Category: Old Hollywood names
Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman and husband Benjamin Millepied have yet to officially release the name of their newborn son. Could it be a new trend with celebrity baby names? Fellow celeb parents Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem never announced their son’s name, and neither did Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen, though in both cases, the news leaked out. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon dropped hints about their twins’ names for days before we all learned that their little ones were called Monroe and Moroccan.
Can you blame them? Whether the parents opt for something as traditional as James or as unusual as Pilot, their choice is discussed, rated, and thoroughly dissected, along with their choice of stroller, nursery décor, and baby clothes.
Things were a little different in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Studios reportedly wrote clauses into their stars’ contracts, penalizing them for becoming pregnant. While the pressure was greater for women, some men also feared that fatherhood could have a negative impact on their ability to land roles as a leading man.
Actors Loretta Young and Clark Gable had a daughter together in 1935 – but Gable was married to someone else. Young hid her pregnancy with a hiatus in Europe, then stage-managed an “adoption” of her daughter months later.
And yet, whether we were barely tolerant of celebrities’ roles as parents or interested in them beyond reason, one thing remains the same: actors tend to choose interesting names for their children. This list of names, most representing children born from the 1930s into the 1960s, would be perfectly acceptable for starbabies born today.
Their power as trendsetters was no less powerful. Both Errol Flynn and Audrey Hepburn had sons called Sean. Sean entered the US Top 1000 two years after Flynn’s son was born in 1941, and took another big leap after Hepburn’s Sean debuted in 1960. The pattern repeats for many of these names.
In Hollywood’s Golden Age, there was nothing that would make an actress (before they were called actors) seem more chic and sophisticated than a French-sounding name, especially one ending in ‘ette,’ as in the cigarette they often smoked in a long, ivory holder.
And so Pauline Levy became Paulette Goddard, Lily Chauchon (who actually did have French roots) was renamed Claudette Colbert, Ruby Fabares morphed into Nanette Fabray, and Jeanette MacDonald remained Jeanette MacDonald.
These and other glamorized Gallicized names caught on with the baby-naming public, which led to a lot of little Annettes and Nanettes. Many of these names sound terminally dated at this point due to their era-stamped ending and being overly obvious feminizations of male names. But there are also some less familiar ‘ette’ names that aren’t necessarily Grandmas. And so here are two lists: those ette names that may have been overexposed in the past, and those that sound somewhat fresher.