The Start of Saadia

saadia, movie,
Rita Gam as Saadia

The exotic-looking name Saadia first popped up in the SSA’s baby name data in 1954:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 5 baby girls named Saadia
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 9 baby girls named Saadia
  • 1956: 10 baby girls named Saadia
  • 1955: 17 baby girls named Saadia
  • 1954: 19 baby girls named Saadia [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted

The source?

The movie Saadia, released at the end of 1953. (It was based on the 1950 book Échec au destin by Francis D’Autheville.)

The film was set in the Moroccan desert, and the primary female character was a young woman named Saadia [pronounced sah-dee-ah], played by actress Rita Gam.

Though the character was female, the earliest known real-life Saadia was male: Sa’adia ben Joseph, 10th-century Jewish philosopher and rabbi.

The name “Saadia,” which, so far as is known, he was the first to bear, is apparently an artificial Hebrew equivalent of his Arabic name, “Sa’id.”

The name Sa’id means “happy” or “lucky” in Arabic.

But, getting back to the 1950s…a comedic movie called 3 Ring Circus — filmed while Saadia was playing in theaters, and released at the end of 1954 — also included a character named Saadia (this time played by Zsa Zsa Gabor). This second film may have influenced expectant parents as well.

What do you think of the name Saadia?


Baby Names Influenced by the Movie “Giant”

giant, 1956, baby names, movie

One of last week’s post featured Glenna Lee McCarthy, whose father was famous Texas oil prospector and entrepreneur Glenn McCarthy (1907-1988).

Writer Edna Ferber fictionalized Glenn’s rags-to-riches life story in her novel Giant (1952) with the character Jett Rink.

The book was later made into a movie, which came out in October of 1956. Jett was played by James Dean, who had died in a car accident a month before the film premiered.

The other two main characters were Jordan “Bick” Benedict (played by Rock Hudson) and his wife Leslie Benedict (Elizabeth Taylor). Secondary characters included the Benedicts’ son Jordan, or “Jordy” (Dennis Hopper) and a neighbor named Vashti (Jane Withers).

The movie did well at the box office and was nominated for various Academy Awards, including a posthumous Best Actor nomination for Dean. It also gave a boost to several baby names:

(girl name)
4,401 babies
[rank: 99th]
4,386 babies
[rank: 104th]
6,100 babies
[rank: 77th]
6,008 babies
[rank: 79th]
(boy name)
5 babies14 babies24 babies17 babies
(boy name)
105 babies
[rank: 713th]
101 babies
[rank: 734th]
207 babies
[rank: 540th]
184 babies
[rank: 568th]
(boy name)
..5 babies
(girl name)
8 babies7 babies16 babies10 babies

Interestingly, the name Luz — which, like Jordan, was used for two different characters in the movie — saw a slight decline from 1956 to 1957.

Source: Giant (1956) – Wikipedia

One-Hit Wonder: Glenalee

glenna lee mccarthy, glenalee, baby name, 1950s

The baby name Glenalee was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. data in 1951. (In fact, it was tied for 1951’s top one-hit wonders of the year.)

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 9 baby girls named Glenalee
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

Where did it come from?

An oil heiress who eloped with a cobbler’s son!

The bride was 17-year-old Glenna Lee McCarthy, daughter of famous Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy. She was a student at Lamar High School in Houston at the time.

(Glenn McCarthy was one of the men who inspired Edna Ferber to write the novel Giant in 1952. It was later made into a film starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson.)

The groom was 19-year-old George Pontikes, son of a Greek cobbler. He had graduated from Lamar and was now attending Rice University, where he played football.

In early December, 1950, the pair ran off to Waco to be married by a justice of the peace. News of their elopement broke toward the end of the month — right around the time that Glenna’s older sister, Mary Margaret, was getting married in a much more traditional manner. (That must have been awkward.)

Glenna and George were in the news for several days straight at the very end of 1950. Many papers, including the New York Times, mistakenly called the bride “Glenalee McCarthy.” (Not all did, though, and the baby name Glenna saw peak usage in 1951 as a result.)

