Movie Review: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

Title: Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Release Date: May 12, 1928
Director: Charles Reisner
Production Company: United Artists

Buster Keaton stars as William Canfield, Jr., a young man who finishes college in Boston and goes to join his father (Ernest Torrence), a riverboat captain in the South nicknamed “Steamboat Bill.”  Canfield, Sr. is caught in a rivalry with another riverboat captain,  John James King (Tom McGuire) with a newer, more luxurious boat.  He hasn’t seen his son since he was a baby and is disappointed that Canfield, Jr. is small and unaccustomed to manual labor.  To make matters worse, Canfield, Jr. is in love with a young woman, Kitty (Marion Byron) who is also visiting her father, who turns out to be none other than King.  Hijinks ensue.

Compared to other Keaton films I watched, this one took a long time to get going.  It really doesn’t have much in the way of stunts or even funny gags for the most part.  The end of the film involves a big storm in the town where buildings collapse like matchsticks.  This includes one of Keaton’s most famous stunts where the facade of a house falls toward him, but he survives by being right in the path of an open window.  All of this comes a little bit too late though, so Steamboat Bill, Jr. fails to be a comedy classic.

Rating: ***