Dover, TN: Fort Donelson National Battlefield will screen a free showing of the classic 1926 silent film comedy The General on Thursday, December 12 at 6 p.m. at the park’s visitor center along Highway 79 in Dover.
“The General,” starring legendary film comedian Buster Keaton, is considered among the greatest of classic American silent film comedies. It was partially based on a memoir called The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittinger.
Although the film was allowed to lapse into the public domain in the 1950s, in 1989 the Library of Congress deemed The General as worthy of preservation for being ”culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
The film, an adventure-epic classic made toward the end of the silent era, received both poor reviews by critics (it was considered tedious and disappointing) and weak box-office results (about a half million dollars domestically, and approximately one million worldwide) at its original release, but is now considered by critics as one of the greatest films ever made.
In the film, Western & Atlantic Railroad train engineer Johnnie Gray (Keaton) is in Marietta, Georgia to see one of the two loves of his life, his fiancee Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack)—the other being his locomotive, The General—when the American Civil War breaks out. He hurries to be first in line to sign up with the Confederate Army, but is rejected because he is too valuable in his present job; unfortunately,
Johnny is not told this reason and is forcibly ejected from the office when he tries to enlist surreptitiously. On leaving, he runs into Annabelle’s father and brother, who beckon to him to join them in line, but he sadly walks away, giving them the impression that he does not want to enlist. Annabelle coldly informs Johnnie that she will not speak to him again until he is in uniform.
Thus the stage is set for the balance of the film.
The film remains an excellent example of how the American Civil War was interpreted in the media and in American popular culture.