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Film Star Pseudonyms

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There are many reasons for actors to change their names, not least because they are conscious of their screen image. At one time there was a tendency for film studios to insist on the name changes - the new ones being more rufty-tufty, sexy, less forgettable or simply more manageable. This has tended to lapse in recent years since actors started signing for specific non-exclusive movie deals rather than direct with studios.

Actors no longer sign their lives or careers away and usually make their own naming decisions unless, of course, they have the same name as someone else in Equity, the actors' union. Then they are required to change it and is often why they include middle names (Sarah Jessica Parker) or initials (Samuel L Jackson) or the phrase 'Jnr' (Sammy Davis Jnr).

Another reason for changing might be to avoid accusations of nepotism. Emilio Estevez chose not to follow in big brother Charlie's footsteps by keeping the same surname as their father, Martin Sheen. The fact that he looks the spitting image of his father made it all a pointless exercise but then it hasn't done him any harm as he has had a lot of publicity out of it.

Sometimes you may wonder why they bother changing their names at all, but in others you can fully understand their decision. After all, The Vikings starring Bernie Schwartz and Issur Demsky or Yield to the Night starring Mavis Fluck doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

So, otherwise known as...

  • Tony Curtis (Father of Jamie Leigh) - Bernie Schwartz

  • Kirk Douglas (Father of Michael) - Issur Danielovitch Demsky

  • Catherine Zeta Jones - Catherine Jones. The 'Zeta' was borrowed from her grandmother.

  • John Wayne - Marion Michael Morrison1

  • Cary Grant - Archibald Alexander Leach (the name used by the John Cleese character in A Fish Called Wanda)

  • Marilyn Monroe - Norma Jean Baker

  • Boris Karloff (horror film star) - William Henry Pratt

  • Richard Burton (Welsh actor, twice married to Elizabeth Taylor) - Richard Walter Jenkins

  • Michael Caine (recently knighted British star of Alfie) - Maurice Joseph Micklewhite

  • Martin Sheen (Father of Charlie Sheen) - Ramon Estevez

  • Gloria Swanson (first lady of the silent screen and the first to have her name up in lights) - Gloria May Josephine Svensson

  • Diana Dors (British rival to Monroe) - Mavis Fluck

  • Bette Davis (the first lady of Warner Bros in the 1930s) - Ruth Elizabeth Davis

  • Joan Crawford (this name was chosen via a nationwide competition) - Lucille Fay LeSueur

  • Peter Lorre (diminutive star of 1930's gangster/horror films) - Laszlo Lowenstein

  • Audrey Hepburn ( half-Belgian star of My Fair Lady) - Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn - Ruston

  • Charlton Heston (broad-shouldered star of Ben-Hur) - John Charlton Carter

  • Fay Wray (King Kong's love interest) - Vina Fay Wray

  • Mae West (first lady of the double entendre) - Mary Jane West

  • Buster Keaton (agile star of the silent movies, most notably The General) - Joseph Frank Keaton VI

  • Stan Laurel (thin partner to Oliver Hardy) - Arthur Stanley Jefferson

  • Jayne Mansfield (blonde bombshell who died tragically in a car crash) - Vera Jane Palmer

  • Gene Hackman (sometimes good guy, sometimes bad guy of '80s and '90s cinema) - Eugene Alden Hackman

  • Deborah Kerr (British star of the original King and I - Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer

  • Yul Brynner - His real name, but he sometimes claimed to be half Swiss, half Japanese and that his name was 'Taidje Khan'

  • Ernest Borgnine (Oscar-winning star of Marty) - Ermes Effron Borgnino

  • Doris Day (eternal professional virgin of the 1950s) - Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff

  • Don Ameche (one of the older stars of Trading Places) - Dominic Felix Ameci

  • Dana Andrews (star of the classic film noir Laura) - Carver Dana Andrews

  • Julie Andrews (songstress star of The Sound of Music) - Julia Elizabeth Wells

  • Fred Astaire (Ginger Rogers's dance partner) - Frederick Austerlitz

  • Dirk Borgarde (British actor/novelist, star of Death in Venice) - Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde

  • Charles Bronson (maverick hero) - Charles Buchinsky

  • Jeff Chandler - Ira Grossel

  • Lon Chaney Jr (Horror star) - Creighton Tull Chaney

  • Lee J Cobb (Famous for his tough guy roles in films like On the Waterfront) - Leo Jacoby

  • Claudette Colbert (Oscar-winning star of It Happened One Night) - Lily Claudette Chauchoin

  • Gary Cooper (rugged hero of High Noon and For Whom the Bell Tolls) - Frank James Cooper

  • Bing Crosby (crooner-turned-actor who starred in High Society with Grace Kelly) - Harry Lillis Crosby

