Title ID 8408Collection ID1189
TitleThat Fatal Sneeze
CollectionEarly Films
ThemeEarly film in the South East Urban Life
KeywordsAccidents Children Shops
RegionalBrighton and Hove
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionCecil Hepworth
DirectorLewin Fitzhamon
CastThurston Harris
FormatBlack & White Silent
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A boy takes his revenge on his uncle, causing chaos across Hove in this Cecil Hepworth comedy of 1907.


A young boy and older gentleman sit at a table. The make shakes pepper over the boy's food, causing him to sneeze uncontrollably. The man laughs and points at the boy. When the man is asleep the boy sneaks into his bedroom and shakes pepper over his hanky, hat, gloves and brush. When the man rises and takes up his brush he sneezes, disturbing the belongings in his room. Pictures fall off the walls, the bed flies onto its side. The man leaves the house and the boy follows unnoticed. When the gentleman takes out his hanky in front of a shop his sneeze causes the display to topple over. Then the wicker cribs to fall down from above the door onto two sailors standing below before the culprit runs off. The owner and passers by start to give chase. In front of a shop called "Hepwix" the man sneezes again. The windows smash and the wares inside fall out onto the street. The second shopkeeper joins the chase. The boy is seen laughing behind. The man sneezes as he passes a policeman leaning against a fence. The fence falls out and the lamp post falls onto its side. The shopkeepers help the policeman up and he too joins the chase. On a residential street the man sneezes outside a woman's house. The owner storms out to shout at the man when the windows, front door and railings blow out onto the street. He sneezes again and her hat flies off, revealing her bald head. She joins the crowd, the boy skipping behind. The gentleman climbs up a ladder into the first floor window of a house and the pursuing crowd follow, but the ladder collapses. The man stops suddenly after his chasers are halted. A bicycle propped against a fence falls over when he sneezes and the ground starts to move. After clinging to the lamp post he edges along the fence until the ground is steady. He sneezes for the last time, disappearing in a puff of smoke.

Contextual information

"Hepwix" as brand name under which the film was released. A "Hepwix" title card can be seen in How to Stop a Motor Car (1902) produced by Hepworth & Co. and directed by Percy Stow. Various tricks and effects are employed. A moving board was used to make the ground appear to be shaking. Stop motion effects allowed the protagonist to disappear into a puff of smoke.

Hepworth and Co. was renamed the Hepworth Manufacturing Company in 1904. Hepworth stopped directing films, handing over responsibility to others such as Fitzhamon, who had taken over as 'Stage Manager' from Percy Stow. Stow had left to form the Clarendon Film Company in Croydon. Fitzhamon left Hepworth in 1912 to form Fitz Films, but not before he had directed hundreds of films, including That Fatal Sneeze (1907).

Related resources


Hepworth, Cecil. Came the Dawn: Memories of a Film Pioneer n.p. London: Phoenix House

Date: 1951 Autobiography by Cecil Hepworth.

Barnes, John. The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894-1901. Five Volumes, n.p. University of Exeter Press

Date: 1996-1998 All five volumes of John Barnes’s archaeological study of early cinema charts its development between 1894 and 1901. Barnes founded the Barnes Museum of Cinematography with his brother William in the 1960s. The collection provided primary material for Barnes’s study of early cinema.

Low, Rachael. The History of the British Film 1906-1914. n.p. London: Allen and Unwin

Date: 1973 Volumes 1-4 contain material on Hepworth and his films.

Gifford, Denis. “Fitz: The Old Man of the Screen.” in Charles Barr (ed.) All Our Yesterdays

Date: 1986


BFI National Archive, British Film Institute, London

Holds copies of many Hepworth films.

Further Information on File at Screen Archive South East

BFI National Archive, copy kept on file SASE 950000.


BFI Screenonline: Cecil Hepworth

BFI resource providing biographical overview and film synopses.

BFI Screenonline: Lewin Fitzhamon

BFI resource providing biographical overview and film synopses.

BFI Screenonline: Percy Stow

BFI resource providing biographical overview and film synopses.

Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema: Cecil Hepworth

Provides biographical overview and further reading.

Hepworth Films

Website dedicated to the life and work of Cecil Hepworth, includes information on his ‘film stars’, such as Alma Taylor and Chrissie White.