The Most Expensive Shot Of The Silent Film Era

Trainwreck from "The General"
Gif Credit: Maudit

This gif is a clip from the single most expensive scene shot in silent film history. The film is Buster Keaton’s “The General” (1926) and had a total budget of $400,000 supplied by Metro.

It was filmed in a single take with a real train and a ‘dummy’ engineer (notice the white arm hanging out the conductor’s window). It looked so realistic that the townspeople who had come to watch screamed in horror. The looks of shock on the faces of the Union officers in the film were also real because the actors who played them were not told what was going to happen to that train. Rumor has it that a spectator even fainted.

The scene was filmed in a conifer forest near the town of Cottage Grove, Oregon. The production company left the wreckage in the river bed after the scene was filmed and the wrecked locomotive became a minor tourist attraction for nearly twenty years. The metal of the train was salvaged for scrap during World War II.

On a side note, The Denver Silent Film Festival starts next week.

Scroll to Top