The Boat (1921)
Director: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton
Cast: Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline, Sybil Seely
Synopsis: Buster and his family go on a voyage on his homemade boat that proves to be one disaster after another.
Apparently, we have James Mason to thank for the survival of Buster Keaton’s classic short, The Boat. Back in 1952, Mason moved into Keaton’s old house and found, in the cellar, this and several other of the comic’s shorts that had long been believed lost. We therefore owe Mr Mason a debt of gratitude, because Keaton was arguably the greatest of the silent comedians, and to lose anything he made during the 1920s would be a disaster.
The Boat was one of Keaton’s favourites, and still stands up pretty well today. He’s a family man, the proud architect of a boat called Damfino which he constructed in the cellar of his home. Unfortunately, he gave no thought to how he was going to get Damfino through a doorway that is only half as wide as the boat and has to resort to physically removing much of the brickwork around the door. Even this isn’t enough, however, and the house collapses as the boat tears down the wall that confines it. Undaunted by this setback, Keaton and his family reach the harbour only to encounter a further series of mishaps. Their car plunges into the water, while the boat sinks immediately upon launching. After somehow getting it back to the surface, Keaton then conspires to sink Damfino once more by nailing a picture to the boat’s hull below the waterline.
The Boat is another solid Keaton comedy. He seemed incapable of producing anything but classics during this period of his career, and his ideas were consistently fresh and funny. Keaton’s regular co-star Sybil Seely (One Week, Convict 13) makes her final appearance in one of his films before retiring to marry writer Jules Furthman.
(Reviewed 30th September 2014)