The General (1927 film)

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The General is a 1926[2] American silent comedy film released by United Artists based upon the Great Locomotive Chase from 1862. Buster Keaton starred in the film and co-directed it with Clyde Bruckman. It was adapted by Al Boasberg, Bruckman, Keaton, Charles Henry Smith (uncredited) and Paul Girard Smith (uncredited) from the memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger. The film was a box-office disaster at its original release, but is now considered by critics as one of the greatest films ever made.



In 1861, Western & Atlantic Railroad train engineer Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) is in Marietta, Georgia to see one of the two loves of his life, his fiancee Annabelle Lee (the other being his locomotive, the "General"), when the American Civil War breaks out. He hurries to be first in line to sign up with the Confederate Army, but is rejected (without explanation) because he is too valuable to the Confederacy in his present job. On leaving, he comes across Annabelle's father and brother, who beckon to him to join them in line, but he sadly walks away, giving them the impression that he does not want to enlist. Annabelle coldly informs Johnnie that she will not speak to him again until he is in uniform.

A year passes, and Annabelle receives word that her father has been wounded. She travels north on the General to see him, but still wants nothing to do with Johnnie. When the train makes a stop, the passengers detrain for a quick meal. As planned, Union spies led by Captain Anderson (Glen Cavender) use the opportunity to steal the train. Annabelle becomes an inadvertent prisoner. Johnnie gives chase, first on foot, then by handcar and boneshaker bicycle, before reaching a station in Chattanooga. He alerts the army detachment there, which boards another train to give chase, with Johnnie manning the locomotive, the "Texas". However, the flatcars are not hooked up to the engine, and the troops are left behind. By the time Johnnie realizes he is alone, it is too late to turn back.

The Union agents try a variety of methods to shake their dogged pursuer (convinced he is accompanied by Confederate soldiers), including disconnecting their trailing car and dropping railroad ties on the tracks. As the unusual duel continues northward, the Confederate Army of Tennessee is ordered to retreat and the Northern army advances in its wake. Johnnie finally notices he is surrounded by Union soldiers and the hijackers see that Johnnie is by himself. Johnnie stops his locomotive and runs into the forest to hide.

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