LIFE

19 Classic Celebrities Who Changed Their Names For Fame

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

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

1. Natalie Wood

Wood’s parents embraced their Russian heritage by dubbing their daughter Natasha Nikolaevna Zakharenko.

2. Michael Caine

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

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

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

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

6. Joan Crawford

Her all-American moniker hides the more European sounding Lucille LeSueur she was born with.

7. Kirk Douglas

7. Kirk Douglas

Issur Danielovitch Demsky passed his stage name down to his son, fellow actor Michael Douglas.

8. Audrey Hepburn

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

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

10. Fred Astaire

Frederick Austerlitz and his sister Adele both made the switch as kids performing together.

11. Ginger Rogers

11. Ginger Rogers

Astaire’s dance partner later in life also gave her name a slight shift from Virginia Katherine McMath.

12. Stevie Wonder

12. Stevie Wonder

Honestly, it’s a little disappointing that the soul singer didn’t stick with Stevland Hardaway Judkins.

13. Cary Grant

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

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

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

16. George Burns

The funnyman born Nathan Birnbaum found inspiration from baseball players George H. Burns and George J. Burns.

17. Rita Hayworth

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

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

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!