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The General
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The General (1926) More at IMDbPro »

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The General -- When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single handedly and straight through enemy lines.

Overview

User Rating:
8.3/10   39,251 votes »
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Up 4% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Writers:
Buster Keaton (written by) and
Clyde Bruckman (written by) ...
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for The General on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
24 February 1927 (France) See more »
Genre:
Tagline:
Love, Locomotives and Laughs
Plot:
When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single handedly and straight through enemy lines. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Awards:
1 win & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Understated Perfection See more (220 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Buster Keaton ... Johnnie Gray
Marion Mack ... Annabelle Lee
Glen Cavender ... Captain Anderson
Jim Farley ... General Thatcher
Frederick Vroom ... A Southern General
Charles Henry Smith ... Annabelle's Father (as Charles Smith)
Frank Barnes ... Annabelle's Brother
Joe Keaton ... Union General
Mike Donlin ... Union General
Tom Nawn ... Union General
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Henry Baird ... Soldier (uncredited)
Joe Bricher ... Soldier (uncredited)
Jimmy Bryant ... Raider (uncredited)
Sergeant Bukowski ... Officer (uncredited)
C.C. Cruson ... Officer (uncredited)
Jack Dempster ... Raider (uncredited)
Keith Fennell ... Soldier (uncredited)
Budd Fine ... Raider (uncredited)
Eddie Foster ... Union Railroad Fireman (uncredited)
Ronald Gilstrap ... Union Soldier (uncredited)
Frank Hagney ... Confederate Recruiter (uncredited)
Ray Hanford ... Raider (uncredited)
Jack Hanlon ... Bit Part (uncredited)
Al Hanson ... Raider (uncredited)
Anthony Harvey ... Raider (uncredited)
Edward Hearn ... Union Officer (uncredited)

Boris Karloff ... Union General (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
Hilliard Karr ... Soldier (uncredited)
Elgin Lessley ... Union General Who Gives Command to Cross Bridge (uncredited)
Louis Lewyn ... Soldier (uncredited)
Jackie Lowe ... Boy Who Follows Johnny (uncredited)
Billy Lynn ... Soldier (uncredited)
Ross McCutcheon ... Raider (uncredited)
Tom Moran ... Raider (uncredited)
Charles Phillips ... Raider (uncredited)
Red Rial ... Raider (uncredited)
Al St. John ... Officer on Horseback (uncredited)
Harold Terry ... Union Soldier (uncredited)
Ray Thomas ... Raider (uncredited)
Red Thompson ... Raider (uncredited)
James Walsh ... Soldier (uncredited)
John Wilson ... Union Soldier (uncredited)
Jean Woodward ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)
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Directed by
Clyde Bruckman 
Buster Keaton 
 
Writing credits
Buster Keaton (written by) and
Clyde Bruckman (written by)

Al Boasberg (adapted by) and
Charles Henry Smith (adapted by) (as Charles Smith)

William Pittenger  book "Daring and Suffering: a History of the Great Railroad Adventure" (uncredited)
William Pittenger  memoir "The Great Locomotive Chase" (uncredited)
Paul Girard Smith  uncredited

Produced by
David Shepard .... video producer (2003 alternate version)
Buster Keaton .... producer (uncredited)
Joseph M. Schenck .... executive producer (uncredited)
Joseph M. Schenck .... producer (uncredited)
 
Original Music by
The Alloy Orchestra (2003 alternate version)
Carl Davis (1987)
Robert Israel (1995 New Score)
Joe Hisaishi (uncredited)
 
Cinematography by
Bert Haines (photographed by)
Devereaux Jennings (photographed by) (as Dev Jennings)
 
Film Editing by
Buster Keaton (uncredited)
Sherman Kell (uncredited)
 
Art Direction by
Fred Gabourie (uncredited)
 
Set Decoration by
Harry Roselotte (uncredited)
 
Makeup Department
Bennie Hubbel .... assistant makeup artist (uncredited)
J.K. Pitcarin .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Fred Carlton Ryle .... makeup artist (uncredited)
 
Production Management
Lou Anger .... production supervisor (uncredited)
Fred Gabourie .... production manager (uncredited)
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Harry Barnes .... first assistant director (uncredited)
Glen Cavender .... second unit director (uncredited)
Edward Hearn .... assistant director: Oregon (uncredited)
 
Art Department
Frank Barnes .... construction foreman (uncredited)
Jack Coyle .... carpenter (uncredited)
William Ernshaw .... bridge timber crew (uncredited)
Al Gilmour .... production buyer (uncredited)
Mike Graves .... assistant property master (uncredited)
Bert Jackson .... property master (uncredited)
H.L. Jennings .... bridge and dam construction (uncredited)
George E. Potter .... bridge timber contractor (uncredited)
Billy Wood .... chief draughtsman (uncredited)
 
