DAILY BRIEFINGIn Your Face
Jul. 17 - Ninety years ago today, audiences attending the silent film A Noise from the Deep observed Mabel Normand striking Fatty Arbuckle in the face with a pie. It was the first use of the pie-in-the-face routine in film history.
It may not seem that remarkable when you consider how much history there'd been in film prior to 1913, but it was an important milestone nonetheless.
The act of hitting someone in the face with a pie was itself nothing new. Hieroglyphics engraved on the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian King Tuthenhorn, for example, depict that merry lord hurling pies of polished stone at his subjects with such force that they were frequently decapitated.
Thucydides and Herodotus both make mention of a great pie battle at Salamis, with the latter observing that "it was a moment of much hilarity until someone hit Xerxes."
Plutarch describes the wanton Messalina "grinding her pie in the face of a slave."
The merriment of the ancient world gradually succumbed to the joyless monotonoy of the middle-ages, however and pie facials were neglected for centuries. The mirth did not resume until 1518, when Martin Luther nailed Pope Leo X with a cream-covered blueberry pie—the first documented case of torte reform.
Roughly a century later, Shakespeare introduced the routine to Elizabethan audiences with memorable pie-in-the-face scenes in King Lear, Hamlet, and Othello. Scholars have recently unearthed a draft of what Shakespeare clearly intended to be his comedic masterwork, "Two Bakers of Venice."
After Shakespeare's pioneering work in the field, the pie-in-the-face became a staple of popular entertainment. Seen in this context, the celebrated Arbuckle pie facial was just one more step on a very long journey. Indeed, being struck in the face by baked goods is likely to remain the most hilarious thing in the world for centuries to come.
Next Time Ask for a Window Seat
Sixty four years ago today, Douglas Corrigan took off from Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field for a cross-country flight to the west coast in his nine-year-old, single-engine Curtiss Robin airplane. Twenty-eight hours later he landed in Dublin, Ireland, thus earning himself the nickname "Wrong Way Corrigan" and becoming the patron saint of baggage handlers.
Birthdays and Holidays
Today is the birthday of Tom Hanks (1955), David Hasselhoff (1952), O.J. Simpson (1946), Donald Sutherland (1934), Phyllis Diller (1917), Art Linkletter (1912), James Cagney (1899), and Erle Stanley Gardner (1899).
It's Constitution Day in South Korea and Flag Day in Norway.
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac