How did “Sweet Bird of Youth” influence baby names in the early 1960s?

The character Heavenly Finley from the movie "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962).
Heavenly Finley from “Sweet Bird of Youth

The name Nevaeh got a lot of attention in the early 2000s, but, long before that, another Heaven-based baby name, Heavenly, debuted in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1965: 7 baby girls named Heavenly
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: 6 baby girls named Heavenly [debut]
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted

Where did it come from?

A character in the 1962 movie Sweet Bird of Youth.

Heavenly Finley was played by actress Shirley Knight, who was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” for the part.

The movie’s main character, Chance Wayne (played by Paul Newman), similarly drew attention to the name Chance — so much so that Chance was one of the fastest-rising names of 1962:

  • 1964: 49 baby boys named Chance
  • 1963: 52 baby boys named Chance
  • 1962: 36 baby boys named Chance
  • 1961: 8 baby boys named Chance
  • 1960: 6 baby boys named Chance

Sweet Bird of Youth was based on the 1959 play of the same name written by Tennessee Williams.

Do you like the name Heavenly? Do you like it more or less than Nevaeh?

P.S. Interestingly, a few years later, the name Heavenly was used for a male movie character in the biker flick The Wild Angels (1966).

Sources: Sweet Bird of Youth (film) – Wikipedia, SSA

Image: Screenshot of Sweet Bird of Youth

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