The General (United Artists) (1926)

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A Good Feature and Reviews REVIEW “The General,” Buster Keaton’s in¬ itial comedy for the United Artists Corporation, yesterday opened at the . Theatre in the proverbial blaze of glory, with audiences laughing one minute and gasping the next as the Civil War story unfolded on the screen. For sheer entertainment, Keaton has made a picture that would be difficult to surpass. He has retained the his¬ torical atmosphere of the sixties and built a charming love story up to a sensational climax without sacrificing the almost constant laughs which mark the production. ©uster has surrounded himself with a large cast of capable players, includ¬ ing a beautiful and accomplished lead¬ ing lady, Marian Mack, and he allows the other actors to have their share of the limelight. The star reveals himself as a dramatic star of rare ability as well as .a comedian. Gone are the fa¬ miliar pancake hat, ill-fitting trousers which marked many of Keaton’s ve¬ hicles; the frozen-faced fun-maker is now a quaintly-garbed Southerner of the sixties. The story opens with Buster in the role of a locomotive engineer who loves the daughter of a typical Southern fire- eater. When war breaks out between the North and South, the Confederate military leaders secretly tell the youth that he is of more value to the cause as an engine pilot, and they refuse to take him into the army. His fiancee and her family believe him to be a slacker; his only consolation is his be¬ loved “General,” a locomotive. One day while Buster’s train is standing at a station in Georgia, a band of Northerners, disguised as Southern refugees, steal the locomotive and launch a raid into Confederate terri¬ tory. They also kidnap the engineer’s sweetheart. Buster pursues them single-handed, and finally causes their capture; he is hailed by the South as a hero and commissioned in the Confederate Army. And, of course, he wins the girl. The picture js spectacular. Trains are wrecked, bridges burned and towns destroyed—but laughs predominate. In picturizing the lighter chapters of the Civil War, Keaton does not depend upon burlesque or slapstick to get over his “gags.”. The historical aspect of the picture is given authentic treatment. Everything in “The General”—cos¬ tumes, architecture, railroad and mili¬ tary equipment—is true to the period. “The General” is heralded as the costliest comedy ever made, and it no doubt is. It surely is unrivaled enter¬ tainment and mirth-provoking from start to finish. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck, “The General” is a credit to Keaton and United Artists. Marian Mack supports Buster in “The General,” in which he plays the role of. the engineer who loves his iron friend and companion almost as much as he loves his Annabelle Lee. Glenn Ca vender, James Farley, Frederick Vroom, Charles Smith, Joe Keaton and Mike Donlin support Bus¬ ter in his new comedy at the . Buster Keaton, unsmiling star of “The General,” is the only poker player in Hollywood who can try for an “in¬ side straight” and get away with it. He’s one book that can’t be judged by its cover. HOW I BRO KE INTO THE MOVIES By BUSTER KEATON (Star of “The General at the . Theatre) Having spent twenty-one years on the stage, as a member of The Three Keatons, and having reached the ripe old age of twenty-one, I decided to make a change. This was about a decade ago. Father, mother and I had played all over the world. An offer to leave the variety stage and appear in a Shubert revue at the Winter Garden meant that I was to go “on my own” for the first time. And I was to receive seven hundred and fifty—count ’em—dollars a week! It was while awaiting rehearsals that I ran into a twist of fate which altered the whole course of my life. I was introduced to Joseph M. Schenck, who said he was making some two-reel comedies, and he offered me an opportunity to try my luck in the pictures. “Salary?” Forty dollars a week. There was—and is—a lot of difference between $750 a week and $40 a week. I don’t know why I decided against the fat salary. Perhaps it was because I was afraid I couldn’t find use for that much money, and perhaps— and this is really the real reason—because I had been traveling since the day I was born, and the prospect of settling down in one place for a time looked marvelously inviting. I’ll admit I didn’t have any idea that pictures would develop into what they are today; in my wildest fancy I didn’t envision myself as a star. Anyway, I accepted Mr. Schenck’s offer. The first picture I worked in was called, “The Butcher Boy.” Part of the business was for two comedians to toss bags of flour at each other. I got in the way of one of the bags, and was knocked colder than an Eskimo sleeping porch. Then later in the scene I got myself well lathered with molasses. When the day’s work was finished I was more than a terrible mess—I was a wreck! And for a life like this I had sacrificed $70 a week! ORIGINAL OF “THE GENERAL” PRESERVED JNTENNESSEE . The original of “The General,” the historic Civil War locomotive which is at once the title player and moving spirit of Buster Keaton’s new comedy at the.Theatre, is mounted on a pedestal in the Nashville, Chat¬ tanooga and St. Louis Railroad depot in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Buster Keaton visited Tennessee and examined the original of “The Gen¬ eral” minutely several months before he began production on his first United Artists picture. His technical staff made copious notes and blueprints of the dimensions of the original puffing iron horse, so that in