by David Cairns
Custard pies made the news last summer, as a long-lost Laurel & Hardy film, the aptly-named The Battle of the Century (1927), was rediscovered. Containing the legendary double-act’s most extensive pie fight, the movie has been seen only in severely truncated form in recent decades, and the rescued footage is a welcome addition to a filmography whose tantalizing gaps have slowly been disappearing.
The fight itself is a classic, a reminder of how funny and detailed and varied such an activity can be, in the right hands. The first pie is slung by diminutive Charlie Hall, hitting Ollie’s big baby-with-a-tiny-mustache face. The second, Ollie’s retaliatory attempt, goes wide of the mark, according to a long-standing tradition, and explodes over Dorothy Coburn’s shapely ass. She turns to remonstrate and, in accordance with an equally venerable tradition, is hit full in the face by a second crust-load. From here, escalation to total whiteout is as gradual but inevitable as a marital argument or a world war. Soon, an entire street is bustling with gooey combatants, frantically pasting each other with pastries.