The Navigator

Year: 1924
Country: USA
Running time: 62 mins

Production co: Metro-Goldwyn Pictures
Producer: Joseph M. Schenck
Screenplay: Clyde Burckman, Joseph Mitchell, Jean Havez
Photography: Elgin Lessley, Byron Houck

Buster: Buster Keaton
Betsy: Kathryn McGuire
Her father: Ward Crane
Gangsters: Noble Johnson, Clarence Burton, H.M. Clugston

1993 New Zealand Film Festival Live Cinema. Print from the Rohauer Collection. Piano accompaniment by Ella Hanify.
“Arguably, Buster Keaton’s finest – but amongst the Keaton riches can one be sure? What isn’t subject to debate is that this movie about a useless young millionaire (Keaton) who can’t even shave himself, and his rich dizzy girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire) adrift on an enormous, deserted ocean liner without lights or steam is one of the greatest comedies ever made. It was also his biggest box-office success. Keaton (and Donald Crisp) directed. According to Keaton, Crisp was to take care of the dramatic scenes but lost interest in them and ‘turned into a gagman. Well that we didn’t want. But we did manage to pull the picture through.’ Keaton pulled it through all right, while playing with the abstract possibilites of the film image the way a violin virtuoso uses his fiddle.” — Pauline Kael

“Two more useless characters there never were, and now they are faced with the reverse Robinson Crusoe challenge of setting up housekeeping in the over-technical environment of a ship built for thousands, and not a servant in sight. Part of The Navigator’s lasting greatness lies in the depth and grace of Keaton’s very modern vision of a man and a woman ‘drifting off to nowhere in the dark,' who throw themselves into the world of machines and somehow survive.” — Pacific Film Archive

“It gracefully carries the great visual gag of an Adam and Eve afloat on an ocean-liner Eden. In some ways, the film is even wilder and more surrealistic than Sherlock, Jr., but it also contains many of Keaton’s most precisely timed and comically effective gags against a background of palpably real and functional machinery… The structure of The Navigator is much looser and the feelings more playful than they were to be a few years later in the more rigorously constructed The General.” — Tom Allen and Andrew Sarris, Village Voice, 26/3/85