reconstructing another Civil War engine into the screen General, accuracy would be as¬ sured. The original of The Texas, the other engine which figured in the famous railroad chase in the Andrews raid in ’61, is preserved in Grant’s Park, At¬ lanta, Ga., formerly Fort Walker. These interesting facts were brought to light after Buster and his aids had traveled thousands of miles around the United States, visiting libraries, mu¬ seums, battlefields, railroad informa¬ tion sources, and consulting descend¬ ants Qf actual participants in the An¬ drews raid, as well as several sur¬ vivors in the South who recall the historic incident from their youth. When an Atlanta newspaper pub¬ lished the fact that Buster Keaton was » General” for the United ler named G. L. Jackson Ga., wrote the editor a that J. W. Bracken, Peter Bracken, engineer ot me lexas, is continuing jn his grandfather’s footsteps by working on the railroad, too. Young Bracken is employed by the Alabama Division of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. at Vidalia, Ga. He is an engineer him¬ self, and he recalls quite vividly hear¬ ing his grandfather talk of the wild chase of The Texas and The General back in the days of ’61. The name of the conductor on The Texas was Fuller, Mr. Bracken said. REVIEW Battles raged on the screen at the . Theatre yesterday, trains went through burning bridges, Civil War soldiers chased each- other with locomotives, hand-cars, horses—and au¬ diences roared with laughter. It was the opening of Buster Kea¬ ton’s latest comedy, “The General,” a laugh riot, dealing with the lighter chapters of the struggle between the States. The frozen-faced star has delved into history for his first picture for United Artists and has achieved the biggest success of his career. Produced on a tremendous scale, “The General” is crammed with mirth and thrills from start to finish. Minus his pancake hat, Buster, still he of the frozen visage, blossoms forth as a dashing young Southerner who is refused enlistment in the Confederate Army because of his value to the cause as the engineer of “The General,” a locomotive. Spurned by his sweetheart (Marian Mack) and friends because they believe him to be a slacker, Buster finally be¬ comes a hero to the South when he foils, single-handed, a band of North¬ ern adventurers who steal a train, pen¬ etrate into Confederate territory and attempt to destroy lines of communi¬ cation. The story of “The General” is based upon historical fact—the famous An¬ drews railroad raid and locomotive chase in Tennessee and Georgia shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. Real locomotives and trains of the type which thundered over the rails during the sixties play a prominent part in the mirth-provoking production. One of the scenes is the plunge of an en¬ gine through a burning bridge, a screen thrill which has never been duplicated. Buster proves that he is a dramatic star as well as a comedian. He risks life and limb in many of the sensa¬ tional scenes and makes love like a Don Juan. Many well-known players appear in the supporting cast. Thousands of soldiers take part in the battles. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck, “The General” was directed by Keaton himself and Clyde Bruckman. BK-3—One Col. Sketches 4 on Mat 10c REVIEW This is laugh and thrill week at the . Theatre. Showing the 'biggest comedy of all time, “The General,” with the famous Buster Keaton as the star, the manage¬ ment’s only difficulty is to find enough seats for the crowds. There are a thousand and one chuckles, roars and gasps in. Buster’s epic comedy of Civil War days. For his initial feature as a United Artists star, the comedian has turned back the clock three-quarters of a century and brought the lighter chapters of the Civil War to the screen. Treating the comedy of war days without reverting to slapstick, Keaton manages to keep the action historically accurate as well as unusually mirth- provoking. He proves that battles, rail¬ road weeks, spy plots and war-time love affairs have their laughs. Buster has built the main plot of “The General” around an actual hap¬ pening in the struggle between the States. When a band of Northern raiders, disguised as travelers, stole a locomotive and penetrated into Confed¬ erate territory, creating havoc and tem¬ porarily disrupting the Confederates’ military plans, a brave young South¬ erner started out single-handed to foil them. The frozen-faced star re-lives the adventures of the sixties and gets into all sorts of predicaments before he finally outwits the Federals, saves his kidnapped sweetheart and wins the plaudits of the populace below the Ma¬ son and Dixon line. “The General” is produced on a mas¬ sive scale. Thousands of troops are seen in action and real wood-burning Civil War locomotives and trains thun¬ der over the rails. One of the engines in the picture crashes through a burn¬ ing trestle to furnish the greatest thrill ever filmed. It is a recorded fact that this scene was made at a cost of $40,- 000 after the crash had been filmed in miniature at an outlay of $1,000. Joseph M. Schenck, chairman of the board of directors of United Artists and producer of Keaton’s pictures, said: “This scene must be so thrilling that it will bring spectators to their feet. Plunge one of the Civil War locomo¬ tives through the burning bridge, no matter how much it co.'/ts. Real thrills and laughs in a picture for world-wide distribution are worth anything.” . Buster himself directed “The Gen¬ eral,” and sharing acting honors with him are Marian Mack, his new leading lady, and a cast of rioted screen players.