The Battle of the Century - Exploitation

Publicity circulated by the studio in connection with THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY:

Hal Roach called these funny boys 'finds' -- critics call them the sensation of the season!

I believe they will strike the note of public fancy to such an extent that within a year they will rank with Lloyd, Chaplin, and other comic geniuses -- Hal Roach


The pressbook makes no attempt to conceal the film's inspiration -- it was the Dempsey-Tunney fight. Actually promoting that connection was the principal component of the ad campaign. One of the suggested advertising catchlines reads, "If you saw the big fight in Chicago, or if you didn't see it, you will get the laugh of your life when you see THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY starring Stan laurel and Oliver Hardy. Its a knockout!"

So the new comedy team received billing, although officially their films were being distributed to theatres under the "All Stars" brand name. The theatre poster art carried this line, "Hal Roach presents his All Stars in THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy."

It is interesting that on the set of eight lobby cards, only two showed pies, or what used to be pies. The three-sheet poster depicted the pie fight, the one-sheet showed the prizefight.

According to the pressbook, "The one-sheet poster on this production portrays a burlesque of the big Chicago fight of the same name and will make possible window displays of great interest in every sporting goods store. Together with this poster arrange an assortment of boxing gloves, etc., and a placard calling attention to the showing at your theatre."

Resourceful exhibitors did implement ideas of this sort. It was showmanship, it was fun, and it worked.

Almost three weeks before the picture's general domestic release, on December 10, 1927, MOVING PICTURE WORLD published a huge story with a banner headline reading, "Little Features With A Wallop," and subhead declaring, "Franklin 'Shoots the Works' on Hal Roach's BATTLE OF CENTURY."

Some excerpts: "Harold B. Franklin, President of West Coast Theatres, will, it is announced, give his booking of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, in THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY, a splurge in advertising and exploitation seldom lavished upon a worthy super-feature.

"The Metropolitan, in Los Angeles, and all of the remaining houses in the big chain, will play this little Hal Roach feature to a blizzard of paper and a levee-bursting flood of ink, to which will be added trailers, lobby cards, radio tie-ups, etc., without end, seemingly....

"There will be posted in Los Angeles, one-hundred 24-sheets prepared especially for this production.

"Special newspaper space will be used in addition to that ordinarily used by Metropolitan. Two special ad cuts are being prepared, one to be a reproduction of the 24-sheet poster and the other to resemble the usual ads of the theatre, these to be sent to all subsequent houses to be used when the comedy plays those theatres.

"A trailer is being made for use at the Metropolitan in advance of the opening and copies of this trailer will also be supplied to the subsequent runs.

"At the Metropolitan, heavy advance copy will be used on the screen, in the programs and lobby cards for the week preceding the opening.

"All key points in the Southern Division will carry trailers, cuts, stories, lobby cards, and snipes on all postings of six-sheets and more, calling attention to this comedy team.

"A special radio hook-up is also being arranged for Laurel & Hardy, so that their broadcasting will coincide with the showing of their pictures at Wesco Theatres.

"The Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles is to run the picture two weeks after the Metropolitan, all de luxe houses a week later, and all subsequent runs to follow immediately.

"When Hal Roach was in New York recently he made no secret of the fact that he attaches great importance to the comedy value of his new ace comedians, Laurel and Hardy. At the time he said he fully expects this comedy team to reach the same heights of popularity as other headliners that achieved recognition beneath the Roach banner."

So ... Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, on the radio, on a hundred billboards, and in a theatrical coming attractions trailer -- like nearly half the film itself, all now vanished without a trace. Except for this obscure trade paper account, not even a pie crumb of evidence survives that such a campaign was ever cooked up.

-- by Richard W. Bann --