Navigator, The (1924)

“Our story deals with one of those queer tricks that Fate sometimes plays.”

Synopsis:
A wealthy young man (Buster Keaton) and his would-be fiancee (Kathryn McGuire) find themselves at sea in a drifting cruise ship, struggling to survive and fight off an island full of cannibals.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, Buster Keaton’s “biggest commercial hit” — which he correctly argues “hasn’t a bad moment” — is “another in his line of silent comedy masterpieces” (and I’ll admit to a personal fondness for it). It does indeed have “many intricate, hilarious gags”, with highlights including “Keaton [as ‘Rollo Treadway’] chasing McGuire around the ship when he first discovers she’s on board also; Keaton in a diving suit…; Keaton routing some cannibals”, and, of course, the side-splitting early sequences showcasing Keaton and McGuire’s lame attempts to fix themselves breakfast (as well as the “three weeks later” scenes showing Keaton’s humorously inventive capabilities). Keaton, naturally, is in top form (when is he not??), and McGuire acquits herself admirably in a role which allows her to be Keaton’s comedic peer rather than simply his romantic foil. This is one of those films better seen than discussed, so go ahead and treat yourself — you’re in for a boatful (sorry!) of laughs.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Keaton and McGuire’s earliest attempts at survival
  • Kathryn McGuire as Betsy
  • Consistently enjoyable visual and physical gags


Must See?
Yes, as one of Keaton’s most enjoyable early successes.

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One Response to “Navigator, The (1924)”

  1. A fun-filled must!

    First viewing.

    Yes, the less one knows about this one before-hand, the better. The main idea of the film couldn’t be simpler – in fact, early on, you may find yourself slightly concerned about how much of anything (let alone humor) could possibly be extracted from a premise this basic.

    Never fear!

    For those unfamiliar with Keaton (and who might *they* be?!), ‘The Navigator’ would serve as a perfect introduction to his work. One might call it seamless – so, ok, that’s what I’ll call it. The gags and routines (and there’s plenty of both) are very well thought out – and they seem to build progressively from quietly humorous to laugh-out-loud funny. I don’t have a particular favorite among them – this particular film is a satisfying hoot from start to finish. And, speaking of finish, the last two minutes are particularly hilarious!

    In basically a two-hander (well, more or less except for the cannibals), Keaton has quite a fine partner here in McGuire. One can often find satisfying male-female duos in verbal screwball comedy but this kind of comedic teaming is different. In more modern terms, it has the feel of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in ‘Sleeper’ (esp. the operating room sequence). Of course, that feel is milked here quite a bit more – practically the length of the entire film.

    I thought I had already seen more of Keaton’s work than it seems I actually have. It’s sooo nice to be seeing a lot more of it (and him) now!

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