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The Navigator (1924)

Two spoiled rich people find themselves trapped on an empty passenger ship.


Clyde Bruckman (story), Joseph A. Mitchell (story) (as Joseph Mitchell) | 1 more credit »
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Buster Keaton ... Rollo Treadway
Kathryn McGuire ... Betsy O'Brien
Frederick Vroom Frederick Vroom ... John O'Brien


Rollo decides to marry his sweetheart Betsy and sail to Honolulu. When she rejects him he decides to go alone but boards the wrong ship, the "Navigator" owned by Betsy's father. Unaware of this, Betsy boards the ship to look for her father. whom spies capture before cutting the ship loose. It drifts out to sea with the two socialites each unaware of there being anyone else on board. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Comedy | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

13 October 1924 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A navigátor See more »


Box Office


$220,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2018, by the Library of Congress for being, "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." See more »


Rollo Treadway (Buster Keaton) is supposedly boiling eggs in a large pot, but he grips the edge of the pot, as well as a utensil that's been hanging inside the pot, without burning himself. See more »


[first lines]
Leader of a small gathering: Gentlemen, the enemy have just purchased the steamship Navigator.
[Walks over to open the double doors, and gestures to a vessel outside]
Leader of a small gathering: There she lies now, and it is our patriotic duty to destroy that ship. We will send her adrift in the fog tonight before the new crew goes aboard. The wind - the tide - and the rocks will do the rest.
See more »


Edited into The Golden Age of Buster Keaton (1975) See more »

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User Reviews

Buster 101
6 July 2013 | by slokesSee all my reviews

No, it's not Buster Keaton's first movie, or his greatest, but "The Navigator" is something quite wonderful: A primer in motion as to who he was and how he left so indelible an impression.

In a way, "The Navigator" synthesizes the different facets of Keaton from each of his three prior features: There's the goofball war with nature seen in "Three Ages," the stoic but hapless victim of "Our Hospitality," and the anything-goes surrealism of "Sherlock Jr." Yes, the plot is weak, there are a couple of forced gags, and a cop-out ending, but try not to laugh watching this wonder of silent comedy.

You can even call this a sort of sequel to Buster's first feature, "The Saphead." Buster again is a rich, sheltered playboy, one Rollo Treadway, who we are told right away is "living proof every family tree must have its sap." Rejected by his girlfriend Betsy (Kathryn McGuire) when he proposes marriage, Rollo defiantly decides to board their honeymoon ship alone, doing so the night before because he can't bear the thought of getting up in the morning. When the vessel is set adrift that night, it leaves Rollo alone - until he discovers Betsy there, too.

I tried to shorten that synopsis, but it was tough. The best thing you can say about the convoluted plot is the film wastes little time getting you past it and into the action on board with Rollo and Betsy. Everything about "The Navigator" is so economic, yet the film is dense with gags, so many it's easy to find new ones with every new viewing.

There are great comic sequences, each showing a different side to Buster's talent. The great opening on the ship, where Rollo and Betsy run around trying to find each other, is a masterpiece of comic timing, with each popping up just as the other disappears from the frame. It only works in a silent movie, where you can't hear the patter of their running feet which would clue them into the other's whereabouts in a trice. You laugh not just because it's funny, but for the thrill of the inventively weird symmetry on display.

Then there's a kitchen sequence where Rollo and Betsy try to prepare food, each not knowing much about how it is done from being waited upon all their lives. So she makes coffee with three whole beans and a pitcher of seawater, while he tries to open a can of condensed milk with a drill. Then they sit down and try to eat what they have wrought.

The knock on "The Navigator" is that it lacks a bit for heart, playing more like an extended short. The substance and depth are entirely in the gags, which is great when they are so good. Buster was said to have issues about the film, namely the work of his co-director Donald Crisp. But how about poor Frederick Vroom, playing Betsy's father! He's the third-billed actor, gets a couple of scenes, and then is literally dumped ten minutes into the movie, his fate left up in the air. He plays a war profiteer, sure, but they don't even bother to spell his name right in the credits!

I'm not wild about a couple of bits, one involving a menacing portrait (said to be of Crisp, though it looks more like Mussolini) and the other when a record suddenly plays "Asleep In The Deep." They get chuckles but feel contrived, unlike everything else in the gag department here. Buster is brilliant here, either on land or in the water, and he's matched by McGuire, who executes her pratfalls with exquisite timing and no small amount of daring.

No, I wouldn't call this the greatest Keaton film I've seen. It's just timelessly funny and completely disarming. Most importantly, it's a great introduction to newcomers of what Buster brought to the table that made him so unique. Worth a viewing, and worth another and another even more.

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