In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
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 <email@example.com>
Producer Joseph M. Schenck gave Buster Keaton $400,000 to make this film, so the production company moved with 18 freight cars of props and sets to Oregon. In the next two months the town of Marietta, Georgia, was built near the Oregon town of Cottage Grove. See more »
The enlistment scene takes place in 1861 but the "Southern Cross" flag hanging outside the enlistment office wasn't used until 1862. See more »
I haven't had so much fun watching a movie for a long time. The General is a silent comedy (mostly slapstick) about Johnny Gray, a train engineer with two loves: his engine and Annabelle Lee. Annabelle soon dumps him because of his failure to enlist into the Civil War (they would not take him because he was too valuable as an engineer). Things are then sped up a year, where we see some Union commanders planning to hijack a train to unleash a highly sophisticated master plan. As it so happens, they steal Johnny's engine, a big mistake.
Buster Keaton does a phenomenal performance as Johnny. His face and character is ideal for this type of comedy. He reminds me a lot of Leslie Nielsen from the Naked Gun movies (but, of course, less old). He is often ignorant of what is going on around him, leading to plenty of laughs. This also makes him a very charismatic character.
There are countless train related jokes. The first one comes right at the beginning, when we see Johnny being followed by two kids and a woman, in a line much like a train. The bulk of the movie is made up of Johnny running a train, either chasing or fleeing from the Union soldiers. The movement and maneuvering of the trains is beautiful. The stunt work is an incredible accomplishment. The finale is explosive.
The General was a lot of fun to watch. It gave me more laughs than most modern comedies, and had plenty of substance on top of that. This is enough for me to label it as one of the greatest comedies ever. After my first viewing, it instantly became one of my favorites. It is timeless gem that should be watched at least once by anyone interested in movies.
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