The Debut of Dianalynn

diana lynn, actress, 1952
© 1952 Life

The baby name Dianalynn has been in the SSA data just twice, debuting in 1951, then popping up a second time in 1963.

The influence was surely American actress Diana Lynn (1926-1971), whose birth name was Dolores “Dolly” Loehr. But the reason the name debuted in that particular year — if there even is a reason — is hard to pin down.

In 1951 she co-starred with future president Ronald Reagan in the chimp movie Bedtime for Bonzo, which did well at the box office. But this was nothing new; she’d been appearing in well-received movies throughout the 1940s.

Also around 1951 she started appearing on TV, but, as LIFE mentioned in a mid-1952 article featuring Diana Lynn and five other leading ladies of television, “their faces are probably better known than their names. In the billings their names flash by so quickly that the audience is generally unable to identify them.” (The other five featured actresses were Stella Andrew, Rita Gam, Grace Kelly, Felicia Montealegre, and Neva Patterson.)

What are your thoughts on the name Dianalynn?

Sources:

The Debut of Darvi

bella darvi, 1950s, actress
Bella Darvi

In the mid-1950s, the unusual name Darvi appeared just twice in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Darvi
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby girls named Darvi [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

What put it there?

Actress Bella Darvi, whose story is somewhat similar to that of Miroslava: both were born in Europe in the 1920s, both were of Jewish descent and had to deal with the Nazis, both tried to become famous Hollywood actresses in the 1950s, and both ended up taking their own lives.

Bella Darvi was born Bajla Wegier in Poland in 1928. She was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II and released in 1943.

In 1951, she happened to meet American film producer Darryl Zanuck and his wife Virginia while they were in Europe. They brought her to the U.S., changed her name to Bella Darvi — “Darvi” being a combination of Darryl and Virginia — and helped her get into the movies.

She was featured in several relatively high-profile films in 1954 and 1955 (The Egyptian, Hell and High Water, and The Racers). She even co-won the “New Star of the Year” Golden Globe Award in January of 1954 for her parts in the first two films.* But ultimately her career didn’t take off.

She returned to Europe, where she continued to appear in films, but in 1971 committed suicide in Monte Carlo.

*Interestingly, according to the official Golden Globes site, Darvi won her award before either of her 1954 films came out (one was released in February, the other in August). And, in fact, that particular awards show (the 11th Golden Globes) was supposed to be focused on movies from 1953. So I have no idea how she managed to win…unless Zanuck had something to do with it?

Sources: Bella Darvi – IMDb, Bella Darvi – Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen

The Baby Name Miroslava

miroslava, actress, 1950
Miroslava on the cover of LIFE, 1950

Right at the start of the Cold War, the curiously Russian-sounding name Miroslava debuted on the U.S. baby name charts:

  • 1957: 10 baby girls named Miroslava (7 in Texas)
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Miroslava
  • 1955: 16 baby girls named Miroslava (8 in Texas, 6 in New York)
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 6 baby girls named Miroslava
  • 1952: 6 baby girls named Miroslava
  • 1951: 5 baby girls named Miroslava [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Czechoslovakian-born Mexican actress Miroslava Šternová, who gave Hollywood a shot in the early 1950s.

She was born in Prague in 1925. When the Germans overtook Czechoslovakia in 1939, her family (which was Jewish) fled. By 1941, they had resettled in Mexico.

Miroslava, billed mononymously, began appearing in Mexican films in the mid-1940s. She was introduced to American audiences in the matador movie The Brave Bulls (1951). Long before the movie came out, Miroslava appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine in July of 1950.

But her Hollywood career didn’t take off, perhaps due in part to her heavy accent. Her one other U.S. film was Stranger on Horseback, which was released in March of 1955 — a few weeks after Miroslava committed suicide at the age of 29.

The name Miroslava, used in various Slavic countries (including Russia), is made up of elements meaning “peace” and “glory.”

(Another Slavic feminine name that debuted on the U.S. charts during the Cold War? Svetlana, inspired by the daughter of Josef Stalin…)

Sources: Miroslava – Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Miroslava (actress) – Wikipedia, Miroslav – Behind the Name
Image: © 1950 LIFE

The Story of Doria

The baby name name Doria has peaked in usage twice so far. The second spike happened in 1971, the year of Tropical Storm Doria (which ended up being the costliest storm of the season). But the first spike, which was more subtle, happened in 1957:

  • 1959: 29 baby girls named Doria
  • 1958: 31 baby girls named Doria
  • 1957: 37 baby girls named Doria
  • 1956: 27 baby girls named Doria
  • 1955: 24 baby girls named Doria

What’s behind the first spike?

I think it’s same thing that was behind the sudden jump in usage of the name Andrea* a year earlier:

  • 1958: 3,241 baby girls (and 65 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1957: 3,369 baby girls (and 67 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1956: 3,394 baby girls (and 62 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1955: 2,764 baby girls (and 31 baby boys) named Andrea
  • 1954: 2,721 baby girls (and 26 baby boys) named Andrea

On the night of July 25-26, 1956 — exactly sixty-three years ago — the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria sank just off the east coast of America.

The Andrea Doria — said to be “unsinkable” (like the Titanic) — had been known for its luxury. It featured theaters, dance floors, card-rooms, lounges, and three outdoor swimming pools (one per passenger class). Since its maiden voyage in 1953, it regularly made trips across the Atlantic.

