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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   40,574 votes »
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Down 7% 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:
2 wins & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Richly inventive comedy with a logically impeccable plot that makes the hyperbolic slapstick seem plausible and inevitable; this is a work of art and a work of genius See more (224 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)

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 .... presents
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


Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

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:
The scene in which The Texas crashes through the bridge was the single most expensive shot of the entire silent movie era. The Texas itself remained in the river until WWII, when it was salvaged for scrap iron.See more »
Goofs:
Anachronisms: The Union soldier killed by the flying sword blade, uses a Springfield trapdoor rifle not available during the Civil War.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

What's the name of that thing Buster Keaton is sitting on?
Why do distributors add music to silent films?
Did the original audiences for silent movies hear musical accompaniment?
See more »
50 out of 64 people found the following review useful.
Richly inventive comedy with a logically impeccable plot that makes the hyperbolic slapstick seem plausible and inevitable; this is a work of art and a work of genius, 29 June 2000
Author: J. Spurlin from United States

Buster Keaton's "The General," about a man and his engine, puts you in a world where the most comically inventive situation that could happen will happen. From major comic situations to throwaway gags, "The General" always knows what to do.

The story begins in leisurely fashion. A title card tells us that Johnnie Gray (Keaton) has two loves in his life: his engine and his girl—respectively, The General and Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack). Johnnie goes to visit Annabelle, followed by two engineer-worshipping boys and, unknown to him, Annabelle Lee herself. He and his entourage arrive at the door; Johnnie polishes his shoes on the back of his pants legs, slicks back his hair, and gently taps the door with the door knocker. Then he turns to notice Annabelle. Keaton's understated reaction is a testament to his uniqueness. Any other comedian would have done an explosive double-take.

Now Johnnie and Annabelle are together in her parlor, but the boys are there, too. Johnnie stands up, puts on his hat and opens the door as if to leave. The hero-worshippers are ready to follow, but Johnnie lets them out first, then closes the door on them. This is a gentle ruse in the world of silent comedy. At Keystone both boys would have gotten kicked in the pants.

Now the two are alone. Annabelle's father sees them from another room and is about to break things up when her brother enters and announces that Fort Sumter has been fired upon: the War Between the States has begun. Annabelle kisses her father and brother as they go to enlist, then turns expectantly to Johnnie, who cocks his head like a confused puppy. She asks, "Aren't you going to enlist?" Realization hits him, and he leaps off the seat. Before he can run out the door, Annabelle kisses him. This so overwhelms Johnnie that he flings out his arm in a farewell gesture and falls off the porch.

Johnnie races to the general store, which is now a makeshift recruitment office. Taking a shortcut he manages to be the first in line. The door to the office is opened and Johnnie comes marching in—only he and the rest of the line go in two different directions, and he has to jump over several tables to get in front again. He gives the enlistment officer his name and occupation, but the man rejects him. Johnnie is more valuable to the South as an engineer. Later, Annabelle believes that Johnnie didn't even try to enlist. She refuses to speak to him again until he's in uniform. What follows is a classic moment: Johnnie sits on the connecting rod of his engine. He's so miserable that he doesn't notice when he starts moving up and down, until just before the train enters a tunnel.

Time passes and we learn that a group of Unionists are secretly passengers on The General. When (nearly) everyone is off the train having dinner, the Unionists climb back aboard and take the engine. Annabelle, a passenger herself, was still on board. She is now their prisoner.

But Johnnie only knows his beloved General has been stolen, possibly by deserters. He pursues the engine by taking another, The Texas. Through a mishap he becomes the sole person aboard The Texas, but the Unionists think they're outnumbered and continue to run. What follows is the true joy of the movie: two long chases (separated by an important plot twist). Now the movie changes its quiet pace for almost nonstop action.

I love it when the Unionists break off the rail car to hinder The Texas. At one point, the car, which Johnnie thought he had switched to another track, reappears in front of the baffled engineer, only to disappear later just as mysteriously. We see the logical circumstances that lead to the car's seeming magic act, and the equally logical situations that keep Keaton occupied, preventing him from seeing what we see.

Comic logic is important to "The General." In no other movie do hyperbolic slapstick gags seem so plausible and inevitable. In a throwaway gag, Johnnie empties a burlap sack full of shoes because he urgently needs the sack. Of course—of course!—he loses his own shoe in the pile and must stop to hunt for it.

We move to the second chase, where Johnnie has The General and the Unionists are the ones pursuing him. Now Johnnie must contend with Annabelle Lee.

Marion Mack leaves no mark of her personality on the screen. She deserves credit mainly for being willing and able to take it. Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn were never thrown around, trod upon or knocked about the way Marion Mack was. She has hilarious moments. The excitement of the chase does not prevent her from taking out a broom to sweep the dusty floor of the engine. An exasperated Johnnie tells her to keep throwing wood into the fire. She takes a small stick and daintily puts it in. Johnnie sarcastically hands her a sliver, and she puts that in, too. Then, in a moment that has an audience roaring and clapping, Johnnie grabs her and half-throttles her before kissing her instead.

The final section, most of it a battle scene, includes the shot where The Texas begins to cross a burning bridge, only to crash into the river. Owing to Keaton's disdain of fakery (one of several reasons his works seem modern) he did not use a model but a real train on a real burning bridge. The crash cost $42,000—reportedly making it the single most expensive shot ever in a silent film.

A worthy closing gag was too taxing even for Keaton's ingenuity. Johnnie's dilemma is to kiss his girl while saluting the passing soldiers. His remedy is only mildly funny. Is anyone complaining? "The General" is a work of art and a work of genius.

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