Dr. Strangelove's "pie fight" ending (lost alternate ending of Stanley Kubrick film; 1963)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a 1964 black comedy film directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. The film was intended as a satire of the Cold War and the public's attitudes towards it at the time, and focuses on a group of politicians attempting to prevent a nuclear holocaust after a mentally ill Air Force general orders a strike on the Soviet Union.
The final version of the film ended with the formerly wheelchair-bound title character Dr. Strangelove (played by Peter Sellers) emerging from his wheelchair and taking a few steps, followed by an abrupt cut to a montage of atomic bombs detonating. However, the film's original ending was eleven minutes longer, and featured a large-scale pie fight taking place within the war room. This ending was cut from the film and is now considered lost.
The original ending sequence began with General Turgidson (George C. Scott) noticing the Russian Ambassador (Peter Bull) taking pictures of "the big board" with miniature spy cameras, and tackling him. He asks for permission to bodily search him for more cameras, only to have the Ambassador throw a custard pie from the buffet table at him in rage. Turgidson ducks and the pie hits President Muffley (also Sellers) instead, which prompts a comical pie fight in the War Room that mirrors the setup of an actual battle.
Meanwhile, Strangelove has fallen flat on his face shortly after triumphantly declaring he can walk again. After struggling to get back into his wheelchair, he sees the chaos, and, unbeknownst to him, his sinister black-gloved hand pulls a Luger from his jacket pocket and aims it at his temple. Strangelove then realizes this and wrestles with the gun, resulting in it going off into the air. This catches everyone's attention and the fight stops.
After Strangelove calls everyone to order, they see that the President and the Russian Ambassador are building sand castles from the pie custard in a childlike fashion, having lost their minds. Turgidson announces that from now on, the country belongs in the hands of people like Strangelove, and the scene ends with the men giving him a cheer.
Multiple reasons were given as to why the sequence was cut. For one, the film was coincidentally being edited around the time President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, with the first test screening scheduled for the very same date of November 22, 1963. Ultimately, the scene where President Muffley is struck with a pie and Turgidson announces "Our president has been struck down in his prime!" was thought to be too close to the situation and may have been considered offensive.
In addition, Kubrick felt that the pie fight itself (which was supposed to be a metaphor for war) was not played in a serious fashion like he intended, as most of the actors were smiling and laughing. Because of this, Kubrick claims that the scene had already been taken out before the assassination as it was inconsistent with the rest of the film's tone. Regardless of the reason, the ending was put in the bin meant for cut scenes, and then, according to editor Anthony Harvey, was misplaced and lost. Only a few production stills are known to still exist.
- The Criterion Collection's synopsis of the film Retrieved 22 Jul '17.
- BFI article on the lost ending Retrieved 22 Jul '17.
- Wired article containing excerpts from Terry Southern's Notes from the War Room Retrieved 22 Jul '17.
- Interview with editor Anthony Harvey Retrieved 22 Jul '17.