The Navigator movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was The Navigator filmed?


City Locations

Catalina Island, San Francisco, Meek's Bay, Redondo Beach (USA

Location Types

Mansion, Riverside

Location Styles

Victorian, Beachfront, Colonial, Dock

About The Navigator

The Navigator is a 1924 silent comedy film directed by Donald Crisp and starring Buster Keaton and Kathryn McGuire. At the request of his star, Buster Keaton, producer Joseph M. Schenck invested $25,000 in an outdated ocean liner as a "prop" for his upcoming feature comedy—not yet knowing what purpose it would serve. The plot follows the story of two wealthy, spoiled young people who are forced to fend for themselves when they become stranded on a deserted ocean liner. Though utterly helpless, the two soon employ the ship's facilities to survive their predicament. At one point in the film, Keaton’s character must use his wit and resourcefulness to ward off an attack from a group of cannibals.

An unparalleled achievement, The Navigator was an immense commercial success for Keaton and is now widely acknowledged as one of his definitive works. Selected in 2018 to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry, this monumental motion picture stands amongst many scholars' favorite masterpieces from Keaton's illustrious career. It also received rave reviews from contemporary critics who praised its clever use of visual effects to produce amazing stunts and Keaton's impeccable acting timing. The Navigator has been lauded for its unique blend of comedy, romance, adventure, and suspense, making it one of the most entertaining films of the silent era.

Since its initial release, The Navigator has become a classic slice of early cinema history. It is still enjoyed by audiences today for its timeless comedic elements and remarkable storytelling techniques.

The Navigator Locations

The film was primarily shot in Los Angeles but with some scenes filmed in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Much of the film was shot on a soundstage in Hollywood, but the use of these multiple locations brings out the varied visuals that make this movie unique. For ten weeks of production, the cast and crew lived aboard the real ship the Buford, which Keaton renamed the Navigator, a vessel that sailed around Avalon Bay near Catalina Island.

The Los Angeles area used for The Navigator provides an interesting backdrop. Santa Barbara was also featured in the film, offering breathtaking views of ocean vistas. Finally, San Francisco provided a terrific setting for a classic scene filmed at Divisadero and Broadway.

A trip to the locations used for The Navigator is on many a film buff’s list. They provide insight into how this timeless film was made and offer an opportunity to experience these various cities through the eyes of one of cinema's greatest legends—Buster Keaton himself. From strolling down world-famous streets to taking in beautiful landscapes, there is no shortage of sights to explore when venturing out on this journey.

Rollo Treadway's mansion scene in The Navigator

2500 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA

In the movie, Rollo Treadway’s mansion is portrayed as a great, luxurious estate fit for a member of the idle rich. It is located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, a picturesque district filled with stately Victorian homes and breathtaking views. It serves as the perfect backdrop to this scene. Treadway (Buster Keaton) commanded his chauffeur to immediately drive him to the residence of Betsy. The car began and expertly made a U-turn before stopping across the street from their destination. The exterior is breathtaking; an imposing 4-story white Victorian looks like it has been well-maintained for years. It has a large wrap-around porch and balcony on the second-floor level and windows all around it.

2500 Divisadero Street in San Francisco was the blockbuster location for this scene and is deeply rooted with historical importance as it used to be home once to one of the city's first millionaires, Mr. A.D Moore. Sadly though, Rollo Treadway's ivy-covered mansion—which featured so prominently here—was demolished back in the 1930s, leaving us only with its memory today.

To get to this location from downtown San Francisco, take a car or public transport (MUNI). If you decide to drive, make your way towards Divisadero Street in the Pacific Heights area. You’ll find where this house was once located, between Broadway and Pacific Avenue. Getting there by bus is easy; there is a stop at the corner of Jackson Street and Divisadero Street.

Betsy's house scene in The Navigator

2505 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA

Spoiled millionaire Rollo Treadway (Buster Keaton), eager to propose marriage to his beloved Betsy (Kathryn McGuire) across the street, was driven by his chauffeur. Unfortunately for him, she rejected him! With a heavy heart and head held high, he proclaimed that the journey back home—on foot—would do him some good.

