Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The General (1927)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The General (1927)

In actor / director Buster Keaton's silent action-comedy classic masterpiece set during the Civil War:

  • the early scene of Southern Confederate locomotive engineer Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) attempting to enlist in the army on the side of the South, but denied ("Don't enlist him. He is more valuable to the South as an engineer") - and his utter disappointment when told: "We can't use you"; not understanding the reason for his rejection, his lady-love fiancee Annabelle (Marion Mack) asked: "Why didn't you enlist?", he answered: "They wouldn't take me"; she thought he was lying about being unpatriotic and snubbed him: "Please don't lie - I don't want you to speak to me again until you are in uniform"; dejected, he sat on the engine's drive-shaft as it alternately moved up and down and entered an enclosure
Enlistment Failure
Snubbed by Annabelle
  • about a year later, Annabelle's kidnapping by Northern-Union spies in the baggage car of a train, and the theft of a train being pulled by Johnnie's The General
  • the many spectacular train chases, ground-breaking pursuit sequences and acrobatic stuntwork as Southern locomotive engineer Johnnie Gray pursued his own hijacked train engine (The General) taken from Georgia through Tennessee to the North by Union forces
  • Johnnie's deadpan expressions and the perfectly timed and staged scenes of Johnnie pursuing his beloved train - on a Velocipede bicycle, a pump hand-car, on a cowcatcher as he flipped away RR cross-ties strewn across the tracks, and on a car with a stumpy, snub-nosed, unwieldly howitzer cannon
Pursuit of Stolen Train
On Pump Hand-Car
On Bicycle
On Cowcatcher
  • the scene of Johnnie's hiding in the Union Army's headquarters under a table, as the Union Generals discussed their plans for the campaign's launch of an attack the following day: "At nine o'clock tomorrow morning our supply trains will meet and unite with General Parker's army at the Rock River bridge. Then the army, backed by our supply trains, will advance for a surprise attack on the rebels' left flank. Once our trains and troops cross that bridge, nothing on earth can stop us" -- Johnnie's objective was clear - he must kidnap Annabelle and his train and take them back to the Confederate South
  • the most expensive sight gag in silent film history (filmed in a single take with an actual train - not a miniature) when the Union pursuit train The Texas confidently moved half-way across a burned-through Rock River bridge and it fell downwards - both the train and collapsing bridge plunged into the river, a mass of hurtling metal, exhaling/hissing smokestack steam, burning bridge logs, and a geyser of belching smoke
  • the romantic relationship between Johnnie and Annabelle that developed after rescuing her - especially the scene when he found her stoking the locomotive with toothpick-sized wood and half-playfully grabbed for her by the neck, throttled and shook her and then swiftly planted a small, loving kiss on her lips
  • in the conclusion, as a result of Johnnie's heroism, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and won the adoration of the worshipping Annabelle Lee; as they both sat on The General's connecting cross-bar between two wheels, he was forced to distractedly salute an unending parade of soldiers passing by with one hand - interupting his spooning (hugging and kissing) of his girlfriend; to solve the problem, Johnnie ingenuously re-positioned and adjusted himself (with Annabelle on his left) so that he could endlessly perform two simultaneous actions: romantically kissing Annabelle Lee and mechanistically and automatically saluting the passing soldiers with his right hand

Theft of Train and Kidnapping of Annabelle by Northern Spies

Johnnie Gray On Howitzer Cannon Car

Hiding Under Union Forces Table - Hearing Battle Plans

Bridge Collapse on The Texas

The Newly-Appointed Heroic Lieutenant Reconciling with Annabelle


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