Whats In A Name? And Why These Men Changed Them

Do you like your name? What’s even in a name anyways and does it matter? If you’re one of the men below, then, well, a hell of a lot. Box-office success, platinum records, worldwide superstardom — to whole lot. And all because they reworked, shifted some letters or completely changed their names making the shift to brands.  But, from Michael Caine to Ralph Lauren, there’s a story behind every one of these new names. Some switched up their monikers to make an impression. Others jettisoned established family names because of the painful memories they held. There are even a handful of men who had new names thrust upon them. Read on for ten of the most famous men who became someone new.

Archibald Alec Leach AKA Cary Grant

‘Leach’ was never going to work, lets be honest. And the big-shot Hollywood producers knew it. When Cary Grant first began attracting the attention of studios including Paramount, executives soon took aim at his very ‘British’ name. And, before he starred in his first film — 1932 comedy This Is the Night — ‘Archie’ Leach had transformed into Cary Grant. His new name was inspired by ‘Cary Lockwood’, Grant’s character in Broadway play Nikki. But Paramount producer B. P. Schulberg wanted “something that sounded more all-American; like Gary Cooper”. He handed the actor a list of surnames pre-approved by the Paramount publicity department — and the actor chose ‘Grant’.

Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr. AKA Sir Michael Caine

Born in 1933 in Rotherhithe, Michael Caine has changed his name several times. During his early career, he worked the Sussex theatre scene under the names ‘Michael White’ and ‘Michael Scott’. But, upon moving to London, he needed a more distinctive, unique name. He chose Michael Caine. The decision was made during a call to his agent — from a telephone box outside an Odeon cinema. Caine was instructed to make the change and, peering outside at a poster for Humphrey Bogart naval drama The Caine Mutiny, he made the spur-of-the-moment decision to adopt the USS Caine’s name for himself. Just like that.

Dino Crocetti AKA Dean Martin

Born to an Italian barber in Ohio,USA. Dean Martin didn’t speak English until his was five-years-old. He began playing music in school, boxed under the name ‘Kid Crochet’ and had jobs including croupier, steel mill worker, blackjack dealer and (somewhat less reputably) bootlegger. In his early twenties, young Dino began singing with local bands — which led to his being discovered by the Ernie McKay Orchestra. During this time, he began calling himself ‘Dino Martini’; a thinly-veiled parody of Metropolitan Opera tenor Nino Martini. The vowels dropped over time, and the name Dean Martin was born and so to his dazzling career. 

Thomas Cruise Mapother IV AKA Tom Cruise

Not so much a name-change more just a name-shorteningTom Cruise was born to an electrical engineer and a special education teacher in 1962. His father, the actor has since shared, was “a merchant of chaos” who would belittle and bully his children — and Cruise decided to distance himself from his abuse by dropping the name ‘Mapother’ when his career took off. Allegedly, in private, Cruise still goes by his full birth name — and his cousin, Lost actor William Mapother, has maintained the family name. We think the shorter version sounds much better.

Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch

Kirk Douglas took a little time to settle on his name. Born to immigrants from the then-Russian Empire, his family dropped the surname ‘Danielovitch’ soon after his birth — instead using the name adopted by the wider Danielovitch clan, ‘Demsky’. Douglas was known as ‘Izzy Demsky’ throughout his entire childhood, during which he developed a flair for performing. Before enrolling in the United States Navy for World War II, he changed his name to Kirk Douglas because, as with many immigrants of the time, he feared his real name would hold him back. According to the actor, ‘Issur Danielovitch ‘ was “too unwieldy and too Semitic”.

Ralph Lipschitz AKA Ralph Lauren

Born in The Bronx to to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, Ralph Lauren changed his name relatively early on in life. Enduring bullying and teasing at school, he dropped the unfortunate-sounding ‘Lipschitz’ and began to use ‘Lauren’ in 1955, aged just 16. Another of his long-suffering brothers did the same not long after Ralph. So why ‘Lauren’? In an interview with Oprah, the fashion designer revealed he had “cousins who lived in California had changed their last name to Lawrence. So I just thought, “I’m going to pick a nice last name”—it wasn’t particularly connected to anything or anyone. It had to do with not wanting to be at a detriment for no reason in a world that makes fun of things.”

Leroy Harold Scherer Jr. AKA Rock Hudson

Golden Age actor Rock Hudson was an icon in his era of Hollywood. But Rock actually began life with an altogether less-catchy name. Born in Illinois to a telephone operator and a mechanic, ‘Leroy Harold Scherer Jr.’ graduated in 1943 and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. And his name was changed for him. Talent agent Henry Willson – who grew the ‘beefcake’ actor craze of the 1950s approached Hudson in 1947 and, in the vein of other clients including Tab Hunter and Chad Everett, shortened and simplified Scherer Jr’s name. ‘Rock’ was taken from the Rock of Gibraltar; ‘Hudson’ from the Hudson River. Later in life, the actor admitted that he hated the change. 

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