On the final night of one such trip from Italy to New York, the Andrea Doria was sailing through thick fog 50 miles south of Nantucket. Just past 11 pm, the Doria‘s starboard side was suddenly pierced by the ice-breaking prow of a smaller passenger ship called the MS Stockholm (which had left New York at mid-day and was en route to Sweden). The collision resulted in the deaths of 51 people — 46 of them Andrea Doria passengers.

Within a few minutes of the crash, the Doria had taken on so much water that it was listing more than 20 degrees to starboard. Evacuations began and, over the course of the night, the still-seaworthy Stockholm and other nearby ships came to the rescue of the remaining passengers and crew (a total of 1,660 people).

Early the next morning, East Coast newsmen in airplanes visited the crippled Doria. They took photographs and got video footage of the ship’s final moments. (It began sinking in earnest at 9:45 am, and disappeared from view under the water at 10:09 am.)

The video footage was broadcast on TV news shows later the same day, making the sinking of the Andrea Doria one of the very first televised tragedies.

The next day, photos of the doomed Doria were on the front pages of newspapers nation-wide. A few weeks later, more Doria shots ran in a photo-essay and on the cover of Life magazine. The most famous Doria photos were the Pulitzer-winning ones taken by Harry A. Trask.

All this media exposure drew attention to the two names “Andrea” and “Doria,” which in turn gave boost to the usage of both names, which is what we saw in the data above.

The ship had been named for 16th-century Italian admiral Andrea Doria, a member of the wealthy Genoese Doria (D’Oria, De Auria) family. The family traces its lineage back to a woman named Auria.

What do you think of the name Doria? Do you like it more or less than the name Andrea?

Sources:

Image: Screenshot from A Welcome Guest in the House

*Dozens of the baby girls named Andrea during the second half of 1956 got the middle name Doria. Here’s one example from Idaho.

Baby Names Given a Boost by Grace Kelly

grace kelly, 1950s

Philadelphia native Grace Kelly appeared in her first movie in 1951. By 1955, she had become one of the biggest box-office draws in the nation. But she gave up her career as an actress to assume the role of a princess in 1956 when she married the ruler of Monaco.

I know of five baby names (so far) that got a boost thanks to Grace Kelly…

Grace

First thing’s first: Grace Kelly’s first name, Grace. It saw a two-year uptick in the mid-’50s:

  • 1959: 1,660 baby girls named Grace [rank: 204th]
  • 1958: 1,708 baby girls named Grace [rank: 198th]
  • 1957: 1,917 baby girls named Grace [rank: 186th]
  • 1956: 1,837 baby girls named Grace [rank: 189th]
  • 1955: 1,390 baby girls named Grace [rank: 216th]
  • 1954: 1,410 baby girls named Grace [rank: 213th]

Decades later, it would peak in the rankings at 13th place for two years in a row (2003 and 2004).

Kelly

The rise of Kelly can’t be attributed to a single factor, as we saw yesterday. That said, I have no doubt that Grace Kelly played a part in feminizing the first name Kelly during the 1950s:

  • 1959: 6,379 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 74th]
  • 1958: 4,471 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 108th]
  • 1957: 1,907 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 187th]
  • 1956: 831 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 310th]
  • 1955: 540 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 380th]
  • 1954: 455 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 406th]

Grace Kelly’s paternal grandparents were Irish immigrants. The Irish surname Kelly can have several possible origins, but a common one is the Ó Ceallaigh, “descendant of Ceallach.” The meaning of the personal name Ceallach isn’t known for certain — some sources say “bright-headed,” others say it comes from a word meaning “war,” or a different word meaning “church.”

In 1968, the name Kelly saw peak usage on the boys’ list (97th) and then-peak usage on the girls’ list (12th). In 1977, thanks to the Charlie’s Angels character, it bounced back to reach an even higher peak for girls (10th).

Lizanne

Grace’s little sister Elizabeth “Lizanne” Kelly married Donald LeVine in Philadelphia in June of 1955. The same year, the baby name Lizanne debuted on the charts:

  • 1959: 32 baby girls named Lizanne
    • 10 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1958: 39 baby girls named Lizanne [peak]
    • 13 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1957: 36 baby girls named Lizanne
    • 10 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1956: 32 baby girls named Lizanne
    • 9 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Lizanne [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

Notice how the usage of Lizanne in the late ’50s was particularly high in Pennsylvania. It was the same through most of the ’60s as well.

Rainier

Grace married Rainier III, the Prince of Monaco, in a lavish wedding in Monaco in April of 1956. The same year, the baby name Rainier debuted on the charts:

  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 7 baby boys named Rainier
  • 1956: 11 baby boys named Rainier [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

The name Rainier is ultimately based on the Germanic words ragin, meaning “advice, decision, counsel,” and hari, meaning “army.”

(The six bridesmaids at the wedding were named Bettina, Carolyn, Judith, Maree, Rita — actress Rita Gam — and Sally.)

Caroline

Grace and Rainier had three children: Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie. The births of the latter two didn’t seem to have an effect on U.S. baby names, but the birth of Caroline in January of 1957 did give Caroline a bump that year:

  • 1959: 1,046 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 273rd]
  • 1958: 990 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 282nd]
  • 1957: 1,135 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 253rd]
  • 1956: 702 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 329th]
  • 1955: 743 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 315th]
  • 1954: 770 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 304th]

Toward the end of 1957, John and Jacqueline Kennedy — who were still several years away from becoming President and First Lady — also welcomed a daughter named Caroline. They didn’t get the idea from Grace Kelly, though. Caroline Kennedy was named after her maternal aunt, Caroline Lee Radziwill.

Sources: Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll – Wikipedia, Rayner – Behind the Name