Ever heard of the WAMPAS Baby Stars?
They were young actresses on the cusp of movie stardom back in the 1920s and 1930s.
About 13 Baby Stars were selected by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers every year from 1922 to 1934 (minus 1930 and 1933).
Some of those young women did indeed achieve stardom. Among the Baby Stars were Clara Bow (’24), Mary Astor (’26), Joan Crawford (’26), Fay Wray (’26) and Ginger Rogers (’32).
I thought the names of the Baby Stars — the oldest of whom were born in the final years of the 1800s, the youngest of whom were born in the mid-1910s — would make an interesting set. But I wanted birth names, not stage names, so I tracked down as many birth names as I could. Here’s the result, sorted by frequency (i.e., seven women were named Dorothy).
- 7: Dorothy
- 6: Helen
- 4: Elizabeth
- 3: Frances, Ruth, Virginia
- 2: Anita, Ann, Barbara, Betty, Clara, Doris, Dorothea, Eleanor, Evelyn, Gladys, Gwendolyn, Hazel, Jacqueline, Katherine, Laura, Louise, Lucille, Margaret, Maria, Marian, Marie, Marion, Mary, Patricia, Violet
- 1: Adamae, Alberta, Alma, Anne, Audrey, Augusta, Blanche, Carmelita, Caryl, Constance, Derelys, Dolores, Duane, Edna, Eleanor, Ena, Enriqueta, Ethel, Ethlyne, Evalyn, Flora, Gisela, Gloria, Gretchen, Hattie, Helene, Ina, Ingeborg, Jacquiline, Jean, Joan, Jobyna, Josephine, Juanita, Julanne, Kathleen, Kathryn, Kitty, Launa, Laurette, Lena, Lenore, Lilian, Lola, Lu Ann, Lucile, Madeline, Marceline, Martha, Mildred, Myrna, Natalia, Natalie, Nellie, Neoma, Olive, Olivia, Patsy, Rita, Rochelle, Rose, Sally, Suzanne, Sidney, Toshia, Vera, Vina
And here are the leftover stage names:
- 5: Sally
- 4: Mary
- 3: Joan, June
- 2: Betty, Jean, Judith, Pauline
- 1: Alice, Bessie, Boots, Claire, Colleen, Dolores, Dorothy, Elinor, Evelyn, Fay, Frances, Gigi, Ginger, Gladys, Gloria, Gwen, Iris, Janet, Joyce, Julie, Karen, Kathleen, Lila, Lina, Lois, Lona, Loretta, Lucille, Lupe, Marian, Molly, Mona, Natalie, Patricia, Sue
(Often stage names were the real-life middle names of these women.)
Finally, a few interesting details:
- “Derelys” was Derelys Perdue, whose first name at birth was actually Geraldine. I’m not sure how she came up with her stage name, but, in March of 1923, her film studio (FBO) tried to re-rename her “Ann.” (They’d sponsored a name contest in a magazine called Film Fun. The winner got $50.) Derelys brought an injunction against the studio in April to prevent the name change from happening, and the story ended up in the newspapers. This extra visibility is likely what boosted the name Derelys into the U.S. baby name data for the first and only time in 1924.
- “Jobyna” was Jobyna Ralston, who was named for actress Jobyna Howland, daughter of a man named Joby Howland. The name Jobyna debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1927.
- “Lina” was Lina Basquette, who was originally named Lena.
- “Mary” — one of them, anyway — was Mary Astor, who went on to give her daughter a Hawaiian name.
- “Sidney” was Sidney Fox, a female who was given the name Sidney long before the name (in particular, the spelling Sydney) became trendy for baby girls.
Which of all the names listed above do you like best? Why?