Steamboat Bill Jr. (USA: Bitzer 1928)





Steamboat Bill Jr. (USA: Bitzer 1928)

Steamboat bill Jr. is one of the popular films directed by Charles Reisner in 1928. Although Buster Keaton was also actively involved in directing this movie, he did not receive much credit for his participation.  This movie revolves around main actors such as William Canfield Sr. and Jr., Kitty King, John King, and Tom Carter (Reisner). The tactical use of these characters has aided the directors to highlight and discuss various themes. Based on the major stylistic devices used to substantiate these themes, it is rational to categorize this movie as a comedy. The cinematography effects also make is a silent film. For example, it has no corresponding form of recorded sound. This also includes the lack of other sound aspects such as dialogue. Being a film produced in the ancient periods, the director and other relevant professionals involved in the production of this movie have substituted this element with gestures, title cards, and mimes (Reisner). Accordingly, the cinematography and film techniques used in this film are effective in addressing various themes.

Canfield Sr’s anger is evident when he realizes that there is a vessel similar to his Mississippi steamboat. Later on, the director highlights that this old man, also referred to as Steamboat Bill, has a son that he abandoned at a tender age. This is evident when he obtains a telegram from this young man after several years of being absent in his life. After conversing with his father for a while, Canfield Jr decides to relocate to his paternal home from Boston. As a way of strengthening his relationship with his newly found son, he decides to assign him to the management position of Stonewall Jackson, which is his dilapidated aircraft (Reisner). Nonetheless, his plans face various implementation challenges especially after his son falls in love with the daughter of his worst enemy. These events are the main features in the plot of the movie and are the foundation in the evaluation of various themes and stylistic techniques.

Symbolism is one of the techniques used by the director of this movie to address certain themes. For example, as Canfield Jr arrives at his father’s home, he wears a beret as opposed to the conventional trademark hat in the form of a flat porkpie cap. This instigates a disagreement with his father as evident in the fast-paced session where he tries out different hats as his father attempts to choose the best cap for him. This symbolic scene highlights the differences between generations. The generational gap between Canfield Jr and his father is notable especially since they have had little time to understand each other’s personality since his birth (Keaton). Through the effective use of such symbols, the director of this film has succeeded in portraying the old man as a quarrelsome character who hardly compromises on his values. Likewise, this symbolism feature has been effective in relating this scene to other scenes especially when Canfield Jr falls in love with the daughter of his father’s rival (Keaton).

In addition, the professionals behind the production of this ancient film incorporate humorous stunts into the plot with the main intent of addressing certain issues that relate to the moral values upheld by the society. To start with, portraying Canfield Sr as an arrogant man aids in condemning the act of abandoning one’s baby (Keaton). By putting emphasis on the fact that this old man hardly felt impelled to search for his son, the film conveys the moral message on the need to take responsibility for one’s actions. This moral message is also apparent when he attempts to sneak tools into his father’s prison cell by hiding them in a loaf of bread. His main intention is to assist his father escape prison. Disobedience of the set rules also emphasizes on his lack of integrity.

Some of these artistic techniques relate to the element embedded in other works directed by Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner. For example, these artists are famous for the use of humor as one of the main tactic of addressing themes. This also involves condemning the undesirable behaviors of some of the characters. For example, The Frozen North is a film directed by Keaton, which employs the technique of irony in order to analyze the transformation of Hart’s personality from a bad person to a morally upright individual (Keaton, Jeffrey and Manoah 57). In addition, both directors are responsible for using the concept of silent films in other movies. Accordingly, they have used their skills and experience attained in directing other films in order to develop an interesting plot for Steamboat bill Jr.

 In conclusion, the motifs and artistic techniques used by the directors of this movie have aided in the production of an interesting film. One of the evident tactics is humor, a feature used in various scenes to convey a moral message as well as address other themes integrated in the plot (Films Directed by Charles Reisner 90). Additionally, there are contributions made by the directors, which relate to other popular works. This includes the use of parody and concept of silent films as the foundation of other artistic techniques.


Works Cited

Films Directed by Charles Reisner. S.l.: General Books, 2010. Print.

Keaton, Buster, Chas F. Reisner, Edward F. Cline, Carl Harbaugh, Bert Haines, Elgin Lessley, and Joe Roberts. Steamboat Bill Jr: Det D’eau Douce. S.l.: KVP [éd., 2012.

Keaton, Eleanor, Jeffrey Vance, and Manoah Bowman. Buster Keaton Remembered. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2001. Print.

Reisner, Charles F, Buster Keaton, Ernest Terrence, Marion Byron, and David Shepard. Steamboat Bill, Jr. S.l.: Falcon Neue Medien, 2003.



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