Elmer Tuttle, a plumber in Paris, is enlisted by beautiful Patricia Alden to help her make her lover Tony Lagorce jealous. Tony, however, is two-timing Patricia with Nina Estrados. Elmer, with the help of his friend Julius, hopes to use the high-society contacts he's made with Patricia to find a market for his new invention, a pistol with a range-finding light. But Elmer's attempts to interest a military leader are mistaken for assassination attempts, and with Tony and half the male uppercrust of France challenging Elmer to duels, he is in hot water not even his plumbing skills can drain away. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
This film ushers in a dark, dark period for Buster Keaton fans
This movie marks the darkest period for Buster Keaton and his fans. While the transition to sound for Keaton was very poor (after all, MGM studios tried to make this great mime a talking star), the PASSIONATE PLUMBER marks the beginning of the end of Keaton's career. That's because this was the first of three films that paired Keaton with Jimmy Durante--a "comedian" whose style was the exact opposite of Keaton's. Keaton's humor was physical and sweet, while Durante was extremely loud and overbearing and the two styles meshed like oil and water. It was obvious that the execs at MGM had no idea what to do with Keaton and pairing him with Durante was a sign that they had "jumped the shark"--in other words, they were trying desperate measures to try to salvage a career that had already peaked.
Now this isn't to say that Keaton couldn't have been funny. Had his films remained true to his strengths (physical humor and a general likability), he could have remained a viable star. Chaplin did this by refusing to immediately switch to sound films--making CITY LIGHTS (1931) and MODERN TIMES (1936) as silent movies even when everyone had switched to sound long before these films. It's really too bad that MGM didn't do what they did with Laurel and Hardy. This team did work for MGM technically speaking, but MGM allowed the affiliated Hal Roach Studio almost complete independence to do what they knew how to do best. Perhaps if Keaton had been sent to Roach, his sound career would have been a success. But with the gag writers at MGM, he was sunk.
This film is worse than his previous sound outings because Keaton is given almost no physical gags at all. The few that he does have are among the best moments in the film because they are genuine--gags that suit Keaton's style. But the rest of the film is so talky and forgettable that it will most likely make Keaton fans (like myself) wince. And, while I know some Durante fans might take offense, he came off as just obnoxious and annoying!
The film is called the PASSIONATE PLUMBER, though Keaton spends very little time plumbing. The beginning of the film involves more scenes with Durante and Keaton--while the last half of the film they don't appear in that many scenes together (thank goodness). During this phase of the film, Keaton mostly annoys those around him and is invited to a series of duels due to his incessant and annoying bumbling. For the remainder of the film, he tags along with a young woman as her aide. She has gotten him to promise never to leave her side because she's afraid she'll lose control and allow Gilbert Rolland to make love to her. So, through over half the film, you see Keaton essentially following her and that's all there is to the plot.
Sadly throughout all of this, there are almost no laughs at all--a serious problem with a comedy! Only at the very end, when it degenerates to slapstick, does the film show any promise--but then the final credits roll and you are left thinking "is that all there is?".
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