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Los Angeles Self-Storage Facility Honored as Birth Site of Pie-Throwing Motion-Picture Comedy

A Los Angeles self-storage facility owned by real estate investment trust Public Storage Inc. now displays a plaque identifying it as the site of a former movie studio—but not just any studio. Keystone Studios at 1712 Glendale Blvd., established in 1912, is credited with making pie-throwing a staple of slapstick comedy. It helped launch the career of Charlie Chaplin, among other entertainers.

The studio was best known for producing comedic scenes in which a pie in the face was common. A plaque on a corner of the last remaining original building reads, “This was the birthplace of the motion picture comedy,” according to a source.

Though pie-throwing had been a common practice to bait laughs on vaudeville stages, Keystone founder Mack Sennett launched cinema's first custard-pie-to-the-face in the 1913 film “A Noise From the Deep.” In the infamous scene, comedian Mabel Normand, playing a farmgirl, hits farmhand Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in the face with a pie, according to Filmsite.org.

Pie-tossing became such a part of Keystone productions that it contracted a bakery across the street to formulate specialty pies that would work well on film depending on the shot and who was to be hit. While pies used in the studio’s films were mostly light-colored, consisting of flour and water, a chocolate or strawberry garnish was typically added for a scene in which a blonde character or someone wearing a light suit was the target. As pie fights in movies grew in popularity, the Sarah Brener bakery made nothing else but pies for films, a source reported.

Keystone’s success earned Sennett the moniker, “The King of Comedy.” The declaration is part of the commemorative plaque, which has its own colorful history. In 1954, the NBC television show “This Is Your Life” dedicated the plaque to Sennett, but it was installed in the wrong spot. It stood for several years on an obelisk behind a fence outside a printing building, which had once served as the city’s first permanent filmmaking facility, Selig-Polyscope, according to a source. Sennett’s studio was actually about two blocks south in an area once known as Edendale.

When the printing building was eventually demolished, film buffs rescued the plaque in 2007 and gave it to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, which restored it. It was correctly positioned next to one of the Keystone sound stages in February 2015.

The Public Storage location isn’t the only self-storage facility in Los Angeles linked to movie history. In 2016, Extra Space Storage Inc. acquired the former studio of award-winning Hollywood makeup artist and special-effects guru Rick Baker and converted it to self-storage.

Based in Glendale, Calif., Public Storage also has interests in 2,392 self-storage facilities in 38 states, with approximately 159 million net rentable square feet.

Sources:
Gastro Obscura, How Pie-Throwing Became a Comedy Standard
The Eastsider, Hollywood Finally Gets Echo Park Film History Right

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