|Natalie Wood gets served in "The Great Race"|
On a primal level, what's funnier than a pie in the face? Pie fights were ubiquitous in the early days of film comedy. But take a close look at those pies - they're not like Mom's. They had a texture to them that stuck to a face long after impact, giving the actor plenty of time to mug. As a youngster, I always wondered how those pies were made. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have found recipes to share with you, FLiP reader!
An Atlas Obscura post describes The Keystone Kops' pies as "heavy-duty pastry and especially slurpy custard.” Pie fights were such a signature part of those films, a bakery across the street from Mack Sennett's studio made nothing but custom pies for them.
Buster Keaton described his pies as two crusts glued together with a flour and water paste, so as not to collapse in the hand of the thrower. The pies had a thick
flour-and-water paste filling, to stick to the face. They would add chocolate or strawberry to the mix if a particular pie tone was desired. For instance, if the victim was light haired, or wearing white, the pie would be dark toned to show up on black and white film. The pies were topped with whipped cream for impact spray.
A Slate post reveals Moe Howard's secret pie recipe as "whipped cream, marshmallow sauce and pumpkin filling". The marshmallows made them extra sticky to the face, and the sound effect added impact.
Soupy Sales brought pie comedy into the Television era with his show in the 50's. According to News from Me, his recipe was simply pie crust and shaving cream. Being a live show, this allowed for fast clean up. He would sell the impact with a bang sound effect ( a gun shot?) and by throwing his head back on impact.
Great Race Pie
This glorious Technicolor pie fight involved anywhere from 2500 to 4000 pies. Because it was color film, the pies were filled with custard and various fruit fillings like blueberry, lemon, and raspberry. It was shot over five days, with the stench of spoiled custard becoming so bad, the set needed to be totally cleaned and the remnants recreated for continuity.
I always wished Twin Peaks did a pie fight sequence, but alas....
Okay, now get baking. And if you've watched these clips and did not laugh once, we can't be friends.