Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Navigator (1924 film)

Directed by Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp and written by Keaton, Clyde Bruckman, Jean C. Havez, and Joseph A. Mitchell, The Navigator is the story of a young rich man who boards on a cruise ship unaware that he and his girlfriend are the only passengers are there due to some devilish scheme. It’s a film that plays into the misadventures of a young man and his girlfriend as the former tries to impress the latter. Starring Buster Keaton and Kathryn McGuire. The Navigator is an extremely funny and entertaining film from Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp.

It’s a film with a very simple premise about two spoiled rich kids who both go aboard on a cruise ship unaware that they’re the only people onboard due to a scheme made by a rival faction during a war. Along the way, these two kids are forced to fend for themselves as they deal with being alone in a cruise ship as a lot of hilarity ensue as it’s a film that showcases what happens when two people who often have people do things for them are forced to make their own coffee and cook their own food. It’s simple premise adds to a lot of ideas of what could be done and the screw ups that these two character have to endure.

The film’s direction by Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp is definitely ambitious in terms of its set pieces and stunt work that is created where much of the film takes place on this cruise ship. Especially as Keaton and his co-star Kathryn McGuire create some intricate stunt work and gags that add to the sense of two spoiled kids having to fend for themselves. The use of medium shots and wide shots on this ship add to the humor such as a scene where Keaton and McGuire are running around the ship trying to find each other as Keaton’s editing would help play to that humor with some unique rhythmic cuts. Even as Keaton would slow things down to play into the sense of not knowing where he and McGuire would be shot in medium shots while each providing subtle moments into their performances. Overall, Keaton and Crisp creates a very funny and thrilling film about two spoiled young adults stuck on a cruise ship by themselves.

Cinematographers Byron Houck and Elgin Lessley do excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the interior scenes at night to the daytime scenes set on the ship. Costume designer Clare West does brilliant work with the costumes from the rich clothes the main characters wear to the sailor uniforms they would have to wear. The film’s music by Robert Israel (for its 1995 reissue) is fantastic for its very playful score as it is driven by piano and an orchestra to capture some of the antics in the film.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from H.N. Clugston and Clarence Burton as the two spies that would be responsible for the ship to drift, Noble Johnson as a cannibal chief, Donald Crisp as scary picture, and Frederick Vroom as the girl’s father who sold the ship that plays a key part in the film. Finally, there’s the duo of Kathryn McGuire and Buster Keaton in incredible performances in their respective roles as Betsy O’Brien and Rollo Treadaway. McGuire serves as a great foil for Keaton in terms of the physicality of the comedy as well as being a character that manages to get things down. Keaton displays his mastery in physical comedy and stunt work while proving to do some funny things in little moments as it showcases his gift as a comedy actor.

The Navigator is a phenomenal film from Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp that features a fantastic supporting performance from Kathryn McGuire. The film is definitely one Keaton’s finest films in terms of his approach to physical comedy and how stunts can help provide some of the finest gags captured on film. In the end, The Navigator is a remarkable film from Donald Crisp and Buster Keaton.

Buster Keaton Films: (The Rough House) - (One Week (1920 short)) - (Convict 13) - (The Scarecrow (1920 short)) - (Neighbors (1920 short)) - (The Haunted House (1921 short)) - (Hard Luck (1921 short)) - (The High Sign) - (The Goat (1921 short)) - (The Playhouse) - (The Boat) - (The Paleface) - (Cops) - (My Wife’s Relations) - (The Blacksmith) - (The Frozen North) - (The Electric House) - (Day Dreams (1922 short)) - (The Balloonatic) - (The Love Nest) - (Three Ages) - (Our Hospitality) - Sherlock Jr. - Seven Chances - (Go West (1925 film)) - (Battling Butler) - The General - (College (1927 film)) - Steamboat Bill Jr. - The Cameraman - (Spite Marriage) - (The Gold Ghost) - (Allez Oop) - (Tars and Stripes) - (Grand Slam Opera) - (One Run Elmer) - (Blue Blazes) - (Mixed Magic) - (Love Nest on Wheels)

© thevoid99 2015


Wendell Ottley said...

Haven't seen this one. Glad to hear that it is very good. I'll have to check it out.

thevoid99 said...

I have one more to watch for tomorrow as I hope to do more real soon as I really like Keaton's work. While I prefer Charles Chaplin, Keaton is equally as funny.

Ruth said...

Ah, you just reminded me I need to catch up on Buster Keaton films, Steven. I definitely will put at least one of them on my next Blindspot series, and perhaps watch another one sometime this year. I guess I just haven't seen a lot of silent films in general.

thevoid99 said...

Silent comedies are something I feel like every film buff should see as I'm going through the essentials in Chaplin, Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. It's been a fun ride to see how it was made and what actors did to get laughs as it would set the stage for what others would do in the years to come.

Chris said...

To me doesn't quite reach the heights of Sherlock Jr and The General. Still, The Navigator is a pretty funny and sweet movie, with a fun setting on a boat.
The ghost was a highlight, and the underwater scenes are technically impressive for 1924.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-The ghost and underwater scenes were fantastic. I had a lot of fun watching this film.