Papa Glenn McCarthy was unhappy about the elopement at first, but one paper reported that “trigger-tempered McCarthy” had “calmed down after [the] initial outburst of anger.” Perhaps he was quick to forgive because the situation was eerily familiar: He’d eloped with his own wife, the 16-year-old daughter of a wealthy oilman, back when he was a 23-year-old gas station attendant in 1930.

Do you like the name Glenalee (…even if it started out as a typo)?


The Emergence of Gevan

area of suspicion, gevan dean, 1950s, baby name

The baby name Gevan was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 1952:

  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: 12 baby boys named Gevan
  • 1951: unlisted
  • 1950: unlisted

But it wasn’t just any old one-hit wonder — it was the top one-hit wonder of the year. And that’s not all — it also tied for top boy-name debut name of the year.

The influence behind Gevan eluded me for a long time…mainly because I wasn’t looking for it. The name Kevin was very trendy in the 1950s, so I initially wrote off Gevan as variant of fast-rising Kevin.

When I finally decided to take a second look at Gevan, though, I did indeed find a distinct explanation.

It was a story called “My Brother’s Widow,” published serially in Collier’s weekly magazine over five consecutive issues from mid-March to mid-April, 1952.

The story’s main character was Gevan “Gev” Dean. After his brother Ken was murdered, Gev returned to his hometown to mind the lucrative family business, Dean Products, where there was an internal power struggle going on. He also had to deal with Ken’s widow, Niki — who happened to be his former girlfriend:

gevan, 1952

After “My Brother’s Widow” came out in Collier’s, author John D. MacDonald beefed it up and released it as a standalone book with a new title, Area of Suspicion, in early 1954.

Further research reveals that at least two of the baby Gevans born in 1952 had the middle name Dean. And other Gevan Deans were born in later years/decades, no doubt to parents who had picked up the book.

Do you like the name Gevan? How would you pronounce it?

Sources: Area of Suspicion – The Trap of Solid Gold, John D. MacDonald – Wikipedia

P.S. John D. MacDonald’s 1957 novel The Executioners was turned into the 1962 movie Cape Fear.

The Rise of Krystal

The Rosebush quads: Kenneth, Krystal, Keith, and Kristine.
Kenneth, Krystal, Keith, and Kristine in late 1956.

The baby name Krystal saw a steep rise in usage in 1951. In fact, it was one of the fastest-rising baby names that year:

  • 1953: 40 baby girls named Krystal
    • 11 (27.5%) in MI
  • 1952: 59 baby girls named Krystal
    • 15 (25.4%) in MI
  • 1951: 55 baby girls named Krystal
    • 18 (32.7%) in MI
  • 1950: 8 baby girls named Krystal
  • 1949: 9 baby girls named Krystal

As you can see, much of the usage was in the state of Michigan specifically.

What was the influence?

A set of quadruplets — Krystal, Kristine, Keith, and Kenneth — born to Kenneth and Ann Rosebush of Oakwood, Michigan, on January 10, 1951. They lived in hospital incubators for several weeks before being allowed to go home.

Photos of the K-named quads regularly appeared in the papers during the early 1950s.

It’s hard to tell whether they had any influence on the names Keith and Kenneth, which were already on the rise in the early 1950s, but it does look like the name Kristine (which was sometimes misspelled Kristene in the papers) was affected:

  • 1953: 1247 baby girls named Kristine
    • 113 (9.0%) in MI
  • 1952: 1885 baby girls named Kristine
    • 206 (10.9%) in MI
  • 1951: 1755 baby girls named Kristine
    • 186 (10.6%) in MI
  • 1950: 1247 baby girls named Kristine
    • 110 (8.8%) in MI
  • 1949: 1174 baby girls named Kristine
    • 94 (8.0%) in MI

The Rosebush family also included four older children, all girls, named Dorothy (Dottie), Jacquelyn, Barbara, and Joann.