Most expensive scene in silent film history
The above cinemagraph is from the 1926 silent film, THE GENERAL, starring and co-directed by Buster Keaton. And this climatic shot is believed to the single most expensive scene in silent film history, at a cost of $400,000. Considered “one of the greatest of all silent comedies (and Keaton’s own favorite) – and undoubtedly the best train film ever made,” this epic scene, filmed near the town of Cottage Grove, Oregon, used a real train (with a “dummy” conductor) and was shot in a single take. People were so unaccustomed to such elaborately realistic film shoots that apparently local spectators, townspeople, and even some of the actors, who weren’t informed in advance, yelled in shock as the scene took place. In the aftermath, the train’s wreckage in the gorge became a tourist attraction until it was salvaged for scraps during World War II. Nowadays, we’re all so blase about the Brooklyn Bridge being shut down for six consecutive nights so Will Smith can run around on it for $5 million, the most expensive in New York City to date.
You can watch THE GENERAL online at Hulu.