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Battling Butler (1926)

Not Rated | | Comedy | 19 September 1926 (USA)
A love-struck weakling must pretend to be boxer in order to gain respect from the family of the girl he loves.

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Writers:

(adapted by: from the stage success of the same name) (as Paul Gerard Smith), (adapted by: from the stage success of the same name) | 2 more credits »
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1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Snitz Edwards ...
Alfred's Valet
...
Walter James ...
Budd Fine ...
...
Mary O'Brien ...
Butler's Wife
Tom Wilson ...
Butler's Trainer
...
Butler's Manager
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Storyline

Alfred's father wants him to make of a man of himself so sends him off on a hunting and fishing trip. He doesn't catch or shoot anything, but he does fall in love with a mountain girl. When her father and brothers laugh at this they are informed that he is Alfred "Battling" Butler, the championship fighter. From there on the masquerade must be maintained. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

boxing | bare chested male | See All (2) »

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

19 September 1926 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Boxe por Amor  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A rare example of a Buster Keaton movie being based on a stage play. The original ran for 313 performances on Broadway. See more »

Goofs

Buster and his valet take the train into "Mountain Girl's" hometown, so that Buster can confess that he's not the new champion; yet when circumstances require that his subterfuge continue, and he leaves to go to train for the fight vs. the Alabama Murderer, they drive away to the training camp in Buster's car. See more »

Crazy Credits

The "THE END" test is shown on a boxing bell. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
A knock-down success
23 February 2006 | by (England) – See all my reviews

Neither the prospect of eighty minutes of biting headwind nor snow showers has been able to keep me from the National Film Theatre over the three weeks so far of its Buster Keaton season, and every time the films have yet to disappoint: "Battling Butler" is no exception! I'd instantly give this a 9 if only I could justify it relative to the early scenes; despite the pitch of enthusiasm I'd reached by the end of the film, I'm still not quite sure in all fairness that I can.

It definitely takes a while to get up to speed (at the start, I took the father to be a doctor giving his sickly son only three months to live!) and for the initial reel or so it depends largely on a single extended gag -- the elegant fop's complete unsuitability for an outdoor environment. Alfred's elaborate al-fresco living arrangements echo Keaton's trademark fascination with complicated contrivances, and there's one very typical bit of misdirection where we wait for the shotgun's recoil to knock Alfred backwards into the water, only for a somewhat different turn of events to prove his downfall; but this film doesn't come properly to life until its hero engages our sympathy as well as being a walking joke. In "The General", we engage with Johnnie Gray almost immediately -- in "Battling Butler", Alfred remained a cipher for me until the moment when he nervously rehearses "Beatrice Faircatch"'s newspaper advice on making a proposal, with such an earnest air: it's funny, but it's also touching, and it's no coincidence that it is with his subsequent first steps towards standing on his own two feet -- tearing up and throwing aside the useless newspaper column -- that Alfred Butler may finally be said to have progressed beyond a simple one-dimensional character, and the film can really begin.

From here on the picture becomes a Keaton classic, sweeping the hapless hero further and further from the cushioned normality of his life with a series of escalating and plausible coincidences. Ultimately the worm will turn, of course -- but not in the time and manner that we are expecting. And Keaton acts here not just with that famous face but with every line of his whole body: triumph, exhaustion, despair, apprehension, indignation, timidity, pugnacity... and finally, in the last scene, sublime confidence in his own skin, modelling a costume so incongruous that only Buster Keaton could carry it off with such genuine elegance!

The scenes of Alfred's ordeal are hilarious and moving by degrees -- it's almost impossible to analyse Keaton's appeal. 'Sweet' is quite definitely the wrong word, as is 'lovable': Buster is no Little Tramp. 'Bittersweet' might be closer to the mark... or 'poignant'; the metaphor of the man who gets knocked down but keeps on trying has never been more apt. There is a brief vivid moment when Alfred, bewildered and worn out, turns his face aside into the arms of his second with such a hopeless little air that instead of a laugh, it raised a murmur of pity from the auditorium. But Keaton never allows himself to milk the audience for sympathy -- the best of his films may mingle laughter through tears, but he never falls into the trap of sentimentality.

I'm not sure if this is among the best of Keaton's films... but it's certainly one of those I've ultimately enjoyed the most so far. I've changed my mind: I'll give it a 9 after all, and say I'm dropping a mark down instead from a 10! :-)


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