Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) – Charles Reisner & Buster Keaton

DK Books’ The Movie Book continues with the amazing films, and it was a joy to turn the page and find that the next few films would see me enjoying some of Buster Keaton’s fantastic comedic work.

I’d previously only seen The General, which was a great film, and consequently, was very eager to dive into the classic, Steamboat Bill, Jr. A silent film from the heyday of cinema, it shows Buster Keaton doing what he does best – incredible stunts to make for belly-busting laughs.

Young William Canfield, Jr. (Keaton) is not what his father (Ernest Torrence) expected, and hijinx ensue when Bill joins his father, whom he hasn’t seen in years, on his riverboat.

Unfortunately for dad, William has taken a fancy to the daughter of his rival, J.J. King (Tom McGuire). Young Bill is rather taken with Kitty King (Marion Byron) much to his father’s distress.

Things are about to get worse though, there’s a big storm coming, and Young Steamboat Bill, jr. may have to step up and save the day!


When the storm strikes even more comedy takes place, and the film includes the iconic image of a house wall falling down around Keaton, with him perfectly placed to not be struck at all – it’s a stunning stunt.

In fact, the entire film is filled with amazing stunts that you don’t even realise you’re watching until they’ve happened. Keaton’s performance is so engaging that your brain doesn’t click with what you’ve seen until after the fact and you catch yourself doing a double take asking ‘Did I just see that happen?’ and the answer is yes, every time.

Keaton is brilliant, his comedic timing is impeccable, and his performance is fantastic, incredibly physical, and laugh out loud funny. He is a master showman, and this along with The General may feature him at the top of his game. There is not a missed gag, look, or moment in the entire film. It’s pretty close to the perfect physical comedy movie.

The entire film is a riot, as Keaton tumbles from one sequence to another, playing the part perfectly. He’s made to look childlike against Torence’s behemoth size, and their pairing as father and son is top-notch, equalled only by the casting of Byron as the romantic interest.

Watching Keaton’s pratfalls, expressions, and comedic moments, it’s hard not to be stunned, he makes it all look so easily and natural. He was a master, and happily his work still lives on.

If you’ve never seen a Keaton film, check this one out, or pick up DK Books’ The Movie Book, and check out the What Else to Watch section for this film. I’ll be doing that shortly!this_is_theSteamboatBillJr_original

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