Movie Character Baby Names: Woody Allen characters beyond Annie Hall

Movie Character Baby Names: Woody Allen characters beyond Annie Hall

We don’t particularly think of Woody Allen as a cutting-edge filmmaker, but there is one area in which he has been—if unwittingly—prescient, and that is in giving some of his characters names that would later become trendy choices for babies.  (Though there are no babies in his films—children hardly exist in Woody’s World.)

For those characters he created for himself, he chose, with a few exceptions, pretty ordinary, sometimes nicknamey names—Alvy, Sandy, Mickey, Lenny, Larry, Jerry, Sid, Gabe, Sheldon, Isaac.  But for others, he did come up with some inspired choices:

AlfieYou Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger, 2010 (Anthony Hopkins). A fittingly British choice for a British character—but it’s doubtful if Woody knew that Alfie was the fourth most popular name for UK baby boys born in 2010.

AxelDon’t Drink the Water, 1994 (Ted Bessell). There were only 133 Axels born in the US in 1994—and most of them probably had strong Scandinavian roots.

BeaRadio Days, 1987 (Dianne Wiest. The now cool nickname Bea was seen as a period relic in this movie set in the late 1930’s.

CeciliaPurple Rose of Cairo, 1985 (Mia Farrow). This current Berry favorite is one of the few delicate, feminine ones in the canon, appropriate to Farrow’s romantic dreamer character.

EdenBullets Over Broadway, 1994 (Tracey Ullman).  The name Eden has risen more than five hundred places since Tracey Ullman inhabited the character Eden Brent in this mid-nineties film.

EmmettSweet and Lowdown, 1999 (Sean Penn). Emmett is one of the rapidly climbing E-boys’ names; in this film it’s used for a quirky 1930’s jazz guitarist who rates himself second only to Django Reinhardt.

EudoraZelig, 1983 (Mia Farrow). A vintage name used here forMia Farrow’s buttoned-up psychiatrist character.

FieldingBananas, 1971 (Woody Allen)Fielding Mellish is one of the more unusual names Woody (born Allen) used for himself in one of his earliest films, playing a (what else?) bumbling neurotic who gets swept up in a surreal adventure.

HattieSweet and Lowdown, 1999 (Samantha Morton). A sweet, simple name for a sweet, simple character; Hattie now has starbaby cred via the daughter of Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott.

HoldenEveryone Says I Love You, 1996 (Edward Norton). An instance when the writer-director was right on trend: In 1996, Holden had begun its rise up the ladder towards it’spresent rank of Number 299.

InezMidnight in Paris, 2011 (Rachel McAdams).  One of the rare instances where Mr.Allen uses a somewhat exotic name—perhaps ironic for this crudely materialistic American character.

JudahCrimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (Martin Landau). In this weighty, non-comedic film an Old Testament name was given to a guilt-ridden character who returns to the religious teachings he had rejected.

LaneSeptember, 1987 (Mia Farrow), Everyone Says I Love You, 1996 (Gaby Hoffman). A pleasant one-syllable unisex name that Woody liked so much he used it twice.

LunaSleeper, 1973 (Diane Keaton).  He was a real predictor on this one— used decades before Luna Lovegood debuted in Harry Potter and started the name’s climb.  The perfect choice for a futuristic socialite-poet.

MaxwellA MidsummerNight’s Sex Comedy, 1982 (Tony Roberts). In 1982 no one would have foreseen Maxwell as a hot boy baby name—and even less that it would have been used for a girl, as it was by Jessica Simpson.

Miles_Sleeper, 1973 (Woody Allen)—_An unusually sleek and smooth name given to his rumpled self.  Both Miles and cousin Milo are definitely on the upswing; Miles is now 430 places higher than when this film was made forty years ago.

NolaMatch Point (Scarlett Johansson), 2005 and Celebrity, 1998 (Winona Ryder). Another name used for two different characters—and previously by Spike Lee as the heroine of the 1986 She’s Gotta Have It.

OliveBullets over Broadway, 1994 (Jennifer Tilly). In 1994, Olive had been off the Top 1000 since 1950; now, with the popularity of Olivia and its use by two major celebs, it’s well into the Top 500.

YaleManhattan, 1979 (MichaelMurphy). Yale is the perfect Ivy League name for Allen’s tall, dark and better-looking best friend.  Other names in this movie: Isaac and Jeremiah.

ZeligZelig, 1983 (Woody Allen). Yes, Zelig is the title character’s last name—Leonard being his first—but this distinctive name, a version of the German and Yiddish Selig, will be forever identified with him.

So how did Woody do in the character naming department?  Which ones do you like?

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.