Who is excited to watch the Oscars this year? The Academy Award nominees include some truly amazing films and performances, and we can’t wait to see who takes home the big prizes! In honor of this year’s Oscars, we’re combining our love for pies and movies to bring you this brief history of pies in film.
Pie in the Face
The pie in the face is a quintessential marker of classic slapstick comedy. While pies were thrown in faces before the advent of the motion picture industry, this comedic antic quickly gained fame in the silent film era in slapstick comedies. The first pie used in a film was in the 1909 silent picture Mr. Flip. In this film, the title character receives a (completely deserved) pie in his face after sexually harassing a string of women.
Pies in the face quickly became a staple in some of the most popular comedies of the silent film era. Pies appeared in films like Charlie Chaplin’s Behind the Screen (1916), and Laurel and Hardy’s The Battle of the Century (1927), which boasted the use of 3,000 cream pies in its epic pie fight scene. This particular pie fight scene gained renewed attention in 2015 when the full footage of the scene was rediscovered after being lost for 60 years.
The Three Stooges are often the first act that comes to mind when we think about pies in slapstick comedy. Between 1930 and 1960, the infamous comedic trio made 220 movies, many of which featured pie throwing scenes. They even named two films after the pastry: Pies and Guys and In the Sweet Pie and Pie.
Evolution of Pie Scenes
While pie in the face scenes fell out of favor over the next few decades, they had another heyday with the 1965 slapstick film The Great Race. This movie’s pie scene was proclaimed to be “the greatest pie fight ever.” It featured a whopping 4,000 pies, beating out Laurel and Hardy’s earlier record.
Since the time of The Three Stooges, pie throwing as a comedic act has become a bit cliché. However, filmmakers are still finding ways to use a pie in the face to make a point. The 1986 film Heartburn, based on Nora Ephron’s novel of the same name, features a dramatic pie in the face scene.
At a dinner party, food writer Rachel (Meryl Streep) realizes that her cheating husband Mark (Jack Nicholson) will never change his philandering ways. She calmly walks into the kitchen, grabs her homemade key lime pie, and shoves it into Mark’s face. Talk about sweet revenge.
Pies in Film Today
With pie in the face scenes in movies today, they often nod to earlier slapstick comedies or represent a recognized cliché. However, pies still play a starring role in movies and not all bring on laughs.
The 2007 movie Waitress centers its entire plot on a woman who uses her love of making pies to get through life’s difficulties. And the romantic drama Labor Day (2013), starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, features a much-talked-about scene where they make a peach pie together.
Of course, pies still have their moments of fun. In The Help (2011), maid and cook Minnie exacts revenge on her racist employer Hilly by giving her a chocolate pie with a secret ingredient. (If you don’t know what that means, check out our blog on our 4 Favorite Pie Scenes in Movies).
In conclusion, modern films use pies to evoke a wide range of emotions and reactions, from laughter to tears. We look forward to seeing how pie scenes in movies continue to evolve in the years to come.