Friday, December 7, 2012

It's Film Strip Friday! The Great Locomotive Chase

It’s Film Strip Friday!
The Great Locomotive Chase
Release Date June 6th, 1956

After commandeering a Confederate locomotive, heroic Yankee soldiers known as the Andrews Raiders try to bring about an early end to the Civil War by crippling the Southern railroad network. But their efforts are hampered by the unrelenting bravery of a single Rebel patriot.


The Great Locomotive Chase is a 1956 Walt Disney Productions CinemaScope adventure film based on the real Great Locomotive Chase that occurred in 1862 during the American Civil War. The film stars Fess Parker as James J. Andrews, the leader of a group of Union soldiers from various Ohio regiments who volunteered to go behind Confederate lines in civilian clothes, steal a Confederate train north of Atlanta, and drive it back to Union lines in Tennessee, tearing up railroad tracks and destroying bridges and telegraph lines along the way.
Written and produced by Lawrence Edward Watkin and directed by Francis D. Lyon, the 85-minute full-color film also features Jeffrey Hunter, John Lupton, Kenneth Tobey, Don Megowan, and Slim Pickens. Paul J. Smith composed the score. Filmed in Georgia and North Carolina, along the now abandoned Tallulah Falls Railway, it was released in U.S. theaters by Buena Vista Distribution Company on June 8, 1956, and capitalized on Parker's growing fame as an actor from his portrayal of Davy Crockett. The film reteamed him with Jeff York (Mike Fink).
The steam engine upon whose exploits the film is based, the "General", is preserved at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. Representing the "General" in the film is American-type steam engine No. 25 ("William Mason"), built in 1856 and preserved in operating condition at the B&O Railroad Museum.
The final locomotive used by Conductor Fuller and the pursuers, the "Texas", has been restored and is on display at Grant Park in Atlanta, also home to the Cyclorama mural painting of the Battle of Atlanta. In the film, "Texas" is represented by the similar Inyo, which is now preserved in working order at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.


  • Fess Parker as James J. Andrews, Union spy and leader of the volunteers
  • Jeffrey Hunter as William A. Fuller, conductor of the Confederate train
  • Jeff York as William Campbell, Union soldier ("worth ten in a fight"){actually Campbell was a civilian volunteer}
  • John Lupton as Cpl. William Pittenger, Union soldier
  • Eddie Firestone as Robert Buffum, Union soldier
  • Kenneth Tobey as Anthony Murphy, Confederate engineer
  • Don Megowan as Marion A. Ross, Union soldier
  • Claude Jarman, Jr. as Jacob Parrott, Union soldier, first Medal of Honor recipient
  • Harry Carey, Jr. as William Bensinger, Union soldier
  • Leonard P. Geer as James A. Wilson (as Lennie Geer), Union soldier
  • George Robotham as William Knight, Union civilian train engineer/fireman
  • Stan Jones as Wilson W. Brown, Union civilian train engineer/fireman
  • Marc Hamilton as John Wollam, Union soldier
  • John Wiley as John M. Scott, Union soldier
  • Slim Pickens as Pete Bracken
  • Morgan Woodward as Unnamed Confederate soldier on troop train
  • Dick Sargent as Unnamed Union soldier (uncredited)
  • Dale Van Sickel as Alonzo Martin (uncredited)


The film received mixed reviews upon its release. Though given acceptable reviews by most critics, the film was not as successful as Walt Disney had hoped it would be. This may have been due to the film's primary focus on retelling a historic event as opposed to an entertaining film for movie goers, lacking in romance or otherwise entertainment for the typical Hollywood demographic. Moreover, some felt the film to be rather depressing or downbeat since the main characters are unsuccessful in their mission and some, including the lead character, get executed. The film currently holds a rating of 7.1 on the Internet Movie Database based on 316 votes, and a rating of 47% on Rotten Tomatoes.


The film was released on DVD twice, first by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2000, and by Disney in 2004, but these DVDs have been seldom advertised, as well as being rather "bare bone" releases (not having any bonus material, etc.), and have not been released outside of the United States.


"Sons of Old Aunt Dinah" - lyrics by Lawrence Edward Watkin and music by Stan Jones

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