Special Effects by
Jack Little .... special effects (uncredited)
 
Stunts
Buster Keaton .... stunts (uncredited)
Earl Mohan .... stunt double: Tom Moran (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Denver Harmon .... lighting effects
Frank Barnes .... grip (uncredited)
Dal Clawson .... still photographer (uncredited)
Elmer Ellsworth .... camera operator (uncredited)
Denver Harmon .... chief lighting technician (uncredited)
Byron Houck .... camera operator (uncredited)
Byron Houck .... still photographer (uncredited)
Ed Levy .... assistant chief lighting technician (uncredited)
William Piltz .... still photographer (uncredited)
Melbourne Spurr .... publicity photographer (uncredited)
Harry J. Wild .... assistant camera (uncredited)
 
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Bennie Hubbel .... assistant wardrobe (uncredited)
J.K. Pitcarin .... wardrobe (uncredited)
Fred Carlton Ryle .... assistant wardrobe (uncredited)
 
Editorial Department
Harry Barnes .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Sherman Kell .... assistant editor (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Robert Israel .... music arranger: 1995 alternate version
Robert Israel .... music director: 1995 alternate version
Hiroyuki Akita .... music engineer: Joe Hisaishi score (uncredited)
James C. Bradford .... music compiler (uncredited)
Suminobu Hamada .... Joe Hisaishi Score (uncredited)
Suminobu Hamada .... music engineer (uncredited)
Suminobu Hamada .... music mixer (uncredited)
Joe Hisaishi .... Joe Hisaishi Score (uncredited)
Joe Hisaishi .... conductor (uncredited)
Joe Hisaishi .... music arranger (uncredited)
Joe Hisaishi .... music producer (uncredited)
Joe Hisaishi .... musician (uncredited)
Joe Hisaishi .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Scott Joplin .... composer: additional music (uncredited)
Ikuko Okamoto .... Joe Hisaishi Score (uncredited)
Ikuko Okamoto .... music production manager (uncredited)
William P. Perry .... composer: new piano score (uncredited)
Nic Raine .... orchestrator: Carl Davis score (uncredited)
 
Other crew
Fred Gabourie .... technical director
Joseph M. Schenck .... presenter
Lou Anger .... production accountant: Los Angeles (uncredited)
Dr. Axley .... first aid (uncredited)
Harry Brand .... production coordinator (uncredited)
Harry Brand .... unit publicist (uncredited)
Betty Cavender .... production secretary (uncredited)
Glen Cavender .... technical advisor (uncredited)
John W. Considine Jr. .... assistant production coordinator (uncredited)
Jack Dempster .... engineer (uncredited)
Christine Francis .... script supervisor (uncredited)
Dr. Frost .... first aid (uncredited)
Wesley G. Gilmour .... production accountant: Oregon (uncredited)
L.L. Graham .... production assistant: Oregon (uncredited)
Bob Holmes .... production assistant: Oregon (uncredited)
Bert Jackson .... location manager (uncredited)
Ralph Land .... chef (uncredited)
Fred A. Lowry .... brakeman (uncredited)
George E. Potter .... caterer (uncredited)
Viola Riddle .... cook: Mr. Keaton (uncredited)
Willie Riddle .... assistant: Mr. Keaton (uncredited)
Dee Wright .... wrangler (uncredited)
Fred Wright .... chief mechanic (uncredited)
Fred Wright .... fire fighter (uncredited)
 
Crew verified as complete


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Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
Australia:107 min | Spain:80 min (1982 version) | Spain:83 min (1962 version) | USA:75 min (2003 alternate version) | 78 min (24 fps)
Country:
Language:
Color:
Black and White (Sepiatone)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Certification:
Australia:G | Finland:S | Norway:7 (original rating) | Norway:A (re-rating) (2004) | Portugal:M/6 (DVD rating) | Portugal:17 (director's cut) | South Korea:All (2002) | Sweden:Btl | UK:U | USA:Unrated | USA:TV-G (TV rating) | West Germany:6

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 Little Shanty, GA, 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 MoH posthumously).See more »
Goofs:
Factual errors: The cowcatchers on Western & Atlantic RR trains had horizontal bars, rather than the vertical ones seen on all three trains in the film.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 »
Movie Connections:

FAQ

Why do the two little boys follow Johnnie Gray around?
Why does the print look so bad?
Why don't they make movies like this any more?
See more »
60 out of 64 people found the following review useful.
Understated Perfection, 21 June 2006
Author: imogensara_smith from New York City

