A fantastic comedy by Keaton with one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema.
William "Steamboat Bill" Canfield is the owner and captain of a paddle steamer that has seen better days. He eagerly awaits the arrival of his college student son, whom he has not seen since the lad was a baby. Expecting a big, husky man like himself to help him compete with businessman John James King and his brand new, luxurious riverboat, William is sorely disappointed with his slight, awkward offspring, who shows up with a pencil moustache, a ukulele, and a beret. He becomes outraged when he discovers that his son and King's daughter Kitty, also visiting her father, are in love. Both business rivals are determined to break up the relationship.
“Steamboat Bill Jr.” was the last picture Keaton made for United Artists. Keaton ended up moving to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he made one last film in his trademark style, The Cameraman before his creative control was taken away by the studio.
Steamboat Bill, Jr. was a box office failure and received mixed reviews upon its release. Variety described the film as "a pip of a comedy" and "one of Keaton's best." The reviewer from The Film Spectator appointed it "as perhaps the best comedy of the year thus far" and advised, "exhibitors should go after it."
Over the years, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” has become regarded as a masterpiece of its era. Currently, review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100% of critics have given the film a positive rating based on 26 reviews, with an average score of 9.17/10, with an audience rating of 92%. The film was included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
The film inspired the title of Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie (1928), which was released six months later and is considered the debut of Mickey Mouse.
The famous falling house stunt has been re-created several times on film and television, although with lighter materials and more contemporary safety measures in place.
Over the years, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” has become regarded as a masterpiece of its era.
Like other soundtracks written by Brais González for Buster Keaton's films, Caspervek's music for "Steamboat Bill Jr." is based on the sounds of swing, Dixieland and vintage jazz. The original version for violin, piano and percussion was followed by a second version with clarinet, premiered at the IKFEM Festival in 2020.