Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894)
This early Kinetoscope experiment takes us back to a time when motion pictures were imagined to be just that – still pictures with a bit of movement added – and can be seen as an example of what Edison’s team imagined a portrait might be like in the future. In just a few seconds a man, dressed in 19th-century garb, takes a pinch of snuff, sniffs it, and either sneezes or fakes a sneeze. It’s never looked all that convincing to me. Be that as it may, this film also began Edison Studios’ long-standing tradition of printing out paper images of each frame of a movie and then copyrighting them. There was no law permitting the copyrighting of moving pictures, but still images could be, so this was how the company protected itself in the early days, and the surviving paper stills have proved useful in historical reconstruction of lost nitrate films. Apparently, in this case, the company also allowed Harper’s magazine to print the stills, in order to give some idea what the future of photography would bring, so in addition to being the first copyrighted film, this was the first to be “seen” by a mass audience, albeit not in the motion format.
Also Known as: Edison Kinetoscope Record of a Sneeze.
Director: W.K.L. Dickson
Camera: William Heise
Starring: Fred Ott
Run Time: 5 seconds
You are watching the whole thing free above. If you’d like to see it larger, go: here.