Horse-drawn teams are not well-known by the majority of men and women in the 21st century except through cinema and television. Covering all time periods, historical films, sword-and-sandals and westerns display all manner of horse-drawn carriages: ancient chariot races (Ben Hur, by William Wyler, 1959 ; Gladiator, Ridley Scott, 1999) ; stage-coach chases on the prairies of the Far West (The Outriders, Roy Rowland, 1950 ; The Hallelujah Trail, John Sturges, 1965) unending voyages along dusty roads (The Leopard, Luchino Visconti, 1962), chaotic or snowy routes (L’auberge rouge, Claude Autant-Lara, 1951) ; elegant jaunts and daily trips to the city or countryside (Swann in Love, Volker Schlöndorff, 1984 ; Sense and Sensibility, Ang Lee, 1995).
There are three kinds of carriages on film: authentic vintage carriages, rebuilt carriages and purely creative carriages the fruit of dreams and imagination.
Many films taking place in the 19th century use authentic carriages from this time period:
- a handsome cab driven by Fred Astaire and carrying Ginger Rogers in Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935); another driven by Orson Welles and carrying Rita Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1946).
- in The Earrings of Madame de… (Max Ophüls, 1953, with Danièle Darrieux, Vittorio de Sica, Charles Boyer) an eight-spring Orsay brougham and a smaller brougham which have an accident and the mail-coach of the hunting trip.
- in Casque d’or (Jacques Becker, 1951, with Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani) a police van with a central aisle creating two rows.
- in The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1962, with Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon), the small George IV phaeton of Tancredi (Alain Delon), with a caned body hitched to two washed-chestnut horses.
- in Ludwig (Luchino Visconti, 1972, with Elmut Berger and Romy Schneider), numerous two-in-hand landaus.
These include some exceptional examples:in The Golden Coach (Jean Renoir,1952, with Anna Magnani), a gala coach built in 1762, held in Palermo in the Palazzo dei Normanni. in Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock, 1936, with Sylvia Sydney and John Loder) the coach of the Lord Mayor of London. In reality, it is a replica built in 1931 after the destruction in a fire of the original coach that had been built in 1757. This replica is displayed at the Museum of London. in Sissi – The Young Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1956, with Romy Schneider) two gala coaches belonging to the Esterházy princes, one from 1760-1770, and the other from the end of the 18th century, “adorned” for the requirements of the film. These are conserved at the Eisenstadt castle - Esterházy Foundation. in Ludwig (Luchino Visconti, 1972, with Elmut Berger and Romy Schneider) a gilded-wood sleigh belonging to Louis II of Bavaria, led in a majestic slow gallop by four grey horses. Visconti carefully reproduced the sleigh, the grey horses, the blue harnesses, as they were depicted in 1885/86 by the painter Peter J.R. Wenig in his painting King Louis II in his sleigh at night in the mountains of of Ammer. The sleigh and painting are held in Munich at the Château de Nymphenburg.