‘Three actors use pie throwing for comedic effect in the 1947 flick ‘The Perils of Pauline.’
Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images
by Anne Ewbank,
One of the last places you might expect to find a commemorative plaque is on a concrete self-storage building in Los Angeles.
But there, on 1712 Glendale Blvd., a plaque memorializes what was once a sprawling film lot known as Keystone Studios.
The film company, now located in present-day Echo Park, was famed for its uproarious slapstick comedies—particularly those involving tossed pies.For over a century, flinging a pie into someone’s face has been a comedy trope, thanks in part to Keystone.
Established in 1912 by director Mack Sennett, the studio was once touted as a comedy pioneer, and had a hand in making pie-throwing ubiquitous.
Yet pie-tossing is a more common stunt in the popular imagination than it is in reality.
This phenomenon can be traced back before the earliest days of pre-1920s silent film.
Tossing a pie into someone’s face for comedic effect first existed on the vaudeville circuit. The hilarity of seeing an elegant dessert hit an an actor, and watching them react with either anger or bewilderment, soon made its way to the screen.
In 1913, Sennett’s muse Mabel Normand and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle “launched the first such missile in a Keystone film,” notes The Oxford Companion to Food.
Soon, the studio became known for pie-tossing shenanigans, and the high-flying desserts flew so freely that the studio needed its own bakery to make them.