The General (1926)
The General is a 1926 American silent film released by United Artists. It was inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase, a true story of an event that occurred during the American Civil War. The story was adapted from the 1889 memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger. The film stars Buster Keaton who co-directed it with Clyde Bruckman.
At the time of its initial release, The General, an action-adventure-comedy made toward the end of the silent era, was not well received by critics and audiences, resulting in mediocre box office returns (about half a million dollars domestically, and approximately one million worldwide). Because of its then-huge budget ($750,000 supplied by Metro chief Joseph Schenck) and failure to turn a significant profit, Keaton lost his independence as a filmmaker and was forced into a restrictive deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
In 1989, The General was selected by the Library of Congress to be included in the first class of films for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
When Western & Atlantic Railroad train engineer Johnnie Gray arrives in Marietta, Georgia, he visits the home of Annabelle Lee, one of the two loves of his life, the other being his locomotive, The General. News arrives that the American Civil War has broken out, and Annabelle’s brother and father rush to enlist in the Confederate Army. To please Annabelle, Johnnie hurries to be first in line to enlist, but is rejected because he is more valuable as an engineer, although he is not told that reason. On leaving, he runs into Annabelle’s father and brother, who beckon to him to join them in line, but he walks away, leaving them with the impression that he does not want to enlist. Annabelle informs Johnnie that she will not speak to him again until he is in uniform.
A year passes, and Annabelle receives word that her father has been wounded. She travels north on the W&ARR to see him, with The General pulling the train. When it makes a stop, the passengers and crew detrain for a quick meal. As previously planned, Union spies led by Captain Anderson use the opportunity to steal the train. Anderson’s objective is to burn all the railroad bridges he passes, thus preventing reinforcement and resupply of the Confederate army. Annabelle, who returned to a baggage car, becomes an inadvertent prisoner of the raiders.
Johnnie gives chase, first on foot, then by handcar and boneshaker bicycle, before reaching the station at Kingston. He alerts the army detachment there, which boards another train to give chase, with Johnnie manning the locomotive the Texas. However, the flatcars are not hooked up to the engine and the troops are left behind. By the time Johnnie realizes he is alone, it is too late to turn back.
Directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton
Screenplay by Al Boasberg, Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton, Charles Henry Smith, andPaul Gerard Smith
Based on The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger
Produced by Joseph Schenck and Buster Keaton
Restored by moonflix, LLC
Buster Keaton as Johnnie Gray
Marion Mack as Annabelle Lee
Glen Cavender as Union Captain Anderson
Jim Farley as General Thatcher
Frederick Vroom as a Confederate general
Charles Smith as Annabelle’s father
Frank Barnes as Annabelle’s brother
Joe Keaton as a Union general
Mike Donlin as a Union general
Tom Nawn as a Union general
Original release date: February 5, 1927