Keaton was passionate in his pursuit of producing a picture-perfect movie. Now, Divisadero and Broadway are sprinkled with lavish residences. The red brick home at 2505 Divisadero, which shows Buster’s girlfriend's abode, has lost its front portico, while the white one next door had been demolished and supplanted by two mini-mansions. To the back of this area are standing homes on both the SW and NW corners of Broadway; however, their chimneys have migrated from outside walls into interior ones. Also visible are four dwellings that replace Moore's residence on the right side of this scene.

As with the address above, getting to this The Navigator filming location is easily done via bus. The Jackson St andDiviadero St stop is just above Broadway.

An evil plan scene in The Navigator

Redondo Beach, CA

The scene in the movie shows the conspirators hatching a plan to destroy an ocean liner at Redondo Beach Pier. The conspirators enter a small room or space, likely on the bluff overlooking the pier. As they discuss their plan, one of them points out where the ship is. This was shot in an era before rear-screen projection and other special effects, so Buster Keaton had to build a unique set location that could capture the planning and the ship itself without moving from place to place.

To create this fantastic set, he chose a bluff overlooking Redondo Beach Pier and covered it with muslin fabric to diffuse natural sunlight for his shot. As the movie progressed, Rollo (Buster Keaton) and Betsy (Kathryn McGuire) returned to the pier in search of dock number twelve.

Redondo's Wharf 1 was the first string of piers, wharves, and harbors built in 1888 to accommodate the thriving lumber industry from the nearby Pacific Northwest. Today it stands 25 feet above the water with 70,000 square feet of open space, and is a unique horseshoe-shaped pier.

To get from downtown Los Angeles to this location, take public transportation or drive there yourself. Enjoy a drive through this area and see the sights by bus. Bus 109 takes you to S Catalina Avenue nearby the pier.

Underwater scene in The Navigator

Lake Tahoe, Meeks Bay, CA

The filmmakers intended to use Riverside, California's municipal swimming pool, to portray the stunning shots of Rollo Treadway fixing the ship while wearing his diving gear. However, it was not deep enough for this purpose and thus needed additional retaining walls built around its edges to create more water storage room. Unfortunately, due to such an immense amount of weight from all that added water, the base of the pool was greatly strained, resulting in costly repairs paid for by Keaton himself. Production then moved to Lake Tahoe where visibility beneath its waters proved outstanding which is exactly what made those shots look so incredibly realistic!

Buster crafted a diving helmet with an expansive glass panel, allowing the audience to witness his face fully and ensuring they knew he was underwater in Lake Tahoe. He understood that viewers could detect genuine footage from faked shots. Thus, he worked hard throughout his career to film without any artifice. The resulting scene mesmerizes you entirely and is one of the best (or maybe the only) authentic underwater sequences during the silent movie era.

Getting to Lake Tahoe from downtown Sacramento can be done by car or bus. Driving usually takes just over two hours. Enjoy this scenic route, taking Highway 50 or the I-80, admiring sights such as Placerville and Echo Summit along the way.


The Navigator was one of the first films to bring attention to the comedic genius of Buster Keaton, which would later be seen in his masterpiece The General (1926). It also helped to develop the genre of silent films further and set the standard for future films.

Keaton's performance in The Navigator is genuinely memorable—his physical comedy is unparalleled as he slips and slides around the ship and eventually sets up housekeeping with his new companion. His non-stop deadpan expression is also hilarious as he encounters strange situations; his entire demeanor exudes sincere innocence and naivety regardless of what he finds himself up against.

In addition, the script for The Navigator was superb; it had cleverly written jokes with intricate plot points that built up the suspense until its surprise ending. This film was not only entertaining but also thought-provoking and socially aware; it portrays a society that was still coming to terms with post-WWI America and addresses issues such as classism, racism, sexism, and economic inequality in ways that would resonate with contemporary viewers today. And we have to mention again, Keaton’s terrific underwater expertise!