Back when Hollywood was still in its early heyday, budding stars knew how important it was to have a name that really stuck with people if they wanted to get anywhere in showbiz.
Marilyn Monroe famously changed her name from Norma Jean Mortenson when the blonde bombshell was scouted by agents at 20th Century Fox back in 1946. One amusing anecdote reveals the actress apparently being unsure where to put the “i” when signing her first contract, but like the other classic celebs listed below, she obviously got the hang of it in no time.
It makes me wonder what I would pick as a stage name if I had the same opportunity! Take a look below to see the monikers these 19 stars went by before they made it big.
Did we miss any other surprising name switcheroos? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!
1. Natalie Wood
Wood’s parents embraced their Russian heritage by dubbing their daughter Natasha Nikolaevna Zakharenko.
2. Michael Caine
Born Maurice Micklewhite, the actor was inspired to make the change when he saw the marquee for Humphrey Bogart’s The Caine Mutiny.
3. Bea Arthur
The Golden Girls actress didn’t veer too far from her original name, Bernice Frankel, but it’s hard to imagine her ever going by anything else.
4. Rock Hudson
You have to admit that being known as Leroy Harold Scherer Jr. would not have been quite the right fit for the hunky actor.
5. Doris Day
Hudson’s frequent costar also changed her name from Doris Kappelhoff when auditioning for radio performances early in her career.
6. Joan Crawford
Her all-American moniker hides the more European sounding Lucille LeSueur she was born with.
7. Kirk Douglas
Issur Danielovitch Demsky passed his stage name down to his son, fellow actor Michael Douglas.
8. Audrey Hepburn
Imagine the poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s attempting to fit her birth name Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston without taking up the whole page.
9. Judy Garland
Frances Gumm and her sisters, who performed as a trio, decided on the new names when songwriter George Jessel said they “looked prettier than a garland of flowers.”
10. Fred Astaire
Frederick Austerlitz and his sister Adele both made the switch as kids performing together.
11. Ginger Rogers
Astaire’s dance partner later in life also gave her name a slight shift from Virginia Katherine McMath.
12. Stevie Wonder
Honestly, it’s a little disappointing that the soul singer didn’t stick with Stevland Hardaway Judkins.
13. Cary Grant
Though he was known as Archibald Alexander Leach during his vaudeville days, execs thought he should have a name “more like Gary Cooper” when the actor began making films.
14. Dusty Springfield
The songstress was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, but her tomboy habit of playing sports in the street earned her the nickname Dusty as a child.
15. Harry Houdini
The impressive magician’s first disappearing act: vanishing Erik Weisz and paying homage to two other illusionists he admired, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin and Harry Kellar.
16. George Burns
The funnyman born Nathan Birnbaum found inspiration from baseball players George H. Burns and George J. Burns.
17. Rita Hayworth
Margarita Cansino adopted her mother’s maiden name and even changed her hairline with electrolysis when she began her film career.
18. Dean Martin
You might think Dino is the crooner’s nickname, but that is what Mr. and Mrs. Crocetti put on the baby boy’s birth certificate.
19. Tony Curtis
The actor shed his original name, Bernard Schwartz, when he headed from the Bronx to Hollywood at 23 years old.
Did we miss any of your favorite famous name changes? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!