Man who shot the single most expensive scene in silent film history had only one chance to get it right
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The man who created the most expensive scene in silent film history had only one crack at making it work, as you’ll see when you check out the video below.
So, as you can see, it’s the sort of scene that nowadays might end up flashing across the computer animation desk, but back in the days of Buster Keaton and the silent film era it had to be done properly.
To be fair, they could have used a model, but it’s to their credit that they didn’t.
The scene in question comes from a 1926 movie called The General, which was directed by and starred Keaton, one of the most storied characters from that era of cinema.
He loved a good stunt as well, given that he once famously stood in front of a window gap as a building fell down.
Committed to his craft as he was, he devised this scene by having a train drive across a set of tracks that spanned a bridge in the hope that it could collapse, but used a real train and a real bridge to achieve his goal.
Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, take notes here guys, because this is how you exert your creative control.
On 23 July, 1926, he went to a place called Cottage Grove in Oregon, where he decided that he was going to stage the stunt.
Thousands showed up to watch the stunt in action, with 500 extras made up from the Oregon National Guard also turning up as well.
It cost around $42,000 (£33,400) to put on, which was a great amount at the time and the most expensive single shot in silent film history.
That amounts to about $600,000 (£477,600) today, by the way.
There were a couple of trial runs, but they were nothing compared to what would happen in the real thing.
When that took place, the bridge crumbled and the train fell into the river, where it actually remained as a minor tourist attraction for a bit.
The one and only take was captured by six cameras, and the people behind it worked extra hard to get it to work as well.
The carpentry team spent ages building the bridge, before strategically sawing through it, making it vulnerable to an explosive rigged to it.
A dam was also created on the river that meant that the water would take the train.
Honestly, it’s a fantastic feat.
During World War Two, the train stayed down there until it was later fished out and salvaged for scraps.
Still, at least the footage remains for one of the most interesting shots ever captured on film, and certainly the most expensive footage in silent film history.