Battling Butler

Release date: September 19, 1926
Length: Seven reels
Presented by: Buster Keaton Productions
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Producer: Joseph M. Schenck
Director: Buster Keaton
Script: Ballard MacDonald, Paul Gerard Smith, Albert Boasberg, Lex Neal, and Charles Smith, based on the musical comedy by Stanley Brightman, Austin Melford, Philip Brabham, Walter L. Rosemont, and Douglas Furber
Photography: Dev Jennings and Bert Haines
Technical Director: Fred Gabourie
Electrician: Ed Levy

Buster Keaton: Alfred Butler
Sally O’Neil: The Mountain Girl
Snitz Edwards: Martin, the valet
Francis McDonald: Alfred “Battling” Butler
Mary O’Brien: Mrs. Butler
Tom Wilson: Trainer
Eddie Borden: Manger
Walter James: The Mountain Girl’s Father
Buddy Fine: The Mountain Girl’s Brother


Alfred Butler needs a dose of manliness, so his parents send him off on a camping trip. His faithful valet Martin arranges all, and they drive to the wilderness to rough it in a tent better equipped than most houses. After breakfast in bed, Alfred attempts hunting and fishing, but he only succeeds in meeting a mountain girl. He asks her to dinner, and despite a visit from her very large father and brother they share an intimate chat over a table that sinks into the mud. He escorts her home, but she must return the favor when he gets lost going back.

The next morning, the newspaper reveals that there’s a prizefighter named Alfred ‘Battling’ Butler. Alfred orders his valet to arrange to stop the other Butler from using his name and to ask the mountain girl to marry him. Oh hearing the proxy proposal, her kin refuse; they don’t want a weakling in the family. Martin informs them that his master is Battling Butler. The girl goes to Alfred’s tent, where she circumvents the proposal script he found in Advice for the Lovesick by accepting immediately. She asks when he’ll fight next, and Martin tells him that he’s temporarily Battling Butler. However, since the champ will beat him on the following day, no one will ever hear of him again. His new family sees them off on the train.

At the fight, Alfred and Martin watch in horror as Battling Butler beats the champ. Alfred decides to go back to the mountains and tell the truth, but an enthusiastic crowd meets the train and parades him directly to the girl, who has prepared a wedding. After the ceremony, he tells her that he must go to training camp and she may not join him.

As Alfred and Martin drive to the camp, they offer a ride to Mrs. Battling Butler. Her husband sees them arrive together and his jealousy begins. It grow when he sees them chatting, and explodes when he catches Alfred in her room, plugging in a curling iron.

The girl arrives and refuses to leave. The two Mrs. Butlers sit at a table outside and a waiter delivers chocolates, “compliments of Mr. Butler.” They almost come to blows over it, but Martin tells Battling Butler the truth and convinces him to intervene. Then he graciously giver permission to the false Battling Butler to fight the Alabama Murderer in his upcoming bout.

After three weeks of punishing training, fight night arrives. The trainer delights in reporting to Alfred the nasty injuries suffered during the opening fight. The Murderer warms up next door, and knocks out his trainer. Alfred tries to sneak out on the stretcher carrying a mangled boxer, but he gets caught. The girl comes in, and Martin locks her in a closet. The crowd roars “BUTLER!” and Alfred looks out on the ring: the real Battling Butler has just reduced the Murderer to a bloody lump. The trainer laughs, and explains that they wouldn’t have throw away a championship just to get even.

Battling Butler comes backstage. Alfred thanks him for saving him, and he agrees — he’s been saving him for three weeks. He proceeds to brutally pummel the supposed adulterer. Then Alfred sees the girl, released from the closet. He begins to fight back; he’s good! After he knocks out Battling Butler, he confesses the truth to the girl. She’s glad he isn’t a fighter. He takes his top hat and cane, and they walk down a crowded street, oblivious to the stares his boxing trunks inspire. — Lisle Foote