Russian-American silent film actress Alla Nazimova (pronounced nah-ZEE-moh-vah) was most popular in the U.S. in the late 1910s and early 1920s.
After becoming a theater star in Russia in the early 1900s, she moved to New York and made her Broadway debut in 1906. Then she successfully transitioned from stage to screen:
In the 1910s Nazimova became one of the first Broadway actresses to match and even surpass her stage success when she became a screen star, reportedly drawing the highest salary in Hollywood from Metro, and creating the type of European exotic with which Pola Negri and, in a different way, Garbo and Deitrich would later become identified.
She was often credited simply as “Nazimova.” Her film company, founded in 1917, was also named Nazimova:
The name Nazimova has never surfaced in the U.S. baby name data, but I’ve found several dozen U.S. females named Nazimova. Most were born around the time the actress was at the height of her fame. Some examples…
Nazimova Ratleff (née Bordenave), b. 1917 in Louisiana
Alla Nazimova was born in Yalta in the late 1870s. Her birth name was Mariam Edez Adelaida “Alla” Leventon. Her stage surname, Nazimova, is said to have been inspired by the character Nadezhda Nazimova from a Russian novel called Children of the Streets.
What are your thoughts on Nazimova as a given name?
P.S. Nazimova’s goddaughter, Anne Frances “Nancy” Robbins, also became an actress — under the name Nancy Davis. Nancy married fellow actor Ronald Reagan in 1952, and went on to serve as First Lady of the United States during most of the 1980s.
White, Patricia. “Nazimova’s Veils: ‘Salome’ At The Intersection Of Film Histories.” A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema, edited by Jennifer M. Bean and Diane Negra, Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 60-87.
Some of the above — Narice (1926), Saford (1941), Gevan (1952) and Jefre (1961) — are also on the top debuts list.
P.S. I’ll come back every few years and update this list with the most recent pairs of names. In the meanwhile, for more one-hit wonder content, check out this list of interesting one-hit wonder baby names…