Sunday, November 11, 2012


Good question. Just ask some of the Hollywood celebrities whose careers would probably never have gotten off the ground using the name they were born with.

Back in the days when the studios literally ruled the performer's lives with iron-fisted control—told the stars which movies they were allowed to make, who they could date, hushed up pregnancies of unwed actresses, made drunk driving arrests go away and paid off victims, and in some instances it's even rumored that they covered up murder—they also controlled the star's name.

Nowadays it's a matter of individual choice whether or not a celebrity wants to select a name more suited to his/her career with some nearly unpronounceable names appearing on the marquee belonging to celebrities that chose to stay with their real name…something that never would have been allowed in the old days.

Here are a few celebrities, some of them old school and others current, whose name change definitely helped their careers.

Fred Astaire, certainly one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century, but would he have been as successful as Frederick Austerlitz? And what about his partner from many of his films, Ginger Rogers? Would she have been as popular as Virginia Katherine McMath?

And then there's Mariska Hargitay's mother, Vera Jayne Palmer. She probably wouldn't have been as successful without the name change to Jayne Mansfield. And Mariska's co-star on Law & Order—SVU, would Tracy Morrow be as interesting Ice-T?

How many women would actually have swooned over the man who is considered one of "Hollywood's all-time definitive leading men" if Archibald Alexander Leach hadn't changed his name to Cary Grant?

Would that famous Jack Benny stare have been as funny coming from Benjamin Kubelsky?

What about a movie marquee announcing Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. and Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff rather than Rock Hudson and Doris Day?

Would "Missed it by that much!" have been such a great catch phrase if it had been uttered by Donald James Yarmy rather than Don Adams?

Would Boris Karloff have been any where near as frightening if he had kept his birth name of William Henry Pratt?

Would Wolfgang Puck have been as successful as a chef and restaurateur under the name of Wolfgang Johannes Topfschnig?

Would we be as mesmerized by the magical illusions of David Copperfield if they were being performed by David Seth Kotkin?

Would Whoopi Goldberg be as funny if she was working as Caryn Elaine Johnson?

We have that teenage song and dance team from those old MGM musicals, Joseph Yule, Jr., and Frances Ethel Gumm. Would they have been as successful if they hadn't changed their names to Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland?

And what about one of the most famous comedy teams in show business history, Crocetti and Levitch? You probably know them better as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

There are so many more that I could have listed here, the famous who changed their name in pursuit of a career. Some from days of yore and others current. Do you have any particular favorite celebrities who have chosen to do the name change?

LATE ADDITION:   I'm adding this in now (10 hours later) because I forgot to put it in the original post.  Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta shortened her name to something much simpler and attention getting.  She became Lady Gaga.


Harlie Reader said...

Cary Grant... *sigh* It is an interesting list and to think, most people today think the weirder the name, the better to remember it.

Shia LaBouf is one name that comes to mind. It would definitely have been changed back in the day.


Samantha Gentry said...

Marika: Your example of Shia LaBouf is a good one. You look at the name and you don't know if it's a male or female name. Back in the day they definitely would have changed it.

Thanks for your comment.

Cara Marsi said...

Interesting reading the birth names of celebrities. Their new names were definitely easier, yet I think it's better now that they keep their own names. It gives more ethnic diversity. I can't think of others right now. One new actress, Meryl Streep's daughter, has a not very pretty name: Mamie Gummer. That's one that would have been changed awhile ago.

Samantha Gentry said...

Cara: Mamie Gummer is a strange choice. It's interesting to see what name the children of the already famous choose to use when they embark on their own acting careers...whether they capitalize on the famous name or not. The case that immediately comes to mind in Martin Sheen's two sons...Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. One is using his father's stage name and the other is using the real family name.

Thanks for stopping by.

LisaRayns said...

Very interesting :)

Samantha Gentry said...

Lisa: Thanks for commenting.