Schnozzle's The Whole Show!
Perfect Timing and What! --- No Beer?
Keaton fascination never ends, it seems. Warner Instant has just added What --- No Beer? to its HD inventory, an immediate must-watch. I drank this Beer before and recalled it being stale, much of bad impression drummed in by book/docu describe of poor Buster as junior fiddle to Jimmy Durante brass and getting a Metro pink slip for his pains. All that still goes --- kindliest revision won't improve flat brew --- but somehow BK seems less debased this time 'round, and I'll even give Durante more quarter than previous. Let's keep the review bite-sized, then: What --- No Beer? is not a good comedy, but it isn't a despicable one. I even enjoyed moments here/there, a few of which find Buster hung over, that a modern perception based on what we know of at-time circumstance. Mostly he's OK, less lithe than before, but that's like comparing human against super-human strength, and how long could Keaton have maintained his amazing athleticism even spared the hobble of drink? He was, after all, 37 when What --- No Beer? was made.
|It Begins: Jimmy Durante's Name Creeps Up Above The Title With Buster's|
I want to get chronology right, because Buster's Metro nest fouled in a hurry and weeks matter in summarizing it. 1932 had played him bad. Natalie got the house and kept the boys, their names changed to Talmadge as crowning insult. Keaton caused delay on Speak Easily and MGM made him pay back costs by partial withhold of stipend, this memorialized in a '32 contract that also wrested sole-star status and made way for Durante developing. The two were "teamed" further from here, difference being JD above the title alongside Keaton. Bad behavior escalated. A run-out to
What! --- No Beer? was shot between December 17, 1932 and January 28, 1933. All Keaton's MGM stuff had been profitable, the more so now that Durante was aboard, so a bright idea announced in 12-31-32 trades put Jackie Cooper into comedy's triad. Keaton, Durante, and Cooper --- Why Didn't We Think Of This Before? It was a natural, and served with Ed Brophy, Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, or even Polly Moran, one fairly quivers at prospect here. Things must really have been bad, as Mayer forfeited all by stroke of a firing letter issued to Keaton on 2/2/33. What! --- No Beer? was done, and continuing guff wasn't worth it. Did Mayer act on temper rather than fiscal sense? Thalberg thought so on return from heart recovery. What! --- No Beer? would come in for a splendid spike thanks to repeal of prohibition via passage of the 21st amendment on 12/5/32, with the first "legal" bottle of beer ceremoniously delivered to the White House on 4/14/33. Trades reported What! --- No Beer? as the first movie about the country's hottest topic, with release set for February, 1933.
Variety announced Keaton departure from MGM in early February (2/3), saying it was Buster who wanted out. It was no surprise to studio officials when Keaton made the request for his release, said the trade, the comedian being put out by the fact that he had been reduced to co-starring by the company and also the fact that Jimmy Durante in the last two pictures they appeared in together had been given the juicier assignment. A final straw, said Variety, came when Keaton found that Durante was billed above him in What --- No Beer?. Coverage added that Keaton was not figured much on his American draw, but proved to be a money-maker for Metro in the foreign market, especially in
|A Backstage Shot with Buster in Boxing Glove. Is He Preparing to|
Silence Loudmouth Durante?
|What! No Buster? --- and Jimmy Gets Top-Billed As Well in Chicago|
|Precode Buster: Not The First Time Mild Eroticism Had Found|
Ways Into MGM Stills With Keaton and Lead Ladies
Harrison's Reports lit into Loew's over this and too-high rentals for what it called "poor pictures" out of Metro. What! --- No Beer? ended up with $633K in worldwide rentals, well below the last two Keaton/Durantes (Speak Easily's $742K and The Passionate Plumber at $779K). Were the K&D's (or lately, D&K's) starting to play out in any event? Buster would keep busy post-Metro with Les roi des Champs-Élysées, produced in