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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 #160 | 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:

The laugh hit spectacular of the year. (Trade paper ad). 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

The first try at getting the cannonball to shoot out of the cannon into the cab caused the ball to shoot with too much force. To cause it to shoot into the cab of the engine correctly, Buster Keaton had to count out the grains of gunpowder with tweezers. See more »

Goofs

When Johnnie is running through the woods to escape the Union soldiers, his hat drops from the tree before his head hits the hat to dislodge it. 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

In 1995, Film Preservation Associates, Inc. copyrighted a 75-minute version of this film with a music score arranged and directed by Robert Israel. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Great Chase (1962) 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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