The Navigator (1924)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Sea Adventure, Slapstick  |   Release Date - Oct 13, 1924 (USA)  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Dan Friedman

Among the great silent-era comedians, history has been much kinder to Buster Keaton than it has been to his peers such as Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd. Part of that lies in the bestowment of the genius label that Chaplin accepted quite a bit too earnestly in his lifetime and, while it is certainly merited, it has the side-effect of playing up the genius of Keaton as well, who relied on his films rather than self-promotion to lay his claim. Keaton's success lay in his never-breaking deadpan expression and the sincerity that his characters always seemed to have, regardless of the situations they found themselves in. The Navigator, while not remembered with the same reverence as his later classic The General, nevertheless is an excellent example of the Keaton magic at work. The premise is fairly simple. Keaton and Kathryn McGuire are stranded alone on a 500-foot yacht and must learn to co-exist with each other in the middle of the high seas. There are, naturally, dozens of non-stop laughs, many involving Keaton's unique brand of physical humor. Of particular merit is the scene where he tries towing the yacht from a small dinghy and the scene where he is adorned in a deep-sea diving helmet, forgetting that he is smoking a cigarette and thus cutting off his air. The film also pokes fun at the idle rich, as both Keaton and McGuire's characters are established as spoiled members of that class. One reason the film holds up so well, as do most of Keaton's films, is that even when he establishes himself as a figure to be ridiculed or held up in scorn, he's just so darn likable. Hopefully viewers for many generations to come will make the same realization.