How did Denise Darcel influence baby names in the early 1950s?

The character Fifi Danon (played by Denise Darcel) from the movie "Westward the Women" (1951)
Danon from “Westward the Women

In 1947, when she was in her early 20s, French-born beauty queen Denise Billecard relocated to the United States. After changing her name to the easier-to-pronounce “Denise Darcel,” she embarked upon a brief Hollywood film career.

[She] profited from Hollywood’s “ooh-la-la” conception of young, shapely French womanhood, generally inviting the adjective “sultry” and playing characters called Fifi, Gigi and Lola.

One of her first roles was in the WWII film Battleground, released in late 1949. It was a box office success, and Denise Darcel was essentially the only female in the film, making her hard to miss.

The combined influence this film and others boosted the baby name Darcel into the U.S. baby name data for the first time in 1950:

  • 1955: 59 baby girls named Darcel
  • 1954: 71 baby girls named Darcel [peak]
  • 1953: 49 baby girls named Darcel
  • 1952: 61 baby girls named Darcel
  • 1951: 32 baby girls named Darcel
  • 1950: 21 baby girls named Darcel [debut]
  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: unlisted

The name Darcella also debuted that year. (And the variant spellings Darcell and Darcelle appeared in 1951 in 1952, respectively.)

The name Denise also saw a considerable increase in popularity during the first half of the ’50s:

  • 1954: 13,718 baby girls named Denise [rank: 24th]
  • 1953: 11,950 baby girls named Denise [rank: 31st]
  • 1952: 11,651 baby girls named Denise [rank: 33rd]
  • 1951: 8,117 baby girls named Denise [rank: 48th]
  • 1950: 4,514 baby girls named Denise [rank: 82nd]
  • 1949: 2,236 baby girls named Denise [rank: 140th]
  • 1948: 1,930 baby girls named Denise [rank: 147th]

It reached peak usage around 1960.

And finally there’s the name Danon, which emerged in the data in 1952:

  • 1954: 6 baby girls named Danon
  • 1953: 7 baby girls named Danon
  • 1952: 7 baby girls named Danon [debut]
  • 1951: unlisted
  • 1950: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Denise Darcel’s character in the movie Westward the Women, released at the very end of 1951. The character’s name is Fifi Danon, but “Danon is never called by her first name after the introduction in the film by anyone but herself.”

Which of these three names — Darcel, Denise or Danon — do you like best for a baby girl? Why?


P.S. Here’s a sweet (and much more recent) story involving Denise: A soldier and a French starlet rekindle lost love.

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