One day Rollo, “heir to the Treadway fortune,” sees through a window a happily just-married couple, turns to a photograph of Betsy, the girl he loves, and comes up with the idea that he will marry her that day. He arranges everything, including the ship-ride to transport the happy couple to Honolulu, their honeymoon destination. Rollo leaves the marriage proposal for last. Thus he has his chauffeur drive him to Betsy’s house, which is right across the street. When he asks her if she will marry him, she emphatically answers, “Certainly not.” After a “long walk” back home, Rollo tears up Betsy’s ticket and plans on going to Honolulu alone. A ridiculous and convoluted set of circumstances involving warring countries and spies, who kidnap Betsy’s father, Rollo and Betsy end up on the same ship—the wrong ship, which is drifting, and where there is no captain or crew.
The Navigator, which is co-directed by Buster Keaton, who plays Rollo and, as usual, performs all his own stunts, and actor Donald Crisp, is loaded with slapstick sight gags. An early one is, formally, the most brilliant. Each not knowing the other is onboard the ship, Rollo and Betsy separately run this way and that, up and down, both hoping to find somebody onboard, yet repeatedly missing one another. Other gags involve their trying to find a comfortable place to sleep, creating meals out of the scarce provisions on board, weathering a rainstorm, and so forth.
Most of the gags are very funny; but the film gets a bit waterlogged and runs on too long. An episode involving cannibals might have been profitably eliminated altogether. Moreover, the film never does reach a conclusion; it simply stops. The story is by Clyde Bruckman, Joseph Mitchell and Jean C. Havez.
I love Buster, but I pretty much can’t stand this movie of his. It’s annoying. But that same year Keaton made the sublime Sherlock Jr., one of his three or four masterpieces. What redemption!
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