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The General (February 5, 1927)

Buster Keaton in The General

A Rebel Civil War romantic comedy released February 5, 1927. Johnny Gray's sweetheart and his beloved train are stolen by Union soldiers, and Johnny must get them both back, at any cost.

Directed by Clyde-Bruckman

The Actors: Buster Keaton (Johnny Gray), Marion Mack (Annabelle Lee), Glen Cavender (Captain Anderson), Jim Farley (General Thatcher), Frederick Vroom (Southern General), Charles Henry Smith (Annabelle's Father), Joe Keaton (Union General), Mike Donlin (Union General), Tom Nawn (Union General).

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This silent classic is a must-have for anyone interested in classic films and classic comedies. Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman take William Pittenger's novel "Great Locomotive Chase" and turn it into a smash comedy hit that even today will hold your attention till the end. Now I gotta tell you, I'm accustomed to sound with my movies, but this one was really easy to watch and understand without sound, and it kept me glued to my computer screen for an hour and a quarter. There are no stunt men here, and Keaton does some magnificent athletic stunts on the locomotive with apparent ease.

Keaton is Southern train engineer Johnny Gray, and when the Civil War breaks out, he tries to enlist in the Confederate Army without success. His girl Annabelle believes he is a coward for not being in uniform, and shuns him. When Annabelle learns that her father has been injured in the war, she sneaks aboard the train to go visit him. But this train is being stolen by Union soldiers to hamper the supply lines of the Confederacy, and Annabelle gets kidnapped by the Union soldiers. Buster sees his beloved locomotive being stolen, and he gives chase all the way up into enemy territory.

When the movie was first released it did not do well, but since then it has become one of the most important films in the history of movies. Many of the technical details are wrong for the 1861 setting, but the pace, energy and storyline make it a vital turning point in the evolution of movies. And even though I have lived all of my life in the 'north,' I was cheering for Johnny as he chased and conquored the Union soldiers that had stolen his engine and his girl.