Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Frederick P. Ott -- itinerant mechanic and film star -- died on this day in 1936 in West Orange, New Jersey at the age of 66.

Fred's brother John got Fred a job as a mechanic in the famous research and development workshop of Thomas Edison, the "Wizard of Menlo Park." Together the Ott brothers worked on Edison's kinetograph and kinetoscope motion picture projects.

The contemporaries report, however, that Fred Ott had a penchant for "monkey-shines." So when it came time for W.K.L. Dickson, Edison's kinetograph supervisor, to try out the new invention, he aimed his camera at Fred Ott who, among other talents, had "a sneeze louder than any other white man born east of the Rockies." Although this was to be a silent experiment, Dickson decided upon Ott's sneeze as a proper subject for an experimental motion picture, but try as he might, Ott couldn't sneeze until the second day of production. The result was the very first copyrighted motion picture, Fred Ott's Sneeze (1893), shot in close-up at Edison's "Black Maria" studio, and it made the clowning, mustachioed mechanic the world's first film star -- after a fashion.



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