Buster Keaton - The Blacksmith (1922)
The General (1926)
Buster Keaton’s The General was not well received by moviegoers upon it’s release, now, however, it is considered a masterpiece by critics and audiences alike. A personal favourite of Keaton’s, The General tells the story of Johnnie Gray, a rail engineer and his quest to save both his engine and his lady love from the clutches of the enemy during the American Civil War. Keaton went to great pains to make the film look as authentic as possible, including replicating both The General and the Texas locomotives down to the smallest detail. Each shot was set up with such careful consideration, that it sings with authenticity. The General also boasts the single most expensive shot in silent film history, with Keaton crashing an engine into a river. The film is now considered one of the best to come out of the silent era.
Orson Welles held Keaton in the highest esteem and said of The General, “it is the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”
“This shot is the most expensive shot in silent film history. It was filmed in a single take, that had to be perfect, with a real train and a ‘dummy’ engineer (notice the white arm hanging out the conductors window). Some of the locals who came to watch the filming, thought the dummy was a real person and screamed in horror; supposedly, one person even fainted.”
Visual scene from ‘Steamboat Bill Jr.’ starring Buster Keaton. To dispel some myths: this was done in one take and it IS Buster Keaton standing there when the facade falls down through him. No… it is not a figment of ‘movie magic. In fact, many stage hands after measuring and calculating where Mr. Keaton should stand, actually left the lot, as that they were afraid that their measurements might be off. The window opening brushed Keaton with 2 inches to spare on both sides. Gutsy move, if I do say so myself