Film Review Man of Steel

The most famous fictional Clark is Clark Kent, the alter-ego of Superman, played here by Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel.”

Clarke is rebuilding Sanctum, and will have to survive a war.

“The 100,” CW’s hit dystopian science-fiction series based on novels by Kass Morgan, began its final season Wednesday. Last season, lead character Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) fled Earth’s nuclear devastation to Sanctum in a new solar system, surviving a brain takeover by a Mind Drive named Josephine.

Clarke is another spelling of Clark, an English surname derived from “clerk.” Originally from “cleric,” Latin for “clergyman,” by 1200 it meant “anyone who could read and write.”

In the 2010 census, 562,679 Americans had the last name Clark, making it the 27th most common surname. The 68,281 Clarkes ranked 281st.

When around 1800 the custom of turning surnames into male first names developed, boys named Clark appeared. In the 1850 United States census, first listing everyone by name, 7,757 men had the first name Clark, and 542 Clarke. Admiration for Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark (1752-1818) and his younger brother William (1770-1838), leader of the Lewis & Clark expedition, helped its popularity.

In 1880, when Social Security’s baby name lists begin, Clark ranked 237th and Clarke 831st for boys. Falling after 1900, Clark jumped from 334th to 256th between 1911 and 1912, when Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark (1850-1921) was frontrunner for the Democrats’ presidential nomination. (Woodrow Wilson won after several convention ballots.)

Clark Gable (1901-60) became a Hollywood megastar in 1932 with films like “Red Dust” opposite Jean Harlow. Winning the best actor Oscar in 1934 for “It Happened One Night”, his most famous role was Rhett Butler in 1939’s “Gone With the Wind.” Clark peaked as a boy’s name in 1938, at 241st. It also suddenly rose from 317th to 268th in 1961, connected with Gable’s untimely death and the birth of posthumous son John Clark Gable in March 1961.

The most famous fictional Clark is of course Clark Kent, Superman’s alter-ego. Created in 1938, he was named after Clark Gable and fellow actor Kent Taylor (1907-87).

Clark Kent (Tom Welling) was the focus of the TV series “Smallville” (2001-11). Clark’s lowest rank of 818th came in 2001. Smallville slowly revived it. Clark got another boost from the film “Man of Steel” in 2013. Its rank of 377th in 2018 was its highest since 1968. Perhaps Clark Gable, like Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn, is a Hollywood Golden Age icon young parents admire.

Clarke was almost nonexistent as a girl’s name before 1991. That year, Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” featured Cynda Williams as Clarke Betancourt, one of Denzel Washington’s two love interests. Critic Vincent Canby said, “No one with such a fancy handle can be trusted in slick-movie fiction.” There were 22 American girls named Clarke in 1991, the first year ever there were more than four. Between nine and 25 arrived between 1992 and 2013.

Though Kass Morgan named Clarke Griffin after science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), her seeing Clarke as a girl’s name may owe something to Spike Lee’s character.

As one of television’s favorite tough women, since 2014 Morgan’s Clarke has inspired more namesakes. In 2018, 92 arrived, more than double the boys given that spelling. Though still far from the top thousand, “The 100” may cement Clarke as a girl’s name well before 2131, when Clarke Griffin is born into her dystopian future.

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