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:
ALLA

ASTA

GRETA

ISA

JETTA

LEDA

LEILA

LINA

LITA

LOLA

LYA

LYDA

NEVA

NITA

OLGA

ORA

ORMI

POLA

RIA

THEDA

TORA

VALLA

VILMA

VOLA

ZENA

And then there were those that had slightly  more elaborate, tango-type names:

ANNABELLA

CAMILLA

CARMELITA

FANIA

FRANCELLA

FRANCESCA

JOBYNA

LOLITA

MARCELINE

MARCELLA

MARGUERITE

OCTAVIA

ROSETTA

The men’s names tended to fall into three groups:

STRONG, SILENT, SINGLE-SYLLABLE TYPES:

BUCK

CLIVE

CRANE

FORD

GUINN

HALE

HOOT

HOUSE

KING

LARS

LON

NILS

PEEL

REX

ROD

YALE

Sophisticated, cigarette-holder, surname types:

ANTRIM

CASSON

CRAWFORD

CREIGHTON

CULLEEN

EMORY

THURSTON

TULLY

VAN DYKE

WEBSTER

WHEELER

And the exotics to co-star with Vilma and Vola:

BELA

ELMO

IVOR

LARS

LUPINO

MISCHA

NILS

PHILO

PHILLIPE

RAMON

ROMAINE

RUDOLPH/RODOLFO

TULLIO

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11 Responses to “Silent Screen Names: Vintage names of vamps and villains”

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realpraise Says:

August 5th, 2009 at 9:11 am

Nice list! I like: Leila, Marceline, Crane, Webster and Philipe.

Charlotte Vera Says:

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.

linda Says:

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 Says:

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.

disa_lan Says:

August 6th, 2009 at 1:11 am

How would one pronounce Lya?

linda Says:

August 6th, 2009 at 2:09 am

LYE-a.

linda Says:

August 6th, 2009 at 2:13 am

Thanks, Charlotte!

disa_lan Says:

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.

Megan Says:

August 11th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Very cool list – interesting!

dancingdandy Says:

November 9th, 2010 at 8:38 am

wud Creighton be a nice name for my baby boy?

Lauren Says:

November 24th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

How do you pronounce Creighton?

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