Rollo decides to marry his sweetheart Betsy and sail to Honolulu. When she rejects him he decides to go alone but boards the wrong ship, the "Navigator" owned by Betsy's father. Unaware of this, Betsy boards the ship to look for her father. whom spies capture before cutting the ship loose. It drifts out to sea with the two socialites each unaware of there being anyone else on board. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The idea for this film began when Buster Keaton learned of a large passenger ship that was due to be scrapped. Seeing an opportunity, he purchased the ship for a low price and proceeded to build a story around this massive prop. See more »
Rollo Treadway (Buster Keaton) is supposedly boiling eggs in a large pot, but he grips the edge of the pot, as well as a utensil that's been hanging inside the pot, without burning himself. See more »
Leader of a small gathering:
Gentlemen, the enemy have just purchased the steamship Navigator.
[Walks over to open the double doors, and gestures to a vessel outside]
Leader of a small gathering:
There she lies now, and it is our patriotic duty to destroy that ship. We will send her adrift in the fog tonight before the new crew goes aboard. The wind - the tide - and the rocks will do the rest.
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Fun, crazy, Keaton-esque, though not as original as his best
The Navigator (1924)
This short fun silent comedy is filled with gags and funny moments, but it's not Buster Keaton's best (in my view) being a little obvious and kind of more silly than original. It also has a grand climax that plays on stereotypes of naive and impressionable natives on some faraway island and it struck me as dated and (depending on the viewer, maybe) demeaning. This includes a comic appearance of Keaton in a deep sea suit from the water spooking the natives who apparently think he is a kind of monster or god. They later catch on and the chase begins again.
The basis of the movie is the clueless rich young man (Keaton) trying to get the disinterested girl (Betsy O'Brien). And in a very very roundabout way he seems like he just might. You'll see.
The Navigator is actually the name of a ship (a trick rather like how the name of his better and more famous film "The General" is the really the name of a locomotive). And it mostly takes place on board this abandoned vessel (which Keaton bought outright when it was being scrapped). The reason it is abandoned (in the movie) and set adrift seems like it might matter at first as a kind of political plot but this all ends up not really being part of the larger movie. It's just an excuse to have the two on a big ship alone, with all the likely things that might happen as a result.
The grand finale of it all is a bit of a lucky farce, and a good laugh, though the natives, again, don't look too clever in it all. The gags that Keaton uses are slapstick and sight gags, with some of his trademark stunt work but not as much as usual. In fact, this might the most Chaplin-esque of all his films, even having a scene where submarine tilts its sense of "level" and reminds me a lot of Chaplin's "Gold Rush" in the cabin scenes. To note, however, this is one year before the Chaplin film. The scenes where Keaton is at his best are probably the underwater ones, with a lobster as a wire cutter and a sword fish as a weapon in an underwater sword fight. Hilarious.
Keaton co-directs with Donald Crisp, who went on to a long acting career (starting years before "Birth of a Nation" and going into the 1940s with some general fame). It's thought that Keaton ended up directing most of it himself. It's a great fun ride, for sure, but just if you've seen other Keaton gems ("Sherlock Jr." and "The General" and "Steamboat Bill") you need to expect something less original.
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