45 Great Cultural Icons Revisited

It’s no secret. We love to high­light vin­tage video of cul­tur­al icons. This week­end, we showed you the last days of Leo Tol­stoy to com­mem­o­rate the cen­ten­ni­al of the great writer’s death, and you expressed your appre­ci­a­tion. And it led us to think: why not dig through our archive, and revive some of the great trea­sures pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured on Open Cul­ture? And so here it goes: Below, you will find 45+ video & audio clips that record the words and actions of major fig­ures from a bygone era. Artists, archi­tects, film­mak­ers, actors, poets, nov­el­ists, com­posers, musi­cians, world-chang­ing lead­ers, and those not eas­i­ly cat­e­go­rized – they’re all here. So close, you can almost touch them. Enjoy the list, and if we’re miss­ing some good clips, don’t hes­i­tate to send them our way


  1. Sal­vador Dali (and Oth­er VIPs) on “What’s My Line?”
  2. Arthur Conan Doyle Recounts the Back­sto­ry to Sher­lock Holmes
  3. Orson Welles’ Final Moments
  4. William S. Bur­roughs Shoots Shake­speare
  5. Borges: The Task of Art
  6. Jack Ker­ouac Meets William F. Buck­ley (1968)
  7. Ing­mar Bergman Vis­its Dick Cavett, 1971
  8. Picas­so Paint­ing on Glass
  9. Leonard Bern­stein Breaks Down Beethoven
  10. Record Mak­ing With Duke Elling­ton (1937)
  11. Bertrand Rus­sell on God
  12. Mark Twain Cap­tured on Film by Thomas Edi­son (1909)
  13. A Young Glenn Gould Plays Bach
  14. Rod Ser­ling: Where Do Ideas Come From?
  15. Richard Feyn­man: Fun to Imag­ine
  16. Rare Inter­view with Alfred Hitch­cock Now Online
  17. Miles and Coltrane on YouTube: The Jazz Greats
  18. Footage of Nietzsche’s Final Days (May be bogus)
  19. Samuel Beck­ett Speaks
  20. Jimi Hen­drix Plays Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band
  21. Djan­go Rein­hardt at 100
  22. When Pavarot­ti Met James Brown, the God­fa­ther of Soul
  23. James Dean and Ronald Rea­gan Clash in New­ly Dis­cov­ered Video
  24. The Last Czar (1896)
  25. Leon Trot­sky: Love, Death and Exile in Mex­i­co
  26. Revis­it­ing JFK on YouTube
  27. Mahat­ma Gand­hi Talks (in First Record­ed Video)
  28. Mal­colm X at Oxford, 1964
  29. Helen Keller Cap­tured on Video
  30. Anne Frank: The Only Exist­ing Video Now Online
  31. Mike Wal­lace Inter­views 1950s Celebri­ties (Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, Sal­vador Dali, Rein­hold Niebuhr, Aldous Hux­ley, Erich Fromm, etc.)


  1. Tchaikovsky’s Voice Cap­tured on an Edi­son Cylin­der (1890)
  2. Aldous Hux­ley Nar­rates Brave New World
  3. Tru­man Capote Reads from Break­fast at Tiffany’s
  4. Kurt Von­negut Reads from Slaugh­ter­house-Five
  5. William Faulkn­er Audio Archive Goes Online
  6. The John Lennon Inter­views
  7. Rare Record­ing of Walt Whit­man Read­ing
  8. Vir­ginia Woolf: Her Voice Recap­tured
  9. T.S. Eliot Reads The Waste Land
  10. Ernest Hem­ing­way Reads “In Harry’s Bar in Venice”
  11. F. Scott Fitzger­ald Reads Shake­speare
  12. James Joyce Read­ing from Finnegans Wake
  13. Rare Ezra Pound Record­ings Now Online
  14. William Car­los Williams Reads His Poet­ry (1954)
  15. Inter­views with Schoen­berg and Bartók

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.