  • Marlene Deitrich (German sex bomb of the 1940s) - Marie Magdelene Deitrich

  • Mia Farrow (star of Rosemary's Baby and once married to Frank Sinatra) - Maria de Lourdes Villiers Farrow

  • Glenn Ford (Star of film noir classic Gilda) - Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford

  • Jodie Foster (Oscar-winning star of Silence of the Lambs) - Alicia Christian Foster

  • Judy Garland (Star of The Wizard of Oz and mother of Liza Minelli) - Frances Ethel Gumm

  • James Garner - James Scott Bumgarner

  • Ben Gazzara - Biagio Anthony Gazzara

  • Gloria Grahame (husky-voiced actress of the '40s and '50s) - Gloria Hallward

  • Alec Guinness (one of the British greats, deft at comedy but will be remembered for his role in Star Wars) - Alec Guinness de Cuffe

  • Jean Harlow (first blonde bombshell - died in her mid-20s) - Harlean Carpentier

  • Rex Harrison (thoroughly British scoundrel) - Reginald Carey Harrison

  • Rita Hayworth (great actress and better dancer. Reached the height of her fame with Gilda. Her funeral was the second most attended in Hollywood history) - Margarita Carmen Cansino

  • William Holden (rugged star of Sunset Boulevard) - William Franklin Beedle Jr

  • Bob Hope (comedian, famous for his Road to... films) - Leslie Townes Hope

  • Dennis Hopper (star and director of Easy Rider) - Dennis Hooper

  • Rock Hudson (beefy star of the 1950s - whose death highlighted the need for AIDS research) - Roy Harold Scherer Jr

  • Michael Keaton (star of Beetlejuice) - Michael John Douglas

  • Klaus Kinski (actor father of Natassja) - Nikolaus Gunther Nakszynski

  • Natassja Kinski (Star of Paris, Texas) - Nastassja Naksyznyski

  • Hedy Lamarr - Hedwig Eva Maria Keisler

  • Bruce Lee (karate king) - Lee Jun Fan

  • Vivien Leigh (Oscar-winner for Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire - Vivian Mary Hartley

  • Jack Lemmon (comedy star of Some Like it Hot) - John Uhler Lemmon III

  • Jerry Lewis (comic superstar and sidekick of Dean Martin) - Joseph Levitch

  • Sophia Loren (first actress to win an Oscar for a role not performed in English) - Sofia Villani Scicolone

  • Myrna Loy (star of the Thin Man series) - Myrna Williams

  • Bela Lugosi (horror star) - Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko

  • Shirley MacLaine (star of 'The Yellow Rolls-Royce') - Shirley MacLean Beaty

  • Dean Martin (sidekick of Jerry Lewis) - Dino Paul Crocetti

  • Hank Marvin (guitar god, frontman of The Shadows) - Brian Robson Rankin

  • Walter Matthau (comic genius) - Walter Matasschanskayasky

  • Ray Milland (star, and Oscar winner of The Lost Weekend) - Reginald Alfred Truscott-Jones

  • Paul Muni (sinister gangster star of the 1940s and '50s) - Friedrich Muni Meyer Weisenfreund

  • Maureen O'Hara (screen siren of the 1930s and '40s) - Maureen Fitzsimmons

  • Jack Palance (cowboy and Wstern star) - Vladimir Palanuik

  • Edward G Robinson (archetypal 1930s gangster) - Emanuel Goldenberg

  • Cliff Richard (the Peter Pan of British pop) - Harry Webb

  • Ginger Rogers (dance partner of Fred Astaire) - Virginia Katherine McMath

  • Susan Sarandon (star of Thelma and Louise) - Susan Abigail Tomalin

  • Romy Schneider (German star of the French series Sissi) - Rosemarie Magdelene Albach-Retty

  • Peter Sellers (Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther series) - Richard Henry Sellers

  • Barbara Stanwyck (formidable first lady of film noir and star of Double Indemnity - Ruby Stevens

  • Meryl Streep (linguistically talented star) - Mary Louise Streep

  • Robert Taylor (idol of the 1950s) - Spangler Arlington Brugh

  • Rudolph Valentino (first male heart throb of silent cinema and had the largest funeral in Hollywood) - Rudolfo Pietro Filberto Raffaello Guglielmi di Valentina

  • Erich von Stroheim (actor and director) - Erich Oswald Stroheim

  • Shelley Winters (super swimmer of The Poseidon Adventure) - Shirley Schrift

1There is a very funny anecdote concerning John Wayne and British actor Lawrence Harvey. Harvey was a slight man with a considerable acting talent and he was walking on set when the following conversation was alleged to have taken place.

John Wayne - Can't you even walk like a man? Lawrence Harvey - What was that Marion?

Wayne's response wasn't noted...

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