The Battle of the Century (1927)

"The big fight - ringside seats extended as far west as

Produced by Hal Roach
Directed by Clyde A. Bruckman

Featuring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Eugene Pallette, Charlie Hall


With no explanation of how he wound up in a prizefight, a less than fierce-looking Stan is introduced at ringside as "Canvasback Clump." His opponent, huge and ferocious, is Thunder-Clap Callahan, "who will probably win," says the ring announcer to a roaring crowd. In Stan's corner, his manager, Ollie, optimistically assures him, "Nothin' to it....If we win, we get $l00. If we lose, we get $5. That's a difference of $1,500." In round one, the powerful Thunder-Clap accidentally runs into a "punch," and falls in a beefy heap. But Stan misunderstands the referee's instructions and fails to move to a neutral corner. This delays the count and allows the now dagger-eyed pugilist to recover and quickly wilt Stan with a single blow.

The contest over, Ollie reacts with disgust, as the packed house files out. Next morning, quietly passing the day on a park bench, the boys are recognized by a fight fan (Gene Pallette). He happens to be an insurance agent. "Listen," Gene tells Ollie so Stan cannot hear, "for $5 you can insure that fellow. Then if he gets hurt, you get the money." Seizing another opportunity, Ollie takes Stan's $5 purse and signs the accident insurance policy -- using a faulty pen which splatters his face with ink. Later, walking through town, the twosome bumps into things. Several times. Genuine accidents. Not contrived. Stan collides with a washer. Ollie runs into a victrola. Stan slips on a banana peel and exclaims, "I might have broken my neck!" Not until this moment does inspiration strike Ollie. He grabs and hides a banana, now hoping to cause an accident and collect on the insurance proceeds. Ollie strategically plants this second banana skin and tries several times inducing the newly-insured Stan to trip, leading him back and forth as they stroll along. Ollie miscalculates. Instead, a cop walks by, is upended, and not pleased. There follows a minor altercation. Meanwhile the banana peel has come to rest in the path of a delivery man (Charlie Hall) carrying trays of fresh-baked pies out of his shop and loading his truck. He slips on the banana skin, the pies fly up ... and plop, plop, plop! Sitting on the sidewalk surrounded by his spoiled pies, the steaming baker spies Ollie sheepishly trying to hand what's left of his banana to Stan. This provokes measured mutual abuse between Hall and Hardy, escalating into a battle royal that slowly surges and eventually consumes each passerby in the crossfire and retaliation until an entire neighborhood and hundreds of unsuspecting pedestrians and merchants are drenched in dripping pastry! At the apex of combat, the air is filled with flying baked goods. The gooey ammunition is supplied Stan and Ollie, having retired to the sidelines, from the open truck of the well-stocked L.A. Pie Co. Then sensing it's time to retreat from the chaotic carnage they've caused, the boys dispose of their last pies. Stan tosses one away that somehow lands all by itself on the last stretch of quiet sidewalk. A chic woman minding her own business (Anita Garvin) glides by, slips and goes down. Her frozen, mortified expression betrays Anita's punctured dignity and the discomfort of sitting in something moist, mushy, and unknown to her! As the regal lady gets up slowly, she looks around for witnesses to her shame. Then exiting around a corner, she uncomfortably lifts her leg, twitching beneath her skirt to shake loose whatever might still be clinging to her decorous derriere. Finally after the many variations on pie-splattering indignities have been exhausted, a representative of the ever-vigilant police force shows up just in time to casually inquire of an amused Stan and Ollie, just who might have started this terrible pie fight? Which then is shown via a wonderful elevated shot to encompass an entire city block choked with airborne baked goods. Ollie, soaked in sugary-fruited goo, asks innocently, "What pie fight?" Out of nowhere, that instant -- splat! A pie smacks across the cop's kisser and he chases Stan and Ollie into the end title.

-- by Richard W. Bann --