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Chinese Theater Hand & Footprint Ceremony History and Photos

Chinese Theater Hand & Footprint Ceremony History and Photos

Chinese Theater

An estimated 2,000,000 tourist flock to the Chinese Theater from all over the world. Columnist Jack Smith likened it to being asked to leave one’s hand and footprints in the wet cement of the theater’s forecourt as “the next best thing to sainthood.” From the beginning, thousands of historic Chinese Theater photos have been taken.


Origin of Hand & Footprint Ceremonies

The origin of the longest running publicity stunt in history of the movies, has been the subject of debate for the past eighty years. Published versions of how the idea for the Chinese Theater footprints originated include the following.

  1. The most publicized version states that silent screen star Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement while visiting the construction site of the theater and that Sid Grauman, witnessed the incident and was inspired with the idea.
  2. Sid visited super-star Mary Pickford at her studio and accidentally stepped in wet cement in front of her bungalow.
  3. Film historian Ronald Haver claims that the chief mason on the project, Jean W. Klossner, performed the century-old custom of placing his signature in the form of a handprint in the wet cement. When Sid noticed the print, he asked Klossner about the practice. From that encounter, and with input and advice from Klossner, Sid devised the footpring idea. Another version of this story has Klossner coming up with the idea himself and giving to Grauman.
  4. Sid’s own basic version of the story (told with several versions) is that during construction, he accidentally stepped in newly smoothed wet cement.  While a worker was bawling him out, the idea suddenly hit him. He immediately called Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge at their studios and urged them to come immediately to the Chinese Theater so he could show them of his idea.


The true and exact story of the origin of the hand and footprint idea may never be known. There are, simply, too many versions of the story. What has been proven is that Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were the first to place their hand, footprints and signatures in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater. has  hundreds of hand and footprint ceremony photos.

First Hand and Footprint Ceremony

On April 30, 1927, Pickford and Fairbanks posed for photographs during which they practiced making their imprints in a single square, which eventually smoothed over and used by Fairbanks later that day. Pickford placed her imprints in a separate block two squares to the left of her husband’s.


A few days later, Sid invited Norma Talmadge to place her hand and footprints in the square between Pickford’s and Fairbank’s impressions.  Because she knew the date of the theater’s grand opening, she scribbled that date in the wet cement. However, she placed her hand and footprint in the cement several days before the theater’s grand opening, on May 18, 1927

Tradition of Hand and Footprint Ceremonies Continues

Ever since Fairbanks and Pickford started the tradition, hundreds of celebrities, from all facets of the entertainment industry, have placed their handprints, footprints and signatures in the forecourt of trhe Chinese Theater. 


The website, has hundreds of Chinese Theater and hand and footprint ceremony photos. The can, also, be seen on the Hollywood Photographs Google+ page. In addition the website has photos of movie premieres.

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