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Film / Battling Butler

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Battling Butler is a 1926 film directed by and starring Buster Keaton.

Alfred Butler (Keaton) is a rich, pampered aristocrat. How rich and pampered? He doesn't even stub out his own cigarettes; instead, his faithful valet takes them out of his mouth and puts fresh ones in. His father, worried about what a fop his son is becoming, has Alfred sent out to the country for a while, on a hunting trip with his valet. It doesn't work, as Alfred proves to be a singularly incompetent hunter, while still being pampered by his valet, who lays out pork chops for his dinner and plays gramophone records for Alfred's enjoyment. (Alfred dresses in a tuxedo for dinner, while camping in a tent.)

While out in the woods Alfred meets a lovely "mountain girl" (Sally O'Neil). They hit it off and are soon engaged to be married, but the woman's big, tough father (played by the same actor who played Harold Lloyd's big, tough father in The Kid Brother) takes one look at the effete rich boy and categorically refuses to have such a wimp in his family.


Alfred's valet then gets a bright idea. It so happens that the paper just ran a story about a lightweight boxer named, you guessed it, Alfred "Battling" Butler, who is challenging the lightweight champion of the world. To impress his boss's prospective in-laws, the valet, who assumes that "Battling" Butler will lose, pretends that their Alfred Butler is the boxer. It works, and Alfred and the girl get married. Unfortunately Alfred learns that "Battling" Butler won his fight and is now champion of the world. Worse, his father- and brother-in-law, who read the paper, now expect him to face "Battling" Butler's next opponent, a scary guy called the Alabama Murderer.



  • Contrived Coincidence: It's a pretty big one that not only is there another Alfred Butler, but he's featured in the paper on the same day that Buster's Alfred Butler is trying to impress the mountain girl's parents. It's an even bigger coincidence that Alfred "Battling" Butler is the same size as Buster and even looks like him, enough for Buster to pass for the guy in the newspaper photo at least.
  • Domestic Abuse: After a scene where "Battling" Butler catches Buster in his wife's room (it's perfectly innocent), the boxer's wife comes out the next morning sporting a black eye.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Alfred tells his valet to "Drive carefully. These country folk may not be used to city speed." What follows is a comic sequence in which all the locals tear along the roads at very high rates of speed, whipping past each other, zooming through intersections, and generally driving like crazy, while Alfred cowers in terror in the back seat.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Alfred's masquerading as the other Alfred Butler works like a charm, as the mountain girl's father gives his blessing. Then things go very wrong when "Battling" Butler wins his fight and becomes champion.
  • Idle Rich: Even when he's supposedly roughing it in the woods, Alfred is still living in luxury. He sleeps in a four-poster bed. His valet follows him around everywhere, toting a little fold-out chair for Alfred to sit on.
  • Maintain the Lie: Alfred finds himself going to greater and greater lengths and getting into more and more difficulties
  • Meet Cute: Buster and the mountain girl meet when Buster, being very careless with a shotgun in the forest, nearly shoots her. She screams abuse at him and hurls rocks.
  • Name's the Same: In-Universe and a key plot point. The valet passes his spoiled, effete boss off as the other Alfred Butler in order to impress the mountain girl's family. It works, then backfires badly.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Alabama Murderer? Yikes.
  • No Name Given: The romances in Keaton films were often perfunctory but maybe never more than this film, where Buster's Love Interest doesn't even get a name. The valet is also unnamed.
  • Shout-Out: Calling Alfred's feisty girlfriend "the mountain girl" is almost definitely a Shout-Out to Intolerance and Constance Talmadge's Mountain Girl, seeing as how Keaton previously made a satire of Intolerance called Three Ages, and also married Constance Talmadge's sister Natalie.