Ever wonder why the baby name Carole — already on the rise in the 1930s and early ’40s — saw such a big jump in usage in 1942 specifically?
Here’s the data:
- 1944: 6,270 baby girls named Carole
- 1943: 6,506 baby girls named Carole
- 1942: 8,409 baby girls named Carole [peak usage]
- 1941: 4,964 baby girls named Carole
- 1940: 4,788 baby girls named Carole
And here’s the popularity graph for Carole, which clearly shows the spike:
Around that time, there were two famous movie actresses named Carole: Carole Lombard and Carole Landis.
Lombard was the funny one — the “world’s champion attractive screwball,” according to Life magazine — while Landis was more of a traditional Hollywood starlet.
The main cause of that 1942 spike was no doubt the sudden death of Carole Lombard, who was the highest paid actress of her time. She had finished a successful War Bonds promotion tour in the Midwest in mid-January and was flying back to California when her plane crashed into the side of the Mount Potosi in Nevada (near Las Vegas). All 22 people on board were killed.
Was it just an accident? Or, given that the U.S. had been attacked at Pearl Harbor just a month earlier, was it something even darker? Had Lombard, the war-effort activist, been sabotaged by German spies?
But we can’t discount the influence of Landis entirely. It just so happens that, the same year, we see the surname Landis bubble up for the first time in the girls’ data:
|Girls named Landis||Boys named Landis|
|1945||5 baby girls||28 baby boys|
|1944||.||13 baby boys|
|1943||6 baby girls||22 baby boys|
|1942||5 baby girls*||13 baby boys|
|1942||.||20 baby boys|
Sadly, Carole Landis died later the same decade of an apparent suicide.
So…how did each actress get her stage name?
- Lombard, born Carol Jane Peters in 1908, chose “Carole” at the suggestion of a numerologist and “Lombard” because it was the surname of a friend.
- Landis, born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste in 1919, “clearly borrowed from Carole Lombard, the first Hollywood star to spell her name that way.” She said she found “Landis” in the San Francisco telephone directory.
What are your thoughts on the name Carole? Would you use it?
P.S. One of those 1942 Caroles was Carole Jones, later known as actress Carol Lynley. And a 1943 Carole was Carole Penny Marshall, later known as actress/director Penny Marshall.
- Busch, Noel F. “A Loud Cheer for the Screwball Girl.” Life 17 Oct. 1938: 48-50, 62-64.
- Gans, Eric Lawrence. Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2008.