John McCabe

Author, actor, professor

Author, actor, professor and Laurel & Hardy expert John McCabe died Sept. 27 of congenital heart failure in Petoskey, Mich. He was 84.

McCabe’s 1961 book “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy” brought the comedy duo a newfound critical respect, and McCabe went on to found the Sons Of The Desert, the Intl. Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society, in 1965.

The irreverent society’s motto was “two minds without a single thought,” and its constitution mentions the word “cocktail” in eight of its 10 points on how to conduct a meeting.

He met Laurel and Hardy while they were performing in a British music hall while he was studying Shakespeare in England, and was inspired to write the book that became the definitive guide to their career.

Born in Detroit, he started acting at age of 7, appearing with stock companies there. After earning a doctorate from the Shakespeare Institute of the U. of Birmingham in England, he began his teaching career at Wayne State U. in Detroit in 1948. A longtime professor at Lake Superior State Univ. in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., he was known for his annual list of banished words, which he began issuing in the 1970s.

His other books included “George M. Cohan: The Man Who Owned Broadway,” “The Comedy World of Stan Laurel,” “Laurel and Hardy,” “Cagney by Cagney,” (ghostwritten with James Cagney), “Charlie Chaplin,” “Grand Hotel: Mackinac Island,” “Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy” and “Cagney.”

He appeared in several Laurel and Hardy documentaries, including “Cuckoo,” “Revenge of the Sons of the Desert” and the Laurel and Hardy episode of the BBC show “Living Famously.” He also appears on the “Yankee Doodle Dandy” DVD released by Warner Bros. In addition, he hosted the syndicated TV series “The Laurel and Hardy Show” in 1986.

He is surived by wife Karen and three children.

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