Though The General is the highest ranked comedy in Sight and Sound’s recent poll of ‘The Greatest Films of All-Time’, it is interesting to note how it failed to recoup the costly production in 1927. An expensive bridge-destruction rivalling The Bridge on the River Kwai and casting armies of Union troops and Confederate’s fighting in a raging war clearly took its toll. With the financial success of Battling Butler, Buster Keaton confidently took on a larger budget and made a comedy that, in scale, only Charlie Chaplin could rival. It was only in the 1950’s and beyond that audiences realised how perfectly placed and beautifully balanced The General is. The acclaim it has accumulated and achieved in the last sixty years is not without merit – and now is the time to see Keaton’s masterpiece.
Keaton plays Johnny Gray,