BATTLING BUTLER (director/writer: Buster Keating; screenwriters: Lex Neal/Al Boasberg/Charles H. Smith,Paul Gerard Smith/from a play by Stanley Brightman and Austin Melford; cinematographer: J.D. Jennings; editor: Bert Haines; music: Robert Israel; cast: Buster Keaton (Alfred Butler), Sally O’Neil (The mountain girl), Walter James (Her father), Bud Fine (Her brother), Francis McDonald (Alfred Battling Butler), Mary O’Brien (His wife), Tom Wilson (His trainer), Eddie Borden (His manager), Snitz Edwards (Martin, Alfred’s valet); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Buster Keating; Kino; 1926-silent)
“Fails to connect with any powerful punches.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The most conventional, most commercially successful and the most ludicrous of all the Buster Keaton silents is inspired by Stanley Brightman and Austin Melford’s 1923 Broadway musical play. It has Buster as Alfred Butler, a pampered nerdy idler city boy, whose wealthy disgusted dad orders his indolent son to go camping in the mountains and by roughing it to become a man.Butler vacations in the mountains with his loyal valet, Martin (Snitz Edwards), who drives him there in hisluxury car and brings along all the comforts of home including a big brass bed. In the woods Butler meets a perky Mountain Girl (Sally O’Neil), and falls in love with her. Butler orders Martin to arrange their marriage with her kin, but her burly father (Walter James) and brother (Bud Fine) object because he’s a wimp. The valet tries to fix things over by telling the girl’s kin that his boss is the boxer Battling Butler (Francis McDonald), training in the mountains for his upcoming fight. By coincidence his boss has the same name as the boxer.
When Battling Butler wins the scheduled championship fight, Mountain Girl’s kin allow the love birds to marry. When Battling Butler goes to train for his next fight, his wife surprises him by visiting the training site. The imposter does everything he can to prevent his wife from learning the truth. When the real Battling Butler thinks he discovers the imposter flirting with his wife, he aims to get even with him. The real boxer schemes to have his namesake go through the rugged training for the fight and then is slated to get in the ring with “The Alabama Murderer.”
Nothing special about this boxing pic, as it fails to connect with any powerful punches. Much of the comedy is about the weakling Buster forced to box to keep up his sham and the mistaken identity mix-up, none of it is that clever or that funny or that credible. Because of the restrictions imposed by the theatrical narrative, Buster’s physical comedy is compromised; and, even though the brutal fight scene is impressively staged, the comedy seems more forced than inspired.
REVIEWED ON 10/26/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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