|Battle of the Century|
|Directed by||Clyde Bruckman|
|Written by||Hal Roach |
|Produced by||Hal Roach|
|Edited by||Richard C. Currier|
|Music by||Leroy Shield|
|Languages||Silent film |
The film is famous for using more than 3,000 cream pies (an edition of the Guinness Book of Records on film history says as many as 10,000 may have been used) in the film's climactic pie fight. For many years, its second reel, containing the pie fight, only survived as the three minutes of fragments used in the 1950s documentaries of Robert Youngson, but the complete reel was rediscovered in 2015. It was released to the public on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 16, 2020 as part of a compilation of remastered Laurel & Hardy films released by Kit Parker Films, titled "The Definitive Restorations". That year, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.
A broke Hardy enrolls Laurel in a boxing match for which the victor will receive $100. Despite knocking down his opponent in the first round, the man is not counted-out (because of the actions of the referee), causing Laurel to lose the fight.
Afterward, in a nearby park, an insurance salesman persuades a despondent Hardy to invest the $5 received by the loser in an insurance policy on Laurel, but in order for Hardy to pocket the insurance money Stan has to get injured. Hardy thus places a banana skin on a sidewalk and takes the unsuspecting Laurel there, but a pastry chef slips on it instead, gets angry with Hardy, and throws a pie in his face. Hardy responds in kind, and soon the entire block is involved in an epic pie battle.
Although The Battle of the Century is officially a Laurel and Hardy picture (they are jointly billed above the title on the opening caption as Hal Roach presents Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in...), the duo had yet to fully take on their recognisable characters. For instance, their screen characters are not yet called Stan and Ollie.
The pie-in-the-face as a cinema cliché: Stan Laurel said throwing a single pie would be a dreadful cliché, so ...let’s give them so many pies that there never will be room for any more pie pictures in the whole history of the movies.
Lost film status
For many years, footage from the climactic pie fight was the only known surviving material from The Battle of the Century, until the opening reel, with the boxing match, was discovered in 1979 by Richard Feiner. At that point, the sequence in the park involving Eugene Pallette as the insurance salesman was missing, as was the final gag where a policeman receives a pie in his face and promptly chases Laurel and Hardy down the street in the fade-out.
What is believed to be the entire film was once broadcast on Spanish television (station TVE1) during the 1970s, including scenes of:
- A customer in a barber's chair receiving a faceful of pie whilst being shaved; and
- A drinker in a saloon or cafe being hit by a pie, then buying two pies from the establishment's owner and leaving with them to take part in the pie melee outside.
In June 2015, it was announced at the Mostly Lost film workshop in Culpeper, Virginia that the second reel of The Battle of the Century had been rediscovered by film archivist and accompanist Jon C Mirsalis as a 16mm print from the original 35mm negative. The second reel was found by Mirsalis in the film collection of the late Gordon Berkow, who had acquired the collection of the late Robert Youngson. Youngson had received the reel as a preview print while working on his 1957 documentary The Golden Age of Comedy. The film was initially restored by Lobster Films, with subsequent restoration by Jeff Joseph in partnership with the UCLA Film Archive. The first official screening was at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2015, followed by a screening at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2015.
On April 8, 2017, it was shown at the Toronto Silent Film Festival, with live accompaniment by Ben Model; and on May 29, 2017 it was shown at the Southend Film Festival with live accompaniment by Adam Ramet. It was screened at the Mostly Lost film workshop in June 2016, on the one-year anniversary of the original announcement, with Mirsalis accompanying it on piano.
- Stan Laurel - Canvasback Clump
- Oliver Hardy - Manager
- Noah Young - Thunderclap Callahan
- Eugene Pallette - Insurance agent
- Charlie Hall - Pie delivery man
- Sam Lufkin - Boxing referee
- Gene Morgan - Ring announcer
- Steve Murphy - Callahan's second
- George B. French - Dentist
- Dick Sutherland - Dental patient
- Anita Garvin - Woman who slips on pie
- Dick Gilbert - Sewer worker
- Wilson Benge - Pie victim with top hat
- Jack O'Brien - Shoeshine patron
- Ellinor Vanderveer - Lady in car
- Lyle Tayo - Woman at window
- Dorothy Coburn - Pie victim
- Al Hallett - Pie victim
- Lou Costello - Ringside spectator (extra)
- Jack Hill - Ringside spectator (extra)
- Ham Kinsey - Ringside spectator (extra)
- Ed Brandenburg - Warring pedestrian
- Bob O'Connor - Warring pedestrian
- Bert Roach
- Dorothea Wolbert
- Charley Young
- The Battle of the Century at silentera.com
- The Guinness Book on Film History
- This was ironic, since Youngson had been sent the complete second reel as a 16mm preview reel in 1957, and it survived in his personal film archive, from which it was eventually recovered
- Barry, Dan (July 8, 2015). "Comedy's Sweet Weapon: The Cream Pie". New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- Alter, Rebecca (December 14, 2020). "Shrek Has Been Inducted Into the National Film Registry". Vulture. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
- The fight scene was a spoof on a then-recent boxing match in which Gene Tunney defeated Jack Dempsey after a referee’s controversial long count
- “Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy: An Affectionate Biography,” by John McCabe.
- The Battle of the Century - In the Cast. laurel-and-hardy.com, retrieved January 20, 2017.
- "Images - The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy". Imagesjournal.com. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
- Barry, Dan (July 8, 2015). "Comedy's Sweet Weapon: The Cream Pie". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
- "The Battle of the Century and Other Comedy Restorations | Silent Film Festival". www.silentfilm.org. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
- Rediscovered Laurel and Hardy – The Battle of the Century BFI Website, Retrieved September 8, 2015.