Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. I read some movie trivia that claimed Clark Gable was responsible for a decline in undershirt sales. What did he do?

G.L., Wildwood, N.J.

A. Gable didn’t wear one in Frank Capra’s 1934 comedy “It Happened One Night.” In the film, Gable took off his shirt in front of Claudette Colbert. Capra believed the scene was taking too long, so he instructed Gable to not wear an undershirt. The scene was considered racy at the time. Some sources claim sales of undershirts took an immediate dive due to consumers reasoning that if Clark Gable didn’t need an undershirt, neither did they. Other sources claim the trend was already occurring and neither Gable nor the movie caused the declining sales.

Q. Did filmmakers really burn a city for the sequence in “Gone with the Wind”?

O.F.J., Medford, Calif.

A. The scene was supposed to depict the burning of battle-torn Atlanta. What you really see going up in flames were old movie sets that needed to be cleared from the studio lot in Culver City, Calif. The burning of the Atlanta Depot was filmed Dec. 10, 1938, and it was the first scene of the movie to be shot. Film historians claim that if a major mistake in filming occurred, the whole film may have been scrapped.

Q. Blue Bonnet Margarine was a staple around our house while I was growing up. Sounds like such a simple name. How did it get its name?

G.B.E., Bangor, Pa.

A. Standard Brands had a company-wide contest to name its new product. An employee from Texas suggested his state flower as an appropriate name. ConAgra has owned Blue Bonnet since 1998.

Q. Is it true that Theodore Roosevelt was the only U.S. president to deliver an inaugural address without using the word “I”?

O.C.H., Orem, Utah

A. It is. Several presidents used the word only once: Abraham Lincoln (his second inaugural address), Franklin D. Roosevelt (his third inaugural) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (second inaugural).

Q. Celebrities have placed impressions of their hands and feet in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for many years. What kind of theater is it? When did this tradition start?

P.H., Gainesville, Fla.

A. Sid Grauman came up with the idea of a luxurious movie theater in 1922. He built Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre the same year King Tut’s tomb was discovered. Five years later, he built the Chinese Theatre and began putting the footprints of Hollywood stars in cement. The first signers were Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge. Hundreds of stars — from Doris Day to Britney Spears — have left their prints at the theater.

Footprints and handprints are not the only impressions left behind by the famous. A few of the unique imprints left by stars include Groucho Marx’s cigar, Betty Grable’s legs, John Wayne’s fist, Al Jolson’s knees, Jimmy Durante’s nose, Whoopi Goldberg’s hair braids and even the hoofs of Gene Autry’s horse.

Sid Grauman came up with the idea of the gala movie premier, with many of those first presentations taking place at his Hollywood Boulevard theater. In 1973, Grauman’s was sold to Ted Mann, who renamed the theater. In 1986, Mann sold the theater to Paramount Pictures, which in turn sold half interest to Warner Bros. The theater continued to be called Mann’s Chinese Theater until 2001, when the name reverted to Grauman’s. This January, the name was changed to TCL Chinese Theater to reflect new ownership.

Send questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

2013 Gary Clothier

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