IMDb > The Navigator (1924)
The Navigator
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The Navigator (1924) More at IMDbPro »

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The Navigator -- A precursor to his classic THE GENERAL--only centered around a 500-foot steamship rather than a Civil War locomotive--THE NAVIGATOR demonstrates Buster Keaton's ability to transform complex machinery into large-scale comedy props.


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Up 13% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Clyde Bruckman (story) &
Joseph A. Mitchell (story) ...
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Release Date:
13 October 1924 (USA) See more »
Two spoiled rich people find themselves trapped on an empty passenger ship. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Buster Keaton goes to sea See more (48 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Buster Keaton ... Rollo Treadway

Kathryn McGuire ... Betsy O'Brien
Frederick Vroom ... John O'Brien
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Clarence Burton ... Spy (uncredited)
H.N. Clugston ... Spy (uncredited)
Noble Johnson ... Cannibal Chief (uncredited)

Directed by
Donald Crisp 
Buster Keaton 
Writing credits
Clyde Bruckman (story) &
Joseph A. Mitchell (story) (as Joseph Mitchell) and
Jean C. Havez (story) (as Jean Havez)

Produced by
Buster Keaton .... producer (uncredited)
Joseph M. Schenck .... executive producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Robert Israel (1995)
William Axt (uncredited)
Claude Bolling (1969) (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Byron Houck (photography)
Elgin Lessley (photography)
Film Editing by
Buster Keaton (uncredited)
Costume Design by
Clare West (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Denver Harmon .... electrician
Other crew
Fred Gabourie .... technical director
Joseph M. Schenck .... presenter
David Shepard .... video producer: 1995 alternate version (as David H. Shepard)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
59 min | Sweden:75 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The ship in the movie was actually the USAT Buford, named after prominent Union Civil War cavalry officer and hero of Gettysburg Gen. John T. Buford. The ship had begun life as the S.S. Mississippi for the Atlantic Transport Line in 1890. It was later purchased and renamed by the US government in 1898 and became an army troop transport in the Spanish American War and in WW I. Its most notorious incarnation was as the "Soviet Ark" (or "Red Ark") when the ship was used to deport 249 political radicals and other "undesirable" aliens, among them the fiery anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, to the Russian SFSR in December, 1919, during the Palmer Raids of the first "Red Scare" period in the US.See more »
Revealing mistakes: 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 »
[first lines]
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.
See more »
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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful.
Buster Keaton goes to sea, 8 November 2007
Author: ackstasis from Australia

Buster Keaton's 'The Navigator,' as a film, doesn't feel quite as complete as many of his other works {'Sherlock Jr.' or 'The General,' for example}, but it remains an enjoyable hour-long string of amusing gags with an abundance of Keaton's trademark deadpan humour. The idea for the film emerged when Keaton heard of the imminent scrapping of the SS Buford, a former army troop transport ship turned passenger liner. Seizing the opportunity, the comedy star purchased the ship cheaply and built an original story around this mammoth film prop. Directed by Keaton and Donald Crisp, 'The Navigator' was released in the same year that produced his legendary 'Sherlock Jr.,' and these two pictures mark the only occasions on which Keaton co-starred with Kathryn McGuire. The two actors are virtually alone for much of this film, barring a multitude of native "cannibals," but they carry the film well, with an assortment of clever and impeccably-timed gags.

Rollo Treadway (Keaton) is a rich and arrogant young man who suddenly decides to marry his sweetheart Betsy O'Brien (Kathryn McGuire). Crippled by her immediate negative response of "certainly not!", Treadway embarks on the honeymoon by himself, but awakes the following morning to find that the passenger ship he boarded is empty and drifting aimlessly across the ocean. However, via a series of sinister events, it seems that Betsy has also stumbled aboard the doomed ship, and she and Treadway must work together if they are to survive. There are many moments in the film that will have you chuckling: the two hapless fools trying to concoct a suitable breakfast (especially Keaton attacking a tin of ham with a meat cleaver), their efforts to find a safe and comfortable place to sleep, the pair's encounter with a village of tropical island cannibals and Keaton's underwater fencing joust with a swordfish.

'The Navigator' is perhaps missing many of the mind-blowing stunts that make Buster Keaton's films so memorable, but there certainly are a few good ones in there. Perhaps unusually, the most hair-raising stunts are performed by the extras playing the cannibals (their leader portrayed by the prolific African-American actor Noble Johnson). The moment that springs immediately to mind was the collapse of an immense palm tree onto one of the tiny dugout canoes. Though the cannibal who gets crushed by the trunk is obviously a dummy (albeit, a convincing one), the extras who clambered out of the craft at the final moment were certainly placing their lives at risk. Overall, since it's powered by a very loose and poorly-developed narrative, 'The Navigator' is probably the weakest of Keaton's features that I've seen so far (following 'Sherlock Jr.,' 'The General,' 'Seven Chances' and 'Steamboat Bill, Jr.'), but that doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable. Also, for an excellent slapstick short that also features Keaton as a mariner, check out 'The Love Nest (1923).'

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