Silent Screen Names: Vintage names of vamps and villains
Maybe they didn’t have voices then, but lots of the silent screen stars did have intriguingly exotic looks and equally exotic names–even if many of them were invented by studio publicists. Theda Bara, for example, the quintessential vamp, was not the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Italian sculptor whose name was an anagram of Arab Death, as the PR people proclaimed to the public, but was actually Cincinnati-born Theodosia Goodman, daughter of a Jewish tailor. Likewise, Nita Naldi’s real last name was Dooley, Olga Petrova was born Muriel Hardy and Alla Nazimova’s birth name was Miriam Leventon.
But real or concocted, these names–primarily short, with two-syllables and heavy on the vowels–still retain vestiges of that sultry 1900’s-1920’s glamour, and could have some vintage appeal today:
And then there were those that had slightly more elaborate, tango-type names:
The men’s names tended to fall into three groups:
STRONG, SILENT, SINGLE-SYLLABLE TYPES:
Sophisticated, cigarette-holder, surname types:
And the exotics to co-star with Vilma and Vola:
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on August 5th, 2009 at 9:11 am
Nice list! I like: Leila, Marceline, Crane, Webster and Philipe.
Charlotte Vera Said
on August 5th, 2009 at 7:39 pm
Nice list! I read a short story by Wodehouse once in which he made fun of this Hollywood trend in names. The story centred around an aspiring actress who decides to call herself Minna Nordstrom so as to fit in with the other silent stars of the time.
on August 5th, 2009 at 9:17 pm
Do you happen to rememberthe title of the Wodehouse story? I’d love to read it.
Charlotte Vera Said
on August 5th, 2009 at 11:48 pm
I googled it because it’s been a very long time since I’ve read the story, which, incidentally, is called “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom”. It’s in the Blandings Castle collection of short stories.
on August 6th, 2009 at 1:11 am
How would one pronounce Lya?
on August 6th, 2009 at 2:09 am
on August 6th, 2009 at 2:13 am
on August 6th, 2009 at 6:08 am
I thought that’s how it was pronounced but didn’t want to assume. I also didn’t know if this was an alternative spelling for Leah. Thank you.
on August 11th, 2009 at 12:52 pm
Very cool list – interesting!
on November 9th, 2010 at 8:38 am
wud Creighton be a nice name for my baby boy?
on November 24th, 2010 at 4:13 pm
How do you pronounce Creighton?
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