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The Questions That Will Not Die

"Three Men"... and a cardboard standee of Ted Danson.

Q. It recently came to my attention that there is a ghost in "Three Men and a Baby." If you start the tape at 1:01:13, the camera pans across a window behind Ted Danson and Celeste Holm, who are walking into a room, and at a spot by the window curtains, the rifle that was presumably used in the killing of a young boy may be clearly seen, with the barrel pointing down.

At 1:02:53, they move back, passing the window again, and where the gun was 40 seconds earlier, there is a young boy standing whose feet do not appear to be touching the floor. The figure of both the gun and the boy are very clear and unmistakable. I was told that a boy was killed in the very room where the filming took place, and that no one has an explanation for the apparitions that appear in the background of this scene.

Jim Cameron, Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.

A. And Amy Akpan of Eager, Ariz., writes: "I was just wondering, in the movie 'Three Men and a Baby,' if the boy in the background of one of the scenes is really a ghost?"

And Daniel Lutz of Orangeburg, N.C., writes: "A friend of mine told me about something called The Ghost of 'Three Men and a Baby'..." And Patrick McManus of Yardley, Pa., writes, "There is a part where the mother comes over to see the baby, and while walking past the window, there is a kid behind the curtain."

No, there is no ghost in "Three Men and a Baby." The Internet Movie Database explains: "When Jack's mother comes to visit Mary, you can see in the background what appears to be a little boy standing in a doorway. There is a rumor that this is the ghost of a little boy who died in the apartment in which the film was shot. This rumor is false, as the interiors were all shot on a soundstage in a movie studio. The 'ghost' is actually a cardboard cutout of Jack wearing a tuxedo. This prop appears later in the film, when Mary's mother comes to collect her."

This column originally ran August 27, 2000: The Answer Man has a special folder for The Questions That Will Not Die. These questions are like urban legends. While the general population faithfully repeats the story about the blind date who stole the kidney, the AM is asked yet once again if there is not a ghost in "Three Men and a Baby." This column is dedicated to answering Questions That Will Not Die and no others. Clip and save. Please.

Q. I heard Rex Reed say on a talk show that Marisa Tomei didn't really win the Oscar -- that Jack Palance got confused and read her name instead of Vanessa Redgrave's. Is this true? Greg Nelson, Chicago

A. When Joseph Gonzales of Waco, Texas, asked this question, the AM replied: "The accountants for Price Waterhouse, who have memorized the name of every winner, are poised backstage ready to race out and make an on-the-spot correction should anyone mistakenly (or deliberately!) announce the wrong winner -- which would be hard to do, since the presenter is reading from a card that has only one name written on it."

But that was not good enough for Chicago's James Berg, who wrote: "Reed explained that a 'stoned' or 'drunk' Palance read the last name on the TelePrompTer and did not properly open the envelope."

So the AM turned to Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy, who issued an official statement: "The legend of Marisa Tomei's 'mistaken Oscar' has appeared in various forms over the years and in that short time has achieved the status of urban myth. There is no more truth to this version than to any of the others we've heard. If such a scenario were ever to occur, the Price Waterhouse people backstage would simply step out onstage and point out the error. They are not shy."

Not only is the rumor untrue, it is unfair to Marisa Tomei, and Rex Reed owes her an apology.

Q. Many have remarked on the Columbia Logo Lady's striking resemblance to Annette Bening. Did my eyes play a trick when the logo came up before "What Planet Are You From?" or was she changed to actually BE Annette Bening? Let me cast my vote solidly in favor of studios that allow filmmakers to play with the logo in such a manner; it's often the most creative moment in the film. Steven P. Senski, Plover, Wis.

A. A Columbia spokesman replies: "Nothing was done to change the logo. It is not Annette Bening and has never been Annette Bening and we get this question constantly."

The Answer Man nevertheless not unreasonably wonders: If it isn't Annette Bening, why did Columbia make it look so much like her?

Q. I recently attended a screening of the film "Boiler Room" and was horrified at how many times the boom mike fell into the picture from the top and, at one point, from the right. It ruined what I felt was a fairly solid film. I was told afterward that the boom mike plunge was the fault of the projectionist. However, it would seem to me that a good director wouldn't permit the boom to be shown in any part of the final print. Who's to blame? Andrew Magary, New York

A. You were told correctly. When you see a boom mike in a movie, 99 percent of the time the fault is not with the director or cinematographer, but with the projectionist, who has framed the movie incorrectly. If you could see the entire surface area of every frame in every film, you'd see a lot of boom mikes. But you're never supposed to.

Q. In the movie "Magnolia," the ending shows frogs pouring from the sky. Why is this happening? Janet Brown, Hermosa Beach, Calif.

A. Well, frogs do sometimes just rain from the sky. Stranger things have happened. But the movie contains a clue by providing several references to Exodus 8:2, which says:

"Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold I will smite all thy borders with frogs, and the river shall swarm with frogs, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneading-troughs, and the frogs shall come up both upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants."

Then God and Moses have a conversation about the frogs and how to get rid of them.

Q. My friends say you can see a dead man hanging in a tree in "The Wizard of Oz." I have looked for it but can't find it. Can you help me? Joseph Rogers, Evanston

A. I've written several times that there is no hanged man in a tree. How likely is it that MGM could shoot a Judy Garland musical on a soundstage with a crew of hundreds and not notice the body? Again, I am indebted to "At the beginning of the 'We're Off to See the Wizard' sequence, there is a disturbance in the trees off to the right. This was rumored to be one of the crew hanging himself, but is in fact an animal handler recapturing an escaped animal."

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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