Consistently ranked among the greatest films ever made, Buster Keaton’s The General is so brilliantly conceived and executed that it continues to inspire awe and laughter with every viewing.
Rejected by the Confederate army as unfit and taken for a coward by his beloved Annabelle Lee (Marian Mack), young Johnnie Gray (Keaton) sets out to single-handedly win the war with the help of his cherished locomotive. What follows is, without exaggeration, probably the most cleverly choreographed comedy ever recorded on celluloid. Johnnie wages war against hijackers, an errant cannon, and the unpredictable hand of fate while roaring along the iron rails exploiting the comic potential of Keaton’s favorite filmic prop: the train.
Insisting on accuracy in every detail, Keaton created a remarkably authentic historical epic, replete with hundreds of costumed extras, full-scale sets, and the breathtaking plunge of an actual locomotive from a burning bridge into a river. “Every shot has the authenticity and the unassuming correct composition of a Matthew Brady Civil War photograph,” wrote film historian David Robinson, “No one – not even Griffith or Huston and certainly not Fleming (Gone With The Wind) caught the visual aspect of the Civil War as Keaton did.”
Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895, to a pair of vaudeville performers. Spending his childhood on the road with his family, he earned the nickname Buster at the age of six months. By the age of three, the youngster was appearing as part of his parents act whenever they could evade child labor laws. In vaudeville, Keaton developed remarkable talents as an acrobatic comedian with a superb sense of timing, and became a rising star by his teens. In early 1917, Buster left his act with his parents, and appeared in a Broadway comic revue later that year, but the key to Keaton’s future came when he met a fellow vaudeville comedian. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was starring in a low-budget two-reel screen comedy, The Butcher Boy, and invited Keaton to play a small role in the picture. The two hit it off and became a successful onscreen team, starring in a long string of comic hits. Fascinated by the medium of film, Keaton soon began writing their pictures, and assisted in directing… read more
Upon graduating from high school, American writer/director Clyde Bruckman (1894-1955) entered the infant movie industry as a “gag man” for the many comedy studios of the era. Bruckman settled with Buster Keaton’s company in 1921, working on the writing team for Keaton’s classic feature films The Three Ages (1923), Our Hospitality (1923), Sherlock Jr. (1924) and The Navigator (1925). In 1926 he moved on to Harold Lloyd’s staff, contributing material to Lloyd’s For Heaven’s Sake (1926), Welcome Danger (1929), Feet First (1930) and Movie Crazy (1932). Bruckman was also credited as director on the three last-mentioned films, and had previously co-directed Keaton’s The General (1926). While at Hal Roach studios, Bruckman was listed as director on Laurel and Hardys Putting Pants of Philip (1927), Battle of the Century (1927) and Leave ‘Em Laughing (1928). Most historians have concluded that Bruckman’s directorial credits were nominal at best; most of the top comedians virtually directed themselves… read more
Every train gag you can imagine is executed with impeccable comedic timing in this finely crafted knee-slapper. And that's just the beginning... There's the Civil War too and this time The South wins! No CGI here, these are real stunts actually performed on moving trains, not toys. Zany laffs by the trainload.
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Never has the Civil War been so exquisitely depicted, it’s a shock that such an authentic look would come from a straight-up insane comedy like Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL. While Keaton has made movies… read review
Humorous, Innocent and ultimately groundbreaking…Ol’ Stoneface is at it again in one of his finest performances. Blending gorgeous cinematography with breathtaking stunts, Mister Keaton soars through… read review
A classic. Pure and simple. There are few movies out there that I enjoy watching endlessly, even after a hundred viewings and this is one of them. Keaton was at the peak of his creative powers here… read review