During the studio system era of Hollywood, movie stars often changed their names for a number of different reasons. At times, they selected new names for themselves, but often their professional names chosen for them by the studio brass.
You see, back then the “big five”, MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount, RKO, and 20th Century Fox, exerted at least a degree of control over every last aspect of a star’s life. They dictated their wardrobe choices and hairdos. Arranged their high-profile romances, and concocted the perfect imaginary people of the viewing public’s dreams.
Sometimes American and British actors who had mundane, ‘ordinary’ names given ‘exotic’ ones to make them appear more intriguing and glamorous. On the flip side of the coin, foreign actors often given names that scrubbed away any last hint of ethnic difference.
Basically, if you wanted to be rich and famous, you had to do exactly what the execs over at the studio told you to do. If not, that little contract they had you sign, promising you X amount of appearances in films, meant Jack.
Fortunately, these days film stars have the freedom to either keep their birth name or choose for themselves what stage name they want to perform under. They have significantly more control over their identities than they once did several decades ago.
In this video, we’ll be taking a look at several Old Hollywood Celebrities Who Changed Their Name For Fame. We’ll also touch on why they discarded their birth names in favor of the ones they ultimately became famous under.
Back in his vaudeville days, Grant went by his birth name Archibald Alexander Leach. But once he was getting his foot into the Hollywood door. Studio execs thought that his name was unsuitable for a leading man and suggested that he should have a name that sounded more like ‘Gary Cooper’.
While Gary Cooper had a ring to it, the North By Northwest star preferred the sound of the name Cary Grant instead. He had his name legally changed to Cary Grant in 1941, and the rest is history.
Wood’s parents embraced their Russian roots when they named her Natasha Nikolaevna Zakharenko.
When she’s filming Tomorrow is Forever at age six, the film’s producer Bill Goetz popped up on set and told her that her name was being changed for it’s marquee value.
She continued to act under the name he selected, Natalie Wood, but she never legally changed her name. In this video, we’ll be taking a look at several Old Hollywood Celebrities Who Changed Their Name For Fame.
Born Issur Danielovitch on December 9, 1918, Douglas was the son of Bryna and Hershel Danielovitch.
His parents had emigrated from Chavusy, Mogilev Governorate, in the Russian Empire, which nowadays is in Belarus. At home, Douglas’ family spoke Yiddish, and he grew up called Izzy Demsky after the name his uncle had chosen after he resettled to America.
Before entering the United States Navy during the second world war, the actor legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas.
When getting his start as an actor, it just made sense for him to keep using his new Americanize name. Kirk made his film debut in 1946s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. He went on to appear in more than 90 films and known for his good looks and explosive acting style. In this video, we’ll be taking a look at several Old Hollywood Celebrities Who Changed Their Name For Fame.
Born Maurice Micklewhite, this actor felt compelled to change his name after seeing the marquee for Humphrey Bogart’s 1954 military drama film The Caine Mutiny.
Best known for her performance opposite Glenn Ford in 1946s film noir classic Gilda. This highly celebrated Golden Age of Hollywood star originally named Margarita Carmen Cansino.
Her father, actor and dancer Eduardo Cansino, was of Romani descent while her mother, vaudevillian Volga Hayworth, was of English and Irish ancestry.
When Rita was just 12 years old, she partnered with her father in an act called the Dancing Cansinos. For the act, her hair dyed from brown to black to give her a more ‘latin’ appearance.
When she was 16, she took a bit part in the 1935 film In Caliente.
While dancing with her father at a club called the Caliente Club. She noticed by Winfield Sheehan, the head of Fox. After calling her in for a screen test a week later, Rita signed for a short-term, six-month contract with the studio.
At that time, she changed her name to Rita Cansino. At first, she mainly cast in ‘exotic roles such as an Argentinian girl in 1935s Under the Pampas Moon. And later that year as an Egyptian girl in Charlie Chan in Egypt. In this video, we’ll be taking a look at several Old Hollywood Celebrities Who Changed Their Name For Fame.
