Battling Butler (1926)
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...
Battling Butler has to be the strangest of Buster Keaton's silent features. Based on the musical comedy of the same name, the film casts Keaton as wimpy millionaire Alfred Butler, who goes on a vacation in the mountains in the company of his faithful valet (Snitz Edwards). While communing with nature, Alfred falls in love with a beautiful young girl (Sally O'Neil), who barely acknowledges his existence. Without his master's knowledge, the valet tries to smooth the path of romance by telling the girl that Alfred is, in reality, boxing champion Battling Butler (Francis McDonald). The real champ, a mean-spirited sort, gets wind of this deception and decides to allow Alfred to continue the charade, fully intending to mop the floor with the puny millionaire in the boxing ring. But on the night of the big fight, Alfred suddenly gets tired of being pushed around and turns into a savage opponent, leaving the bullying Butler positively groggy. At this point our hero discovers that the girl would have loved him whether he was Battling Butler or not, and all ends well. Played as traditional Keaton comedy for most of its running time, Battling Butler goes dramatic with a vengeance in the climactic fight scene, with Keaton really giving his ring opponent a going over. The final scene is all the more powerful because it is so completely unexpected; if it surprises today's audiences, one can only imagine the effect it had on Buster Keaton's fans way back in 1926. … More
No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.Login
Critic Reviews for Battling Butler
There's no room for Buster to stretch out; none of the rhythms are remotely like his own.
Has one of the funniest fight scenes ever filmed
One of the Great Stone Face's lesser vehicles but still worth a look.
Audience Reviews for Battling Butler
Something that often goes unnoticed: Under Buster Keaton's everyman costumes, he had a rather elegant, aristocratic face. So it's easy to accept him in "Battling Butler" as pampered millionaire Alfred Butler, looking trim and sophisticated in his tailored suits. And given that Keaton had quite a few beans in the bank by this stage of his career, perhaps the posh world shown in the introduction wasn't far from his own reality.
The premise of this 71-minute silent is not so plausible, but it does supply plenty of laughs. Mansion-bound Alfred decides a hunting getaway is just what he needs, so he and his valet (amusing Snitz Edwards, who's even more petite than Keaton) take off for the woods. Keaton has lots of fun with sight gags as his character continues to indulge his need for luxury, even while camping.
Everything changes when Alfred meets a pretty, unnamed "mountain girl" (Sally O'Neill). He almost shoots her (oops), but they soon feel romantic sparks. However, her brawny father and brother sneer at wimpy Alfred and scorn the courtship. Noting that a current boxing champ also happens to be named Alfred Butler, the valet gets a spontaneous idea and bluffs that his boss is actually the boxer on retreat (yes, this story is pre-television and Internet). The girl's family is impressed, but now Keaton is stuck in a lie. This sets in motion an extended charade of him pretending to be a boxer in training (lots of physical humor with sparring partners and boxing-ring ropes), while the real champion (Francis McDonald) learns of the ruse and aims to teach him a harsh lesson. But we know our plucky hero will prove his mettle in the end, don't we?
The wiry star shows some legitimate punching power, but a comic scene where the boxer's "punished" wife sports a black eye reminds us of the film's age.
Battling Butler is another of Buster Keaton's lesser known films and while not quite up with his masterpieces, is still a great and hilarious film. Seeing Keaton as a member of high society certaintly is different but he still manages to get himself into plenty of trouble regardless of his wealth! Without giving away the entirety of the story, let's say that Keaton's character Alfred Butler has the same name as Alfred Battling Butler, a light-weight boxing champion. Needless to say his manhood is called into question and what's supposed to be a save from humiliation results in Keaton's character getting into the ring! While not quite up to the other films in his filmography, its a gut wrenching hilarious ride that is well worth taking!More
Discuss Battling Butler on our Movie forum!