Hello, everybody. Mrs. Norman Maine is out looking for the man that got away. But Mr. Joe Morella and Mr. Frank Segers are here, still chatting (did you say, gabbering?) about classic movies and movie stars.
We all know Whoopie Goldberg appropriated her name from whoopie cushion back when she was a stand up comic, and that Nicholas Gage (nee Coppola, he’s FFC’s nephew) took his from a cartoon character, Luke Cage. But it’s fun to learn about actors who took their names from characters they portrayed.
Pictured above is Anne Shirley.
Shirley didn’t make many films remembered today except perhaps for director King Vidor’s renowned 1937 tearjerker Stella Dallas playing Barbara Stanwyck’s daughter; and in 1944, director Edward Dmytryk’s hard boiled Murder, My Sweet” In that, her last film, she played the “good” girl opposite Dick Powell’s version of Philip Marlow. Claire Trevor was her evil stepmother.
Shirley was married briefly to John Payne (who once had a flaming romance with Jane Russell) and their daughter, Julie Payne, became an actress.
Shirley had been born Dawn Evelyn Paris, and was a child actress under the name Dawn O’Day. But then in 1934 she starred in a film version of the classic Anne of Green Gables, and everafter called herself the name of the character she’d played, Anne Shirley.
She certainly wasn’t the first nor the last actor to do this. It probably started with Moliere’s troupe, or maybe even the Greeks.
Then there’s Gig Young.
You might remember him as an extra and bit player at Warner Brothers where he was often unbilled or occasionally listed as Byron Barr. But in the 1942 film “The Gay Sisters” costarring Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent and Geraldine Fitzgerald, he played a character called Gig Young – and guess what? The studio and Barr decided they liked that name better than the Byron Elsworth Barr monicker he was born with in 1913.
In Young’s case, he was under some name-change pressure unknown to his classical predecessors because another actor was billed at the time as Byron Barr. (The Screen Actors Guild frowns on the use of the same name by any two performers.)
“The Gay Sisters” not only gave him a new name but provided Young’s career a much-needed push. As a result, he happily gave up his part time job as a gas station attendant to concentrate on making movies full time. After service in the Coast Guard during World War II, Young returned to Hollywood and carved out a solid career in mostly light secondary leading roles.
In the picture below he certainly looks more like a Byron Ellsworth Barr than a Gig Young, doesn’t he?