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The General (1926)

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When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single-handedly and straight through enemy lines.
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Top Rated Movies #163 | 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Buster Keaton ... Johnnie Gray
Marion Mack ... Annabelle Lee
Glen Cavender ... Captain Anderson
Jim Farley ... General Thatcher
Frederick Vroom Frederick Vroom ... A Southern General
Charles Henry Smith Charles Henry Smith ... Annabelle's Father (as Charles Smith)
Frank Barnes Frank Barnes ... Annabelle's Brother
Joe Keaton ... Union General
Mike Donlin ... Union General
Tom Nawn Tom Nawn ... Union General
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Storyline

Johnnie loves his train ("The General") and Annabelle Lee. When the Civil War begins he is turned down for service because he's more valuable as an engineer. Annabelle thinks it's because he's a coward. Union spies capture The General with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must rescue both his loves. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Love, Locomotives and Laughs See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 February 1927 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Engine Driver See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$750,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1982) | (1962) | (2003 alternate) |

Sound Mix:

Silent

Color:

Black and White (Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Based on a true incident during the Civil War. In April 1862 Union agent James J. Andrews led a squad of 21 soldiers on a daring secret raid. Dressed in civilian clothes, Andrews and his men traveled by rail into the Southern states. Their mission was to sabotage rail lines and disrupt the Confederate army's supply chain. At the town of Big Shanty, GA (now known as Kennesaw), the raiders stole a locomotive known as "The General". They headed north, tearing up track, burning covered bridges and cutting telegraph lines along the way. William Fuller and Jeff Cain, the conductor and engineer of "The General," pursued the stolen train by rail and foot. They first used a hand-cart (as Buster Keaton does in the film), then a small work locomotive called "The Yonah," which they borrowed from a railroad work crew, and finally a full-sized Confederate army locomotive called "The Texas," which pursued "The General" for 51 miles--in reverse. During the chase Confederate soldiers were able to repair the sabotaged telegraph wires and send messages ahead of the raiders. Andrews and his men were intercepted and captured near Chattanooga, TN, by a squad of Confederate troops led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (who, after the war, was one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan). Tried as spies, Andrews and seven of his raiders were hanged (a special gallows was built to hold all eight men). The rest of the raiders were traded in a prisoner exchange. In 1863 the survivors of the mission were awarded the first Medals of Honor (Andrews and the raiders who had been hanged later received the medal posthumously). Although this film is a comedy, the incident was later filmed by Walt Disney as a drama, The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), with Fess Parker--a Southerner, born in Texas--as Andrews. See more »

Goofs

Out the Big Shanty, there were no soldiers. In reality, there were soldiers outside the Site Lacy Hotel and next to the rails. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Annabelle's brother: Fort Sumter has been fired upon.
Mr. Lee: Then the war is here.
Annabelle's brother: Yes, dad, and I'm going to be one of the first to enlist.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Released on DVD with a 2004 score by Joe Hisaishi & the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Jackass 3.5 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

The General
Written by William P. Perry
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Genius of Buster Keaton
17 April 2001 | by MadReviewerSee all my reviews

Probably Buster Keaton's best film, and oddly enough, it's not even a straightforward comedy – it's actually an action film, with clever doses of romance and comedy tossed in for good measure. `The General', which is set during the Civil War, is about a train engineer named Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton, of course) who tries to enlist in the Confederate Army . . . and is turned down because the army feels he'd be much more valuable for the war effort as an engineer instead of a soldier. However, through a series of misunderstandings, both Johnny's family and his girl think he's a coward, and they refuse to speak to him until he becomes a soldier. Months pass, and Johnny, sad and alone, is piloting his train – the General – when it is stolen from him by the North. Johnny's efforts to recover the General – and to win back his girl's love – become an unbelievably funny and action-packed series of events, as Johnny tries to go from being a sad-sack buffoon to being a hero.

If you haven't watched many silent films, they demand a greater amount of attention than `normal' film – there are no audio cues; and volumes can be spoken with a simple facial expression. Buster Keaton is amazingly expressive, as he's fully capable of going from wildly happy to downtrodden and sad in the blink of an eye. While funny, Keaton is much more than just a clownish figure – he manages to evoke a lot of sympathy as well, and he genuinely becomes what can only be described as an action hero as well. His timing, whether for a joke or for a tender moment, is absolutely impeccable.

What's also great about `The General' is the sheer amount of stunts and physical humor – a movie like this couldn't be made today. No amount of insurance would cover it. Keaton does all his own stunts, and manages to perform a number of feats that are simultaneously hilarious and dangerous – he chases down `The General' with a bike, he sits on a moving cattlecatcher, knocking away railroad ties with a tie of his own. All these stunts are fantastic, but it's scary to think that any one of these probably could've killed Keaton if something even went slightly wrong.

`The General' is a lot more than slapstick. Personally, I think it's one of the first films to push the envelope of movies – it goes for action, romance, and humor, and it pulls all of those elements together into a terrific movie. If you've never seen Buster Keaton – or, for that matter, a silent film – go find this one and watch it. It's a classic. A+


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