Great Art Bad Reviews Buster Keaton's The General
About Buster Keaton's The General, a great work of art which was originally given bad reviews.
GREAT WORKS OF ART WHICH WERE GREETED BY BAD REVIEWS
Keaton's The General
The Work: "The Great Stone Face" of silent films, Buster Keaton, directed, starred in, and edited The General, first shown in 1926 and put into general release in 1927. This Civil War comedy was expensive to make, containing what was probably the most costly single take in cinema history at that time--a $42,000 shot of a bridge collapsing and a train on it falling into a river.
The Critics Speak: Keaton Called The General "my pet," and though he never admitted it, he must have been sorely disappointed by the film's critical and box-office failures.
Norbert Lusk wrote in Picture/Play Charm that The General was "a one-man show, a mistake in a picture lasting over an hour."
Robert E. Sherwood, who wrote for Life magazine, did not approve of a comedy that contained scenes of killing. He complained of Keaton's "woefully bad judgment" and "gruesomely bad taste."
Mordaunt Hall, the regular New York Times critic, possessed what one Keaton biographer called "the greatest track record in film history for being wrong." Hall found The General inferior to Keaton's previous works, saying Keaton had "bitten off more than he could chew" and that the film "might be described as a mixture of cast iron and jelly."
The Herald-Tribune dismissed it as "long and tedious--the least funny thing Buster Keaton has ever done."
The Daily Mirror put it down as "slow, very slow," and admonished its creator to "pull yourself together, Buster."
History Speaks: Today The General is regarded as an extraordinary, ground-breaking classic. The film has variously been called the best work of a cinematic genius, the silent screen's best, and the first film comedy of epic proportions. Keaton biographer Tom Dardis wrote, Buster Keaton in The General.
"Many of Keaton's critics have commented on the stunningly convincing look of The General, often comparing it with the Civil War photographs of Matthew Brady. In the 50 years since it was made, The General has become a piece of American folklore." In a poll taken by Sight and Sound magazine in 1972, The General was voted one of the 10 greatest films of all time.
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