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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>
HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS YET? When it was announced that a picture would be produced, based on the return of beer, the public besieged theatres with inquiries about it. It's here now with those funny "Speak Easily" boys bringing you 100% laughs from 4% beer. See more »
As good as any of Keaton's other MGM sound films...
... but I have to admit that Jimmy Durante is doing much of the heavy lifting, particularly in the first half. The plot revolves around a misunderstanding that Jimmy (Jimmy Durante) and Elmer (Buster Keaton) have about the nationwide vote on repealing prohibition. They think that because repeal passes at the polls that Prohibition is automatically repealed, when in fact the law is still completely in force. Thus, the next day, Jimmy has Elmer take out his life savings of ten thousand dollars as a down payment on an old repossessed brewery. The two enlist a trio of unemployed men sleeping in the brewery to help them make beer and they hang a sign outside of the brewery advertising that they are selling beer. Instead of being stampeded by the public though, it is the police that are at the door. The only thing that saves the pair from ten years in Leavenworth is that they are incompetent brewers - their beer has a head but no kick - there's not a drop of alcohol in any of it.
So now when the original trio of unemployed guys sleeping in the brewery dig up a long out-of-work master brewer Jimmy has a brainstorm. The cops already think that he and Elmer are just making "near beer" - an old Prohibition era concoction with the taste of beer minus the alcohol, so there will be no second raid. Jimmy decides to use the brewer to make real beer and real money so Elmer doesn't lose his life savings on the brewery which they have heavily mortgaged. Jimmy lies to Elmer about all of this because he knows Elmer is too honest a fellow to have anything to do with bootlegging. But it isn't long before local gangsters - real bootleggers with real guns - notice there's a down-turn in their business caused by Jimmy and Elmer's beer. A further complication - Elmer is in love from afar with the head gangster's girl.
How will all of this work out? Watch and find out.
This film moved along briskly with several very clever comic twists and turns, and although in this film Durante is Keaton's equal in the comic participation, I really couldn't say that Keaton seemed inebriated, although he did seem to have extra heavy make-up on perhaps to cover up his condition. Durante just seems to be handling the verbal end of the comedy and Keaton stays where he is most comfortable - in the physical and pantomime end of comedy. There's even a repeat of the Seven Chances avalanche at one point, with Keaton and everybody else for that matter, running for their lives not from boulders but from beer barrels.
This is far better than the tiresome "Sidewalks of New York" from two years before, and from what I've read this film did very good business at the box office. With Keaton and Durante having finally gotten comfortable in their comic partnership I'm surprised Louis B. Mayer would have fired Keaton. But then Louis B. always was a sentimental fellow - he never let profit get in the way of his animosity.
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