Buster Keaton once said that if he hadn't been a comedian, he might have been a civil engineer. He was not only a mechanical whiz but a spatial genius who devised stunts and gags with the grace of pure physics. It's no wonder he adored trains, the most elegant of machines, and brought them into his movies whenever he could. When one of Keaton's former gag-writers loaned him a book recounting the theft of a locomotive from Georgia by Union raiders during the Civil War, he was immediately fired with enthusiasm to bring this "page of history" to life. His first certainty was that the production had to be "so authentic it hurts." He even insisted on using historically accurate narrow-gauge railroad tracks, which he found, along with appropriate landscapes, near the sleepy town of Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Most importantly, the area had stretches of parallel tracks, which allowed scenes of Buster on his train—agilely scrambling over the cars, balancing on the roof to scan the horizon, chopping wood for the engine while armies pass unnoticed behind him—to be filmed from another train running alongside. Buster, his train, and the camera are all in motion; the wind whips through Buster's hair while smoky pine-covered hills rise and fall around him. These scenes are not only the highlight of the movie but a peak in the history of *moving* pictures, and they put to shame all later back-projection and process shots, models and computer-generated effects. The quality of Keaton's film-making is simply—pun intended—unparalleled. Every shot in The General is clean, fresh and efficiently composed; the action is captured honestly and legibly at all times. The film never tries to be beautiful; its beauty is functional, just like the grave, masculine beauty of the locomotives and railroad bridges and Civil War uniforms.

The General's narrative structure is as strong and uncluttered as its look. Like a train, it stays on track, never meandering for the sake of a laugh or a stunt. All of the gags rise organically from the coherent and straightforward storyline. Adapting the historical incident, Keaton made himself the engineer of the stolen train (Johnnie Gray), rather than one of the raiders. As he saw immediately, The General is one long chase, or rather two chases, structured like the flight of a boomerang. First Johnnie on a borrowed train, the Texas, chases his own stolen train, the General. He manages to steal it back and races it towards his own lines, pursued by the raiders in the Texas, who try to prevent him from carrying their battle plans to his own high command.

The General is not Keaton's funniest film, but here he was going for quality over quantity in laughs. A number of the gags, like the box-car that keeps appearing and disappearing as it switches tracks, have a long build-up for a relatively modest payoff. But the laughter is mingled with a gasp of awe, and the best moments never get stale on repeated viewings. The cannon attached to the back of Buster's train goes off just as the train starts around a curve, so the ball flies straight and hits the raiders' train coming out of the curve. Riding on the cowcatcher, Buster hurls one railroad tie at another lying across the tracks, striking it precisely so that it flips out of the way. A forlorn Buster sits on the crossbar of his train's wheels, so lost in thought he doesn't notice when the train starts to move, carrying him up and down in gentle arcs: stillness in motion.

I agree with author Jim Kline who describes The General as Keaton's most personal film, the one that best captures his unique vision, spirit and personality. In many of his films, Buster starts off as an inept or effete character and develops into a hero. But his competent, ingenious and athletic character in The General, who is also modest, tireless, and underestimated, comes much closer to his real nature. There is a shot in The General of Buster's eye isolated on screen, framed by a hole in a white table-cloth, that has always reminded me of Dziga Vertov's kinoglaz, the "camera-eye." Keaton melds with his camera; there's no distinction between his qualities as a performer and the qualities of his movies. They have the same silence, the same strictness, the same strange blend of gravity and humor.

The General might be the most serious comedy every made, but it's not a tragicomedy. That, as in Chaplin's blending of pathos and low humor, was something people took to immediately. But no one knew what to make of The General. Original reviews accused the film of being dull, pretentious, unoriginal, and unfunny. Even today, people who have heard it acclaimed as one of the greatest movies of all time are sometimes puzzled or disappointed by it on first viewing. The General is challenging because it doesn't flaunt its virtues; like Keaton's concise and economical performance, it holds a great deal in reserve. Take the movie's most famous shot, of a train crashing through a burning bridge, for which Keaton built a real bridge and destroyed a real train. The shot lasts a few seconds in the finished film: he doesn't dwell on it or hype it. Who else in Hollywood would sink money in a spectacular effect and then downplay it? Keaton never forces a response from the audience, never manipulates, never overplays. He doesn't show off his acrobatic skills or his enormous repertoire of comic talents, nor does he play for sympathy. Anything so subtle will always leave some people cold. But for those who can see the expressiveness of Buster's so-called "stone face," who get his peculiar dry humor, who appreciate the rigorous purity and taste he displayed, these virtues are all the more stunning because they are understated. Buster Keaton always has more than he's showing; you can see it in his eyes.

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