The Coming of Kimetha

bad seed, book, rhoda, 1950sThe name Kimetha appeared for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 1955:

  • 1960: 5 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1959: 16 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1958: 16 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1957: 9 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1956: 20 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: unlisted

The influence? Child actress Kimetha Laurie.

She had appeared on television and in theater productions throughout the 1950s, but her most high-profile role was as sociopathic Rhoda Penmark in the play The Bad Seed (based on the classic thriller of the same name written by William March and published in 1954).

But, wait a minute…how is that right? We’ve all seen images of the little girl from in The Bad Seed. She was played by actress Patty McCormack — wearing those long blonde braids — in both the successful Broadway play (Dec. 1954 to Sept. 1955) and the equally successful movie (released Sept. 1956).

Ah, but in between the play and the film a touring company took the show on the road for 31 weeks. The first performance was in Delaware on December 1, 1955. In this production, Rhoda the “murderous moppet” was played by Kimetha Laurie — wearing long brunette braids. She had won the part of Rhoda “over 90 other applicants.”

So how did Kimetha Laurie come to have that name? Kimetha was her birth name, coined by her mother, who took “Kim” from her husband’s name (Arthur Kimble Ouerbacker) and added a fanciful ending. She began acting as Kimetha Ouerbacker, but soon switched to the easier-to-pronounce stage name Kimetha Laurie. (Laurie was a family name; the influence wasn’t Piper Laurie.)

A handful of girls born in 1955 and over the next few years got her full stage name, “Kimetha Laurie,” as their first and middle name. One example is Kimetha Laurie Ramler (b. 1959).

Two other baby names that debuted in the data around this time, Kennetha and Kenetha, may have showed up thanks to the combined influences of Kimetha and then-trendy Kenneth.

Do you like the name Kimetha?

Sources:

  • Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
  • “Did You Ever Dine With a Murderess?” Detroit Free Press 18 Jan. 1956: 22.
  • Kimetha Laurie – IBDb
  • Kimetha Laurie – IMDb
  • “Kimetha Laurie Won Out Over 90 Other Applicants for “The Bad Seed” Role.” Daily Boston Globe 11 Dec. 1955: A39A.
  • “Louisville Girl Has Starring Role With ‘Bad Seed’ Road Company.” Courier-Journal [Louisville, KY] 10 Nov. 1955: 10.
  • Monahan, Kaspar. “Chilling ‘Bad Seed’ Stars Nancy Kelly at Nixon Theater.” Pittsburgh Press 3 Jan. 1956: 12.
  • “Monster to Ingenue – Actress Gets Variety.” Cincinnati Enquirer 25 Nov. 1959: 11.

P.S. Like Tirrell, Kimetha also had a part on the soap opera Love of Life in the ’50s.


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