Answered By: Jeffrey Orrico
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2017     Views: 138

This is a great Google project!  There are some articles and books which give examples of individual actor-inventors, and some are listed in our Biography in Context database; Google does a great job of pulling many of these together.  Their patents (including drawings and descriptions) are part of the U.S. Patent Office records, which can be obtained using the tools of our Patent and Trademark Resource Library tools.  Ask Social Sciences Research and Reference Librarian Robert Berry (or any other reference librarian) for help.

Below are some interesting examples of actor-inventors to inspire you:

Jerry Borg – part-time actor with walk-on roles in television and movies, was also an accountant for the State of New York.  He invented (U.S. patent No. 7,308,868) a metal cage with spikes on the outside that campers could sleep in to prevent attacks by bears, lions and the like.  On Sept. 11, 2001, he was working in an office a block or two from the World Trade Center.  Although he was able to escape the immediate disaster, Mr. Borg died last Dec. 15 of complications of pulmonary sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease of the lungs. The New York City medical examiner ruled that he had died from inhaling toxic substances in the dust cloud thrown up by the collapsing twin towers, and on Friday, Mr. Borg, who was 63, became the 2,753rd official victim of the Sept. 11 attack on the trade center.

Steve McQueen –  American actor, nicknamed “The King of Cool” and very able race driver and motorcyclist.  He starred in The Sand Pebbles, The Great Escape, Bullit, The Magnificent Seven, The Towering Inferno, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Papillon, among others.  He invented and patented "Bucket seat shell" (Patent No. D219813) for use in the movie Bullit. Prior to his acting career, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Heddy Lamarr – Austrian-American actress.  US Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and "Hedy Kiesler Markey", Lamarr's married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam.   The invention was presented to the U.S. Navy in 1942, but not adopted until 1961.  The concept is necessary to wireless communication such as radios and cell phones.

Paul Winchell – ventriloquist, voice actor, and comedian, known best for his television show featuring ventriloquist dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff  and his voice roles as Winnie-the-Pooh and as Gargamel on the Smurfs.  He received over 30 patents on various inventions, including an artificial heart designed with Dr. Henry Heimlich (inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver).

Marlon Brando – American actor.  He won Oscars for his starring roles in On the Waterfront and The Godfather.   Shortly before his death, he invented and patented a new device for tensioning drum heads.

Lorne Green – Canadian-American stage, film and television actor, best known for his role as Pa Cartwright on the television series Bonanza.  While teaching radio broadcasting, he invented a stopwatch that ran backwards to show radio announcers how much time they had remaining in a segment.

William Gillette – Connecticut stage and film actor, best known for his portrayals of Sherlock Holmes.  He received patents for a “Method of Producing Stage Effects” and a “Time-Stamp”.


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