It is my ambition to add as many silent film synopsis of films that have a survival status of unknown or presumed lost. I try to do as much research as I can and it is not my intention to deceive anyone, for sometimes the film does exist. I am more than delighted if someone has knowledge of a film listed as lost but survives, as I wish all silent films did survive. I hope the reader enjoys this brief synopsis.
Twenty-nine minutes late into Chicago, engineer Anderson ( Lon Chaney ), nicknamed Grumpy because of his single-minded devotion to timetables and railroad protocol, plows through heavy snowdrifts to make up lost time. His sons have followed into the railroading business, but they are gradually embittered by his apparent callousness. One of them was worked to exhaustion as the fireman of the Chicago run through the snow but gained sympathy from Zella ( Phyllis Haver ), a nightclub singer whose private car Anderson had refused to tow, forcing her to jump into the cab and ride. His stubborn inflexibility eventually alienates his in-laws, causes the death of one of his sons, and provokes a wreck on the train on which the body was being carried by scuffling with his other son over his culpability for the death. Relegated to the railroad machine shop, he is called to service during the crisis of the Mississippi floods, and he ends up, along with his estranged son, at the throttle of a relief train that blasts through the flooded area on track often submerged as much as 4 feet to save the widow of his son and Zella, who are stranded in the flood area.
"Yesterday afternoon's audience seemed to find THUNDER a good picture, even though it did appear now and then that coincidence was playing a larger part in the railroad than the safety signal system...When the picture gets away from railroad procedure, Mr. Chaney seems admirable. But railroad men the country over will view some of the scenes with a jaundiced eye." ---The New York Times
"Lon Chaney does an exceptionally fine characterization, without the aid of any special makeup aside from slightly greyed hair and moustache...William Nigh's direction was very satisfactory; and the story by Byron Morgan is out of the usual run of railroad melodramas and finely developed." ---Motion Picture News
This 1929 drama was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, starring Lon Chaney, Phyllis Haver, George Duryea and James Murray. It was a silent film, with synchronized music and sound effects. Today, about 5 minutes of footage survives, at Library of Congress, UCLA Film Archives (both have short fragments).
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