101 Funniest Screenplays

Buster Keaton’s remarkable film was shot on location in Oregon aboard moving trains, with chase scenes that build dramatically as much as comedically (and include what was purportedly the most expensive scene ever filmed, a train plunging from a burning bridge). Keaton’s Johnnie Gray is a train conductor and would-be Confederate soldier denied enlistment. But when Union soldiers steal the engine of General line, Keaton comes to the rescue of both the Southern cause and the damsel in distress. The General showcases Keaton as a performer, in a film grounded in comic realism. “In Keaton's hands, the train is nothing more than a gigantic prop, an incessant inspiration to his inventive genius,” Gary Giddins wrote on slate.com. “Many passages are so suspenseful and minutely worked out that the gag, when it comes, is like the release of the General's steam. It gives you a chance to breathe again.