In May 1943, two American soldiers, Joe and Frank, of Italian descent are searching the North African desert for a German general called Von Kassler, when they are captured by Von Kassler ... See full summary »
Starting in 1913 movie director Connors discovers singer Molly Adair. As she becomes a star she marries an actor, so Connors fires them. She asks for him as director of her next film. Many silent stars shown making the transition to sound.
Frankie, on naval-reserve duty in Tahiti, doesn't trust Dee Dee to stay faithful, so he hires Bwana, a witch doctor, to help. Bwana conjures up a floating bikini, "stuffs" it with Cassandra... See full summary »
Elmer Doolittle (Buster Keaton), an apprentice seaman doing training at the U. S. Navy's San Diego Training Station, can't seem to keep out of trouble or the brig. Most of his problems ... See full summary »
A twenty-minute, almost totally silent film (no dialogue or music one 'shhh!') in which Buster Keaton attempts to evade observation by an all-seeing eye. But, as the film is based around ... See full summary »
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>
Buster Keaton's last starring Hollywood feature is all about the joy of unrestricted boozing, but leaves a sour aftertaste.
Taxidermist Elmer J. Butts (Buster) decides to invest his life savings on what pal Jimmy Potts (Jimmy Durante) calls "the idea of a century...a bonzana," namely brewing beer to satisfy the public's appetite after voting down Prohibition. "A hundred and twenty cracked lips are straining at the leash," Jimmy says. The problem is Prohibition is not yet officially repealed, putting Elmer and Jimmy in the gunsights of both gangsters and the police.
Durante and Keaton had already made two comedies together, and while at least one of them, "Speak Easily" (despite the title, not about Prohibition or drinking) is modestly amusing, "What! No Beer?" is a painful demonstration of their lack of chemistry, and Keaton's poor condition as divorce and drink took their toll. Keaton is almost inanimate for much of the movie, while Durante overcompensates with his signature malaprops and heavy body English.
In one scene, Elmer and Jimmy try to make beer in an abandoned brewery with the help of some hobos. By now, Buster's screen persona had been reduced to fey simpleton. Told to add a can of malt extract to their mixture, he throws the entire can into the tub. Later, he tries to cap bottles with a hammer, crushing them into shards. There's also a fire hose that gets everyone wet.
Later on, Elmer and Jimmy face some angry cops about to put them away for their illicit brewing. While Jimmy rants up a storm, Buster struggles silently to keep his balance, handcuffed to his friend. It's supposed to be funny because Buster falls down a lot, but it hurts to watch him so badly used as a prop.
Was Buster drunk through the entire film? One suspects he was at best hung over, as his facial reactions are frequently slow and unsteady. Facing the steamroller that was Durante, he seems resigned to his sad fate most of the way. One scene, where Jimmy explains he is only making fake "St. Louis Beer," exposes Buster in clearly soused condition. He is in no shape here to make the kind of comedy Keaton was a master of, even when the subject is alcohol. Potts is the one character in this film we are supposed to think is not a drinker.
Durante's material is little better. Apparently, the creative team just let him rip with his "hot-cha-chas" and hoped audiences would be forgiving. Told by Elmer that one of the stuffed animals is a kangaroo, "a native of Australia," Jimmy smacks his forehead and exclaims: "My sister married one of them!"
However weak the joke, someone at M-G-M must have liked it, as it gets three callbacks later in the movie.
Director Edward Sedgwick was the credited helmer of "The Cameraman," Buster's great comedy made just five years before. It's hard to believe Sedgwick could do no better for his old star than recycle quality gags from "Seven Chances" and "Spite Marriage" in diluted form. But that's what happens here.
I enjoyed one line of Durante's, when he tells Elmer that they don't have to come up with real money to buy their brewery: "This is high finance. You don't have to pay cash." Phyllis Barry reminds me of Kay Francis and delivers some sexy presence late in the film, but she did no better than Buster as her Hollywood career sank after this.
In the end, there's a big build-up that comes out of left field to save our heroes, followed by a rare bit of political commentary from M-G-M when Durante proclaims Prohibition's coming end. It's one valid moment in a painfully contorted affair; Buster's sad fate here offers ample evidence how Prohibition only worsened the condition of problem drinkers.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?