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What - No Beer?
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What - No Beer? (1933) More at IMDbPro »

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What - No Beer? -- Two of comedy's greatest masters appear together in this effervescent and irreverent slapstick about a couple of regular guys trying to cash in on the end of Prohibition.


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5.5/10   312 votes »
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Up 55% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Robert E. Hopkins (original story)
Carey Wilson (screenplay)
View company contact information for What - No Beer? on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
10 February 1933 (USA) See more »
THE NATIONAL LAUGH-FEST! (original herald - all caps) See more »
Two men decide to cash in on the end of Prohibition by selling watered down beer. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Money from Foam with Elmer J. Butts See more (14 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Buster Keaton ... Elmer J. Butts

Jimmy Durante ... Jimmy Potts
Roscoe Ates ... Schultz (as Rosco Ates)
Phyllis Barry ... Hortense
John Miljan ... Butch Lorado
Henry Armetta ... Tony
Edward Brophy ... Spike Moran
Charles Dunbar ... Mulligan
Charles Giblyn ... Chief
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sidney Bracey ... Dr. Smith (uncredited)
Eddy Chandler ... Cop (uncredited)
James Donlan ... Al (uncredited)

Billy Engle ... Beer Drinker (uncredited)
Sherry Hall ... Moran's Henchman (uncredited)
Pat Harmon ... Moran's Henchman (uncredited)

George Irving ... Politician (uncredited)
Al Jackson ... Stool Pigeon (uncredited)
Wilbur Mack ... Banker Jordan (uncredited)
Broderick O'Farrell ... Police Chemist (uncredited)
Lee Phelps ... Passer-By (uncredited)
Rolfe Sedan ... Barber (uncredited)
Harry Tenbrook ... Moran's Henchman (uncredited)

Directed by
Edward Sedgwick 
Writing credits
Robert E. Hopkins (original story)

Carey Wilson (screenplay)

Jack Cluett (additional dialogue)

Produced by
Lawrence Weingarten .... producer (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Harold Wenstrom (photographed by)
Film Editing by
Frank Sullivan (film editor)
Art Direction by
Cedric Gibbons 
Production Management
Edward Brophy .... production manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Hugh Boswell .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
Douglas Shearer .... recording director
Other crew
Al Hirschfeld .... title designer (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
65 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
USA:Passed (National Board of Review)

Did You Know?

Movie Connections:
References Seven Chances (1925)See more »
Happy Days Are Here AgainSee more »


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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful.
Money from Foam with Elmer J. Butts, 15 December 2013
Author: lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida

WHAT! NO BEER? (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933), directed by Edward Sedgwick, is a prohibition-era comedy that marked the closing point to Buster Keaton's career as a star comedian for MGM. Having come a long way since becoming the studio's contract player starting with THE CAMERAMAN (1928), WHAT! NO BEER? far from being prime Keaton, ranges from disappointing to enjoyable. Of the Keaton talkies, WHAT, NO BEER? appears to be his better known movie title, particularly by beer drinkers, naturally. It also pairs Keaton once again with Jimmy Durante for the third and final time, here sharing equal billing above the title, being more of a showcase for Durante rather than Keaton himself.

The story introduces Elmer J. Butts (Buster Keaton), a taxidermist, closing shop to attend a political rally as campaigners march down the street holding a sign reading, "Vote for Horace Frisby, the People's Choice." While in attendance, Elmer is smitten by the presence of Hortence (Phyllis Barry), a companion of mob boss and bootlegger, Butch Lorado (John Miljan). Jimmy Potts (Jimmy Durante), a neighborhood barber and Elmer's best pal since babies in a cradle, returning home from a fishing trip, comes upon a get-rich-quick scheme of being the first to open a brewery and sell beer once Prohibition is repealed. Elmer finances Jimmy $10,000 to open up an abandoned brewery where the two go to work manufacturing beer with the assistance of three homeless men (Roscoe Ates, Henry Armetta and Charles Dunbar) they've found flopping about inside the building. As the election voters put an end to Prohibition, it's still not yet outlawed, causing Elmer and Jimmy to encounter further problems with authorities and rival gangsters, Lorando and Spike Moran (Edward Brophy) the latter with the intent of cutting in on their business, creating a gang war in the process.

Considering the numerous times Keaton acquired the "Elmer" name during his MGM years (1928-1933), this would be the only time he assumed the exact same name from another movie, FREE AND EASY (1930). Whether Keaton's character name of Elmer J. Butts from WHAT, NO BEER! is the same one from FREE AND EASY is uncertain. It might very well be two different characters bearing the exact same name played by the very same actor since there's really no evidence of this being a sequel. In FREE AND EASY, Keaton's Elmer is a garage owner who happens in Hollywood where he unintentionally becomes a comedy actor. In WHAT, NO BEER! he's now a taxidermist who keeps portions of his fortune inside stuffed animals. Yet, on the surface, this appears to be the same Elmer J. Butts three years later. His lovesick "Elmer" character could very much be Elmer from DOUGHBOYS (1930) or Homer in SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK (1931). In Keaton tradition, there's a series of pratfalls to get a few laughs. Though many consider Durante a mismatch for Keaton, somehow they work favorably together here, even though Durante gets most of the attention with both his schnozzola with constant catch phase of "hotchichacha!"

With gag material few and far between, the most notable sequence turns out to be the rolling of the barrels down the hilly street, a scene reminiscent of rolling boulders from Keaton's masterpiece, SEVEN CHANCES (Metro, 1925). The boulders from the silent classic is classic Keaton. The re-enactment here makes more sense, though this new sequence, quite short, works much better in silent comedy than in sound comedy. Other minor highlights consist of Keaton and Durante's struggle at the voting booth; Keaton's day in the park with Hortense, and occasional amusing Durante one-liners. Hotchichacha!

The editing and pacing are tightly done, with certain scenes ending in sudden blackouts or gag material in abbreviated form. Released at 66 minutes, it leaves indication WHAT! NO BEER? to have been initially longer. In release form, however, it plays like an extended comedy short. Take notice that the aerial view of office workers used in one scene is one lifted from director King Vidor' THE CROWD (MGM, 1928).

Not revived in many years, WHAT! NO BEER? saw its rediscovery where this, and other classic movie titles from the MGM library, aired on Turner Network Television starting in 1988. As classic film titles slowly phased out from TNT in favor of more contemporary ones by 1991, WHAT! NO BEER? turned out to be one of its longer surviving oldies, ending its run by 1993 before becoming part of the Turner Classic Movies line-up which began in 1994. Distributed to home video, it's currently found in the DVD format. Next time it turns up on TCM, have some beer, sit back and watch the movie, compliments of Keaton and Durante. If beverage is unavailable, simply say, "What! No Beer?" (**1/2)

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