldn't bite. She dozed off occasionally, assorted rods, and an even dozen reels ranging in size from 50 to 500 yards. There's even a live bait tank hidden beneath an otherwise swanky leather chair. Laurel knows exactly what everything is for and he handles a rod like an expert.
He bought the boat a year ago from a Catalina tuna club member, and the equipment was included. He caught a 171-pound swordfish last summer, but hasn't been able to hook another since (See postscript.) He catches lots of sharks and smaller fish, though.
If his swordfish luck doesn't improve, however, Mr. Laurel is going to crate, or whatever they do to boats, and ship it by steamer to the gulf of Lower California. He'd like to catch a swordfish once a week, at least. And he hears that fishing is better there. "There are hundreds of 'em down there," he says. "They say it's terrific." That's just how nutty Mr. Laurel is about fishing.
Laurel's screen partner, the hefty Mr. Oliver Hardy, seldom goes to sea with the other half of the team, Hardy's a golf bug, which doesn't exactly make Mr. Laurel unhappy, "We can't see the boat when Ollie gets on," says Stan.
A Break at Last
P.S. - A couple of days later Stan caught a 258-pound marlin swordfish in the record time of 44 minutes. The Catalina Tuna club awarded him a gold button, and he's wearing it now every place he goes.
The Daily Independent, Monessen, PA
September 5, 1936
Here and There in Hollywood......
Stan Laurel's face was red, and it wasn't from sunburn, either, when he established a new fishing record off Catalina last week. Hooking what he believed to be a marlin swordfish, the comedian gave battle while dozens of glasses were trained on him from nearby boats. Then Stan's face began getting red. For, at the other end of the line now appeared - a parly submerged packing case.
The Sunday Times Signal
Zanesvill, Ohio - Sunday, November 3, 1938
WHERE BIG FISH PLAY
Fishing isn't so good this time of the year in the Pacific off California. So Stan Laurel will board his 45-foot yacht and cruise to the Gulf of Mexico in search of swordfish and tuna. Meanwhile, the comedian is buying new equipment and reading all books on fishing that he can find to make sure that the big fellows won't get away.
Chronicle Telegram July 14, 1938
Laurel falls overboard on his yacht after catching a Swordfish.
Saturday, August 1, 1936
Los Angeles Times: Jan 24, 1936
The Hammond Times
Thursday, February 3, 1938
by Milton Harker
An interview with Laurel and Hardy on the set of their new comedy, "Swiss Miss"
"I went fishing last Sunday, Stan muses. "I was out there six hours. All I got was a beautiful view of the ships steaming over the horizon.
"I remember one trip when things were different. I was fishing for yellowtails. All of a sudden I got a strike and the line ran out 200 yards. I was startled, I was. Maybe a marlin, I thought to myself. I started to reel in. It was a battle. Finally I put on my harness. It was a terrific struggle, man against beast.
Hours passed and the battle raged. The fish gave in, but not Laurel. Gradually I drew it beside the boat. What do you think it was? An octupus, a very squid, and there he was glaring up at me. What great big eyes he had."
"Why do you talk of trivial things when I have serious problems on my' mind?"
Sad lines came in his plump face. "Has anyone told you I know all about the horses?: he asked. "I'll tell you a story. Saturday I had a great tip on a long shot. I couldn't go down to Santa Anita so I gave $50 to a friend to lay on then nose.
"Then I got working and thinking. Finally I got really worried, so I rushed off the set and telephoned my friend. I just caught him in time.
"Then I was happy. Saturday night I rushed out and bought a paper. What do you think? The horse I was first going to bet on won."
Interestingly, this article came out August 23, 1935 when Van Brunt had clearly passed away one month prior. Perhaps a famous and embarrassed new and unseasoned boat owner, Mr. Stan Laurel, the actual owner, convinced the writer of the Los Angeles Times not to print his name and rather the late Van Brunt. By the way, Laurel, ironically had an investment in farming kelp a short time later.
Not so surprisingly, two days later, August 25, 1936, the Los Angeles Times printed an article that Stan Laurel caught a 171-lb marlin. Of course on the same yacht caught in the kelp bed. See this article below. Surely, Laurel was happy with this one.
Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1979
excerpt from Dream Boats From a Time Long Gone
Reading over these old Yachting pages reminded me that this is how proper yachts should look. As a teen-ager, I'd spent many happy hours rowing about Avalon Harbor in a borrowed dinghy, admiring th yachts of the early 1920s. I also hoped to catch a glimpse on deck of some of their famous owners - Charles Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Cecil B. DeMille. Avalon was a favorite rendezvous of the movie colony for years.
Los Angeles Times August 23, 1936
By Art Lauring
excerpt from Southern Sea-Anglers Reap Fish Harvests
Thus far the largest fish brought to gaff enhanced the deep-sea angling prestige of Stan Laurel - sad-eyed comedian of Laurel and Hardy fame. His marlin weighed 258 pounds.
Laurel once held a record on the West coast for the largest marlin caught at 258 pounds. He caught this off his yacht, the Ruth L.
Stan named his mynah bird, Yogi. Yogi was supposedly his favorite pet and went on many trips on the Ruth L. to Catalina. Laurel liked Yogi so much he had a part written in one of his movies for the bird in the script of "Bohemian Girl."
Fred Quimby (Tom & Jerry Creator), Dorothy Hope (Writer), Ruth Laurel, and Stan Laurel on top of the main cabin of the Ruth L. off of Catalina Island.
Laurel showing off one of his eight yellowtail tuna.
Los Angeles Times October 5, 1935
excerpt from Sugar and Spice
By Alma Whitaker
Dorothy Hope, clever and much too-pretty English magazine writer, whose spouse is a film producer in London, is making her annual trip to Hollywood. She spent the weekend on Stan Laurel's boat and tells of his too-smart Minah bird from India, which talks more clearly and intelligently than a parrot. Still, its manners need correcting. When Dorothy told it that it was a "beautiful bird," it snorted "Nuts!"