A 19th-century audience scene in a film?
March 5, 2009 12:15 PM   Subscribe

I need to find a scene in an old film (preferably really old, like pre-1923) that shows a bunch of stuffy men sitting in an audience, listening intently, as if to a lecture. The only catch -- it has to be set in the late 19th century. Anything pop to mind, oh great collective brain? [more inside]

Like I said, the older the better. Silent film would be really great. But I'll take what I can get. It's supposed to be the 1860s, but I'll take anything from 1840s to 1890s. And it's important that the audience isn't reacting much -- not throwing tomatoes, applauding, laughing or anything. They're supposed to be physicians, quietly sitting there, listening to a lecture -- and yeah, given the time period, they've all got to be men. Thanks.

(If I can afford the stock ftg, it'll serve as the backdrop of a scene in a short video I'm shooting this Spring -- you'll get credit of course!)
posted by rough to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
Is there no chance of shooting this yourself?
posted by trinity8-director at 12:39 PM on March 5, 2009

If they are all there sitting quietly then why can't you just use a still photo? It seems like you'd have better luck finding that. Just an idea.
posted by JJ86 at 12:50 PM on March 5, 2009

Young Frankenstein has a lecture scene, with somewhat appropriate period dress, and I think all men. The only reason I mention this is that it is shot in grainy black and white, with period music, and you might be able to pull a few somber moments out of it. If I recall, there is a period of buildup before the hilarity where the scene is trying hard to appear serious.

But, I'm guessing the footage wouldn't be cheap to use legally.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:51 PM on March 5, 2009

Best answer: Always check the Prelinger Archives http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger and other parts of archive.org for stuff like this -- I work for a small video production company out of Teachers College, Columbia U, and we use their stuff all the time. It's free, it's public domain, and if you're looking for something old, you're almost guaranteed to find something approaching what you want there.
posted by gusandrews at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding Archive.org - if you're up for a bit of sleuthing, check the moving images archive. With 159,559 clips at present, you might be able to find something.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on March 5, 2009

There are a couple of lecture scenes in The Elephant Man that might have what you need. It is set in the 1880's, I think, and shot in black and white.

Perhaps something like the panning shot around 3:15 in this clip? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m9d8OM769s&feature=related
posted by thinman at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2009

Response by poster: I could shoot it myself, but I'm trying to establish the conceit of using projected, or more likely chroma-keyed, backgrounds in scenes (hopefully this will be the first scene of of longer piece with lots of 'borrowed' backdrops).

Stills are still an option, but a last resort.

Young Frankenstein - great idea. And leads naturally to Elephant Man (I've heard Mel Brooks gave David Lynch his first real shot after seeing Eraserhead). Both are absolutely perfect, just probably too costly. I could always try the begging letter to Mr. Lynch...

I will try Prelinger, thanks. I did some casual looking at archive (and others) but got quickly overwhelmed.

PLEASE, please, please keep 'em coming if you have any more ideas. Thanks!
posted by rough at 2:01 PM on March 5, 2009

There have been a lot of TV & film adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories, which are set in the late 19th century. I can't find anything specific on a cursory inspection of what's available on YouTube, but one might contain the kind of scene you're looking for.
posted by googly at 2:02 PM on March 5, 2009

Try Budget Films. They claim to be "affordable" which I know is, of course, relative. Good luck!
posted by chez shoes at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2009

There is a short section in The 39 Steps (just after Hannay asks Mr Memory "How far is Winnipeg from Montreal?") where the audience are listening intently. It was released in 1935.
posted by sconbie at 4:17 PM on March 5, 2009

There's a scene in Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) where said doctor gives a conference. It's set in then-current-day Germany, but I think it could pass for late 19th century.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:50 PM on March 5, 2009

(It's relatively close to the beginning of the film, when they establish Mabuse leads a double life)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:52 PM on March 5, 2009

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