First Ever Film Star
January 7, 1894: First Motion Picture Copyrighted
On this day in 1894, Edison Manufacturing produces a motion picture experiment of Fred Ott sneezing. Ott, one of Edison’s assistants, takes a pinch of snuff and sneezes. This is one of the earliest Thomas Edison films and was the first motion picture to be copyrighted in the United States.
Fred Ott’s Sneeze is an American, short, black-and-white, silent documentary film shot by William K.L. Dickson and of course, starring Fred Ott. According to the Library of Congress, “It was filmed for publicity purposes as a series of still photographs to accompany an article in Harper’s Weekly”.
The film was produced by the Edison Manufacturing Company, which had begun making films in 1890 under the direction of Dickson, one of the earliest film pioneers. It was filmed within the Black Maria studio at West Orange, New Jersey, which was America’s first movie studio.
The ebullient Fred Ott was the joker among them, and when the inventor was approached by journalist Burton Phillips of Harper’s Weekly requesting ‘some nice looking person’ to perform a sneeze for the Kinetograph that might be used to illustrate an article, the mustachioed Ott was the unlikely but willing choice.
The short length film was not intended for the Kinescope but purely as a one-off for publicity purposes. The film, or rather the image of Fred Ott’s sneeze, became famous, and in later years Ott was happy to claim that he was the first ever ‘film star’, which in a way was true.
118 years later there is finally a remake in production. It will be 3 hours long and Johnny Depp will play the part of Fred Ott.
Fred Ott … Sneezing Man
Directed By William K. L. Dickson
Cinematography By William Heise
Produced By William K. L. Dickson