Sunday, January 11, 2015


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 movie 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 affairs, covered 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 golden days of the studios.

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 might not 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 as Ice-T especially for someone who started his career as a rapper?

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!" or "would you believe…" have been such a great catch phrases if they 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 under her real name of 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.

What about Bernard Schwartz?  Would he ever have been as popular if he hadn't changed his name to Tony Curtis?

And Sir Elton John, does he look like a Reginald Kenneth Dwight?

Can you picture Tina Fey as Elizabeth Stamatina Fey?

Or Jamie Foxx as Eric Marlon Bishop?

Would Oscar winner Ben Kingsley's statuette be the same with the name Krishna Pandit Bhanji engraved on it?

Can you picture Elvis Costello as Declan Patrick MacManus?

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?


Ashantay said...

Names do hold energy - both good and bad, so changing a name definitely changes the energy surrounding a person. Hadn't known some of these, so was surprised with some of the listings! One actor I enjoy, Emilio Estevez, changed his last name to his mother's.

Sandra Dailey said...

One of my favorites is Chevy Chase. You'd have to pick a cool name like that if you grew up as Cornelius Crane Chase.

Andrea Downng said...

Michael Landon was born Eugene Orowitz. Somehow that doesn't quite fit the star of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie!

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: Actually, Estevez is Emilio's father's real name. Martin Sheen changed his name from Estevez. His son, Emilio Estevez chose to pursue an acting career under his real name while his brother, Carlos Estevez changed his name to Charlie Sheen.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Sandra: Chevy Chase was on my list of names. You're right, Cornelius Crane Chase wouldn't have gotten him on Saturday Night Live. :)

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Andrea: Michael Landon wasn't on my list, but seeing your comment I remember coming across that. Definitely not a name you would associate with the cowboys of Bonanza.

Thanks for your comment.