It Happened One Night: Did Gable kill undershirts? Frank Capra and Snopes take on it

On the GQ thread on “What killed hats?” the Snopes article links to Clark Gable and the demise of undershirts:

The good: this is declared undetermined; the arguments that Snopes use on qualifying this claim a legend are good, however: this last paragraph is bad IMO:

Not so fast!

I do remember, several years ago, that on PBS(?) several interviews with Frank Capra were shown. In one of them -I am sure- Capra described how the missing undershirt really happened: in previous takes Gable DID use an undershirt, but Capra realized that for timing effect, Gable was taking too long on getting to the bare chest level, so he told Gable to not use the undershirt! I remember that indeed, adding an undershirt would have made the scene longer, I do think Capra -at least- deserves a mention in this “Legend.”

Of course, now I need to confirm this, anybody here remembers those documentaries/interviews and the name of them?,,35397|35399|18744,00.html

After the lack of replies, I think I made the worst thread of the SDMB :wink:

Did more digging and I suspect the documentary was “Interview with Frank Capra.” From that Turner link, I got a slightly different reason for the lack of undershirt, but it was still a decision from Capra:

More bits to check if Capra or Gable were indeed influential in the fashion of the day, I think that soon Snopes will get a note requesting some changes in that article.

Nice work, GIGObuster, but I’d urge caution in accepting a director’s word at face value, especially years after the fact. Hitchcock, Welles, Spike Lee - they’re all notorious for making history fit the legend.

True don’t mind me, but I do remember the scene and believe me: keeping the undershirt would have made the dialog crawl.

Remember that what we have here is Snopes also theorizing that Gable’s agent concocted the tale; I am more inclined to think it was simply a practical decision on the set made by the director.

I think you’re misreading Snopes, GIGObuster. It seems to me that they’re not saying that Gable’s agent made up the whole idea of him going shirtless, but that the agent made up the idea that there was a sudden downturn in the sales of undershirts. (Making up a something like that would increase the public’s perception of Gable’s influence and popularity, and that’s certainly something a studio publicist would be likely to do – especially in those days.)

Snopes is pretty good about things which are empirically verifiable, and I’m sure there are any number of people who could verify that Gable appeared without an undershirt in the film in question.

I think Snopes accepts as fact that Gable did indeed appear without an undershirt. What they do not accept without verification is the idea that his doing so affected sales of undershirts.

So in summary, the legend isn’t “Clark Gable appeared without an undershirt.” The legend is “When Clark Gable appeared without an undershirt, sales of undershirts plummeted.”


I already did notice that PRNYouth, the problem I have is the paragraph in question: completely ignoring Capra in their unconfirmed conclusion (And the reason why I am here, is to get more info to check mine too) does give me pause, I am just calling it an incomplete article.

I read that as telling readers that Gable maybe did not had an undershirt at the time the movie was made! Again, I see no reason to ignore Capra. This sounds also like if they do have evidence that a trend was established already. Of course, later Snopes also says that maybe there was no trend either! I do call that waffling.

I say more research is needed, we have more info to work with: it could be easier to check now if the rest of Gable’s wardrobe (Norfolk jacket, V-neck sweater, and trench coat) did became a men’s fashion fad, from that, I don’t think it should be weird to consider that undershirts orders did take a hit because of this movie. My main complaint, that is silly that Snopes is ignoring Capra, remains.