Sunday, March 28, 2010

A pair of Buster Keaton movies

This week's Silent Sunday Nights feature on TCM brings us a pair of movies made by Buster Keaton. Sherlock, Jr. kicks off the night at midnight ET tonight, and is followed at 1:00 AM by The Navigator.

The Navigator follows Keaton's well-known plot formula: Boy loves Girl, but some circumstances prevent Boy from getting Girl. This time, Keaton's Boy is a member of the idle rich, who love the similarly idle rich Girl (Kathryn McGuire, who also plays The Girl in Sherlock Jr.) who lives across the street from him. Boy proposes to Girl, but she refuses. Boy tries to drown his sorrows by taking the sea cruise he would have taken had he gone on his honeymoon with Girl, but makes the mistake of getting on the wrong ship, one that's being scrapped, and finds himself the next morning adrift at sea. Interestingly, Boy gets the distinct feeling that there's somebody else aboard. It turns out that there is: it's The Girl. Drawn together by fate, the two have to try to survive aboard the ship, while getting somebody to find them and take them back to safety.

It's an environment that's fertile ground for Keaton's brand of physical humor. Keaton had apparently wanted to do a ship-board movie for some time, and when one of his close associates found out that the US Navy was going to be scrapping a ship, it was decided that this would be the perfect chance for Keaton to have ready-made ship sets for a movie. Indeed, there is quite a bit of opportunity here for Keaton to give us some great visuals. First comes the scenes where his Boy thinks there's somebody else on the ship. We see The Girl, and we see how she too has come to believe that she's not alone on the boat. Both are searching for the possibly nonexistent other person, and they both just keep missing each other. Later, there's a scene of the two trying to make breakfast for two in an industrial galley, where everything is designed for two hundred. Finally, the ship runs aground, and Keaton has to get out and go underwater to repair the propeller. It's pretty remarkable underwater photography for 1924.

The Navigator may not be Buster Keaton's very best movie, but it's quite good, and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.

No comments: