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Actors and Actresses: Their Real Names

Their names at birth, in no particular order.

In the world of entertainment having a stage name is not a new phenomenon. In past centuries a stage name would often be an abbreviation of the actors real name, or a nickname based upon a character that they were particularly associated with. Now, having a stage name or not performing under your real name, is almost expected. Sometimes the name is changed for essentially benign reasons, it’s dull and to instantly forgettable, difficult to pronounce, someone is already using it. But there is a serious undertone to the requirement to change one’s name, especially in the recent past. If you study the names listed below you will see what I mean. Something as seemingly simple and straightforward as adopting a stage name tells us a great deal about the society we live in.

What is and what isn’t considered to be acceptable in the public domain. The need to succeed in Hollywood dominates the list and to succeed it was necessary to be seen as a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a WASP. Note how many actors felt they needed to disguise their Jewish descent even though many of the Movie Moguls were Jewish themselves; or how many Latin-American actors adopted WASP names.

Would these people have been as successful under their own names, is appearance more important than talent or ability. In America, a melting-pot of nationalities after all, it was necessary to hide ones religion either Judaism or Catholicism or indeed change names that were too indicative of foreign descent. In Britain it was necessary to disguise ones class and social background. What does this say about us and has this now changed. After all, the need to hide ones sexuality certainly hasn’t. Study the list below and see what you think.

Frederick March (Frederick McIntyre Bickel), Lee Majors (Harvey Lee Yeary II), Ben Kingsley (Krishna Bahrji), Dean Jagger (Dean Jeffries), Joel Grey (Joe Katz), Leif Erickson (William Anderson), Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky), Charles Aznavour (Shanour Aznavurjan), Tab Hunter (Andrew Arthur Kelm), Burl Ives (Burl Icke Ivanhoe), Douglas Fairbanks (Douglas Ullmann, Peter Lorre (Laszlo Lowenstein), Roy Rogers (Leonard Siye), Gilbert Roland (Luis Antonio Damaso de Alonso), Tony Randall (Leonard Rosenberg), George Raft (George Ranft), Chips Rafferty (John Goffage), Dennis Price (Dennistoun Franklyn Jon Rose-Price), Robert Preston (Robert Preston Meservy), Iggy Pop (James Newell Osterberg), Hugh O’Brien (Hugh Krampka), Ramon Novaro (Ramon Samaniegos), Paul Muni (Paul Weiserfreund), Yves Montand (Ivo Levi), George Montgomery (George M Letz), Melvyn Douglas (Melvyn Hesselberg), Fred Astaire (Frederick Austerlitz), Quentin Crisp (Dennis Pratt), Jeff Chandler (Ira Grossel), Michael Caine (Maurice Micklewhite), Red Buttons (Aaron Chwatt), George Burns (Nathan Birnbaum), Edward G Robinson (Emanuel Goldenberg), Mickey Rooney (Joe Yule Jnr), Martin Sheen (Ramon Estevez), Clifton Webb (Webb Parmalee Hollenbeck), Michael York (Michael Hugh Johnson), Klaus Kinski (Klaus Gunther Nakszynski), John Barrymore (John Blythe), Woody Allen (Allen Stewart Konigsberg), Alan Alda (Alan D’Abruzzi), Eddie Albert (Eddie Heimberger), Tom Cruise (Thomas Mapother III), Kevin Spacey (Kevin Fowler), Sterling Hayden (Sterling Walter Relyea), Charles Hawtrey (George Hartree), Laurence Harvey (Lanushka Mischa Skilne), Christopher Walken (Ronald Walker), Rudolph Valentino (Rodolpho d’Antonguolia), Robert Taylor (Spangler Arlington Brugh), Rock Hudson (Roy Scherer), John Houseman (Jacques Hausmann), Cary Grant (Archibald Leach), Danny Kaye (David Daniel Kaminsky), Boris Karloff (William Henry Pratt), Stewart Granger (James Lablance Stewart), Ray Milland (Reginald Truscott-Jones), Burt Ward (Herbert Jervis), Terry Thomas (Thomas Terry Hoare), Robert Stack (Robert Modini), Christian Slater (Christian Hawkins), Charles Bronson (Charles Buchinski), Jack Palance (Vladimir Palahnuik), Dean Martin (Dino Crocetti), Karl Malden (Mladen Sekulovich), William Holden (William Beedle), Kirk Douglas (Issur Danilovich Demsky),Tony Curtis (Bernhard Schwarz), Lee J Cobb (Leo Jacoby), Stan Laurel (Arthur Stanley Jefferson), Bela Lugosi (Bela Ferenc Blasko), Charlton Heston (John Charlton Carter), Marion Michael Morrison (John Wayne).

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  1. Catgirlrosie

    On October 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm


    Robert Preston’s birth name was Robert Preston Meservey. It is spelled wrong in this article. It was shortened to Robert Preston when he signed a contract at Paramount Studios at the age of 19.

  2. Paul Nicholas

    On October 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm


    Maureen O\’Hara\’s birth name was Maureen FitzSimons and not as you have listed, Fitzgerald.

  3. Kim Seabrook

    On October 17, 2009 at 5:51 pm


    Thank you, both for pointing out those innacuracies, they have been amended. In the case of Maureen I have actually read her autobiography so I should have known better. However, I think it is the case of compiling lists sometimes.

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