Remembering Buster Keaton and “The Navigator” (1924)

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Library of Congress Blogs


Film Essay, Motion Pictures, National Film Registry




[Forward by Stacie Seifrit-Griffin]

It was on February 1, 1966 that Buster Keaton, one of the greatest comedy artists in cinema history, passed away. Today, we take a look at the man known for his legendary “stone face,” his iconic physical gags, and the making of one of his favorite films.

Born Joseph Frank Keaton on October 4, 1895, little Joe Keaton learned early on that he had the skills and desire to make people laugh. At the age of five, Keaton became a member of his parent’s vaudeville act, The Three Keatons, and quickly became beloved by audiences for his wild acrobats and comedic timing.

Keaton always maintained that it was Harry Houdini who gave him his famous nickname, “Buster,” after seeing young Keaton take a fall down a flight of stairs with little or no damage. “That’s sure a buster!” Houdini exclaimed, and the name stuck.

Buster Keaton holds the distinct honor of having seven films in the Library of Congress National Film Registry as a writer, director and actor. And it’s eight, if you count his appearance as one of Norma Desmond’s “waxwork” friends in “Sunset Boulevard.”

In the book, “Buster Keaton Remembered,” it is noted that in his career his two personal favorite films were “The Navigator” (1924) and “The General” (1927). Both films are in the National Film Registry, and today we take a closer look at the making of “The Navigator.”