After her contract had ended with Fox, Rita appeared in the 1936 Columbia Pictures film Meet Nero Wolfe. Columbia studio head, Harry Cohn, so impressed by her that he signed her to a seven-year contract.
Cohn argued that her image was too ‘Mediterranean’, which limited her to being type-cast in exotic roles. He further thought that her name sounded too Spanish, and advised her to adopt her mother’s maiden instead.
Not only did Rita take Cohn’s advice by changing her name. But she ended up changing her hair color to dark red and raised her hairline by undergoing a procedure called electrolysis as well.
After ‘Americanizing’ herself as best she could, Hayworth’s career took off almost instantaneously. She went on to appear in over 80 films and is generally recognized as being one of the most iconic movie stars of her day.
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You’ve got to admit that Roy Harold Scherer Jr isn’t nearly as catchy of a name as Rock Hudson.
Hudson got his stage name after he sent a talent scout Henry Wilson a headshot in 1947. Wilson ended up taking him on as a client and had him change his name.
Later in his life, Hudson admitted that he always hated the name.
After signing with MGM in 1925, Crawford went on to become one of Hollywood’s most prominent film stars and one of the highest-paid women in America.
But her success didn’t come easy. Crawford was born into poverty in San Antonio, Texas, sometime between 1904 and 1908. The precise year of her birth is unfortunately unknown. While her father abandoned her family when she was just a 10-month-old, Joan managed to work her way out of rags and into riches by first appearing on Broadway as a chorus girl.
She was initially named Lucille Fay LeSueur, but after being spotted by studio bosses over at MGM, they insisted that she change her name if she wanted to have a career in the movies.
They thought that her name sounded too European, but they also felt that it too closely resembled the word ‘sewer. Joan’s professional name ultimately was chosen after the studio ran a magazine competition asking readers to help select a new one.
Doris Kappelhoff changed her name to Doris day while auditioning for radio performances early on in her career.
This Golden Girls actress didn’t change up her name that radically. She was born Bernice Frankel, but she always preferred to be called ‘B’. She chose to go with ‘Beatrice’ since she thought it would look nice up on a theater marque. The Arthur part of her last name came from her first husband, Robert Alan Aurthur, whom she married in 1944.
Born Norma Jean Mortensen in 1926, this actress, model and singer was one of the most famous sex symbols of the mid to late 1950s and early 60s.
Monroe decided to change her name early on in her career because she felt like her birth name was, as she put it, ‘unwanted’ and that it made her feel like a ‘little servant girl’.
It took her about a decade to have her name legally changed. She was going by Marilyn Monroe for about a decade before it was official.
Before transitioning to the blonde bombshell mega-celebrity she ultimately became, Monroe was also a natural brunette. She died her hair the signature shade of platinum blonde to boost her career. While it might seem like a trivial move, the change-up almost immediately gave her the leg-up she had hoped for.
Before she was the star of Breakfast of Tiffany’s Hepburn’s name was originally Audrey Kathleen Ruston.
Throughout World War II, Aurdrey and her family endured many hardships while living in Nazi-occupied Holland. Despite living during this terrible moment in world history, she still managed to attend ballet lessons.
During this time, her mother – fearing for her safety – changed her name to Edda Van Heemstra to shroud her British heritage.
When Audrey began her film career, she reverted back to going by Audrey and adopted half of her father’s surname Hepburn-Ruston. In this video, we’ll be taking a look at several Old Hollywood Celebrities Who Changed Their Name For Fame.
Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm, but she and her sisters who performed as a trio chose to change their stage name from the ‘Gumm Sister’s’ to the ‘Garland Sisters’ in 1934.
It’s been suggested that they changed their name after a comedian suggested that they switch to a last name that sounded more theatrical. Alternatively, it’s been said that the name came from songwriter George Jessel who said that the girls ‘looked prettier than a garland of flowers’.
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Which Hollywood star were you most surprised to learn was originally named something drastically different? And can you think of any other Old Hollywood actors who changed their names for fame? Let us know in the comments.
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