Although he has never met her, Elmer Butts loves Hortense secretly and from afar. He dreams of making a million dollars so he can buy her a Rolls automobile and marry her. With prohibition apparently on the verge of ending, Elmer's friend Jimmy Potts gets an idea to make them both rich by opening a brewery just before the legalization of alcoholic beverages. Their timing is off, and the police raid them, but their inept brewing has created a beer with no alcohol, so they are let off. But it has also resulted in a cheaply made beer, and bootlegger Spike Moran realizes that he can vastly increase his profits by partnering with Elmer and Jimmy. But none of them reckons with the competitor, another bootlegger, gangster Butch Lorado. Butch has a girlfriend....Elmer's dream girl, Hortense. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Having heard for years how bad this film is, I must concur with the previous reviewer, who said "not that bad." This was the last of the three films where Keaton was teamed with Jimmy Durante, and while this is not as good a film overall as SPEAK EASILY, it IS better than THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER (although PP includes some great individual scenes), and also it is the only film of the three where Keaton and Durante work together as an actual comedy team. Much has been written about Keaton's alcohol abuse during the shooting of this film (in fact, Keaton was fired from MGM for that, even though WHAT NO BEER was a smash hit at the box office!), but since the Elmer character he is playing is basically a stoic, introverted guy, it's not too evident...and anyway, a pro like Keaton could deliver this uninspired dialogue in his sleep. The plot--involving Durante and Keaton starting a brewery near the end of prohibition and facing the wrath of both the police and the bootlegging underworld--allows for a number of good comic set-ups, the scene with Keaton explaining his business practices to the gangsters is particularly funny. Keaton's US career would revive a few years later when he began making his much-underrated comedy shorts at Educational Pictures, but WHAT NO BEER is the last film of his initial sound period at MGM, and as such it is a historic film. Also, it's an entertaining comedy with Keaton still in OK form.
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