Southern Trains In “The General”

Virtually every stunt that can be done with a train and train tracks takes place in Buster Keaton‘s silent classic, The General (1926). There is something fascinating about one ancient train pursuing another ancient train (until one of them is destroyed), particularly when Keaton’s vigorous acrobatics are featured.

A Civil War comedy, herein Keaton plays a Southern railroad engineer who is rejected as a Confederate recruit because he is deemed more valuable as an engineer than as a soldier. But Keaton becomes a soldier of sorts, entering the aforementioned pursuit, after scheming Yankees steal his train, “the General.” Less funny than the star’s shorter works, and overlong, The General is nonetheless a terrific comic adventure story, with derring-do at its jauntiest.

Because it’s a victory-for-the-losing side (the South) tale, Keaton’s film would be hated by the nefarious fools who wish to destroy all monument statues of Columbus, Washington, Lee and others, and by the U.S. political leaders who allow them to do so. They’re all philistines unaware of how, as has been pointed out, these statues fortuitously mark our progress as a nation.

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