How did Pier Angeli influence baby names in the 1950s?

Actress Pier Angeli on the cover of LIFE magazine in July of 1956.
Pier Angeli

While dancer Cyd Charisse was behind the debut of both her first name and her last name in the U.S. baby name data, those debuts didn’t happen in the same year.

In the case of Italian-born television and film actress Pier Angeli, though, both Pier and Angeli appeared in the data — as girl names — simultaneously, in 1953:

Girls named PierGirls named Angeli
195525.
19548.
195311*14*
1952..
1951..
*Debut

The debut of Angeli, in fact, was the 3rd-highest of the year overall, after Trenace (f) and Caster (m).

Pier Angeli was born Anna Maria Pierangeli in Sardinia, Italy, in 1932. Before she launched her U.S. film career, her name was changed:

The movie moguls decided that her name Anna Maria Pierangeli was too long for the lights over a marquee, so it was abridged to Pier Angeli simply by dividing her surname. She didn’t like it, complaining that it was “a boy’s name” which of course it was in Italy, and never used it in private life. Her friends always called her Anna.

(“Pier” is the Italian form of Peter.)

Pier Angeli’s first American film Teresa (1951). Her performance impressed critics; she won a Golden Globe Award in 1952 for “Most Promising Newcomer.” And the year after that, her names double-debuted in the U.S. baby name data.

Nowadays, dozens of baby girls are named Angeli every year. Pier is still used as well, but mostly as a boy name. Which name do you prefer?

Source: Allen, Jane. Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2002.
Image: © 1956 LIFE

P.S. Speaking of dividing a surname to create a stage name…two people who divided a first name to come up with a professional name were actor Kal Penn (born Kalpen Modi) and lyricist Kal Mann (born Kalman Cohen).

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