(director: Edward Sedgwick; screenwriters: Jack Cluett/Carey Wilson/from the story by Robert E. Hopkins; cinematographer: Harold Wenstrom; editor: Frank Sullivan; cast: Buster Keaton (Elmer J. Butts), Jimmy Durante (Jimmy Potts), Henry Armetta (Tony), Roscoe Ates (Schultz), Phyllis Barry (Hortense), Edward Brophy (Spike Moran), John Miljan (Butch Loredo), Charles Dunbar (Mulligan); Runtime: 66; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; Kino; 1933)

The weak Prohibition comedy is never funny.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was the last starring role for Buster Keaton.Keaton’s alcoholism became a problem for the MGM studio, and as a result he was fired after this film wrapped.

Edward Sedgwick (“The Cameraman”) directs. It’s based on the story by Robert E. Hopkinsand is written byJack Cluett and Carey Wilson.The weak Prohibition comedy is never funny, but was a commercial hit.

When America votesto repeal the prohibition amendment, overbearing barber Jimmy Potts (Jimmy Durante) talks his naive best friend, taxidermist Elmer J. Butts (Buster Keaton), to buy a local brewery and be the first to legally make beer and get a chance to become a millionaire so he can marry the girl he loves. Jimmy didn’t figure that the repeal amendment requires every state to ratify it, and thereby slows down the process. After buying the abandoned brewery on a mortgage using Elmer’s life savings, the partners hire three homeless men, Tony (Henry Armetta), Schultz (Roscoe Ates) and Mulligan (Charles Dunbar), living in the brewery, to work for them. The police raid the brewery and arrest Jimmy and Elmer on local prohibition violations, but since the beer when tested had no alcohol content and is known as “near beer,” they must let them go free.

When Jimmy discovers that Schultz, a chronic stutterer, used to be a beermeister, the guilt-stricken Jimmy uses Schultz’s recipe to make real beer as he wants to get back his pal’s money. Soon the unsuspecting boys do business with bootlegger Spike Moran (Edward Brophy). When rival bootlegger Butch Loredo (John Miljan) hears about this partnership, he uses his muscle to wreck the deal. Meanwhile the love-sick Elmer steals Butch’s trophy gal Hortense (Phyllis Barry) from him, as she’s the one he fell in love with at first sight. It ends on a happy note as Jimmy outwits the gangsters and puts them out of business in a novel way, and when selling beer is legal Jimmy and Elmer open up a bar.

What-No Beer? Poster