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Johnnie Gray, a train engineer, has two loves in his life: his sweetheart, Annabelle Lee, and his locomotive, The General.
When the Civil War breaks out, Johnnie attempts to enlist into the Confederate Army, but is refused because he is more valuable as an engineer. Johnnie isn't told this, so Annabelle and her family believe him to be a coward. Annabelle refuses to talk to Johnnie again until he is in uniform. When Johnnie's train is stolen by Union soldiers whilst the passengers are having dinner (except for Annabelle, who had reboarded on the train), Johnnie jumps into another engine and chases the enemy. His goal is to get both his girl and his train back.
Hilarity Ensues. This 1926 silent film is less of an outright comedy than many of Buster Keaton's other works and has several dramatic elements. At the time it was considered a flop, but ended up being Vindicated by History and is now considered one of the best silent films ever made.
Based off an actual historical event.
- Accidental Hero
- The American Civil War
- Badass: Johnnie Gray is just an engineer, but manages to do more damage to the Union than the Confederate forces do by the end of the film.
- BFG: The Texas is pulling a flatcar carrying a mortar similar to this type.
- Bound and Gagged: The Union spies tie Annabelle up and gag her when they steal the train and find her in the baggage car.
- Butt Monkey: Another engine, called the Columbia, appears as a USMRR train during the second chase. Not only does it frequently rear-end the Texas, but the rear of its train gets derailed by cannon fire. Also, the Union generals who ride on its flatcar get drenched from the water tower and jolted around as the train stops and starts.
- California Doubling: Oregon, actually, standing in for Georgia and Tennessee.
- Cloudcuckoolander: After getting his girl back - no, we're not going to put that in a spoiler tag - and desperately trying to get up enough steam to get away from the pursuing Union forces, Johnnie asks said girl to hand him wood for the firebox while he drives the locomotive. She then sorts through all the wood that she can reach, throwing away a couple of pieces (apparently because they have knots in them) and finally hands him a piece about the size of a paperback book. While, we must repeat, they are trying to outrun their enemies at all costs.
- Cool Train: The General and the Texas.
- The Ditz: Annabelle.
- Everything's Worse with Bears: At one point, Johnnie and Annabelle are lost in the middle of the night in a forest they don't know while a storm rages. And then they bump into a bear.
- Exact Eavesdropping: Johnny ends up hiding under a table the Union generals sit around while discussing the coming campaign, and not only hears their plans but sees Annabelle through a convenient hole in the tablecloth.
- Enforced Method Acting: Annabelle when she's hit with the water. The actress wasn't told beforehand that she was going to get sprayed.
- Handcar Pursuit
- Heroic BSOD: The Union general after the bridge collapses.
- I Am Not Shazam: The "General" is the locomotive, not Buster Keaton's character. In fact, Johnnie Gray is only shown enlisted to be a lieutenant at the end.
- Meaningful Name: "Johnnie Gray" is a combination of nicknames for Confederate soldiers -- Johnny Reb and Grayback.
- Name's the Same: Luckily, Annabelle Lee doesn't seem to share any characteristics with her namesake.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: How Johnnie Gray kills the Union sniper at the end. Granted, he did it completely by accident...
- Trash the Set: Yes, they did burn down the bridge as the Texas was crossing it. The wreckage sat there until the Second World War.
- Walking Techbane: Johnnie Gray loses his engine, wrecks the Texas, misfires a mortar, derails a Union supply train, burns down a bridge...and they let him drive an engine?
- Well, it was an enemy supply train and bridge, and he's capable enough to run an engine alone, so why not?
- ↑ Technically not a complete example, as, while the names are pronounced the same, they're spelled differently (Annabelle vs. Annabel)