There is some disagreement about the exact date range for Hollywood’s Golden Age, but generally, it’s considered to fall sometime between the 1910s and 1960s. The time was characterized by big studio films from the likes of Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers. While the popularity of certain studios was constantly in flux, certain movie stars of the day never went out of style. Instead, they gave performances that would live on forever and become part of American culture. For parents who love old movies and actors, they should look no further than the Golden Age of Hollywood for baby name inspiration. Many of the names that actors used at the time were chosen as “stage names” to appeal to more audiences. This means that the names are often curated by the performers themselves. You can pay homage to a great actor and also give your baby a name fit for a star! Just take a look at our list of 30 baby names inspired by the glitz and glamor of Old Hollywood.
Cary as in Cary Grant would make an excellent name for your little leading man. Cary Grant was an elite actor working at the end of the Golden Age in the 50s and 60s. He’s known for such classic films as North by Northwest and His Girl Friday. The name Cary is of Latin origin and means “pleasant stream.”
Screen legend Greta Garbo started out making movies in Sweden before she made the leap to Hollywood silent movies. She made a splash in her second Hollywood film, Flesh and the Devil which brought her international fame. Greta retired from Hollywood at the age of 35 and became an avid art collector. Greta is German in origin and means “pearl.”
The “king of Adventure Films” Errol Flynn was an actor best known for portraying Robin Hood and Don Juan de Marco in classic escapist films. Many people don’t know this but Errol Flynn was actually Australian. The name Errol means “army leader” and is an old English name.
Child megastar Shirley Temple was Hollywood’s most valuable performer from 1935-1938. That’s right! She commanded more power than her adult contemporaries at the time. Shirley would go on to sit on several company boards as an adult including The Walt Disney Company and The National Wildlife Federation. The name Temple is extremely old and was an occupational name for someone who tended to the homes of the Knights Templar.
Laurence Olivier was a famed Shakespearean actor who was a legendary stage actor in London. He famously starred in Rebecca opposite Joan Fontaine. Olivier would be an elegant name for a boy. It’s a French name that means “olive tree.” Laurence would also be a handsome name for a boy. It’s Latin in origin (but still lives on in France) and means “laurel.”
EGOT winner Rita Moreno is a living legend who broke so many boundaries over the years. The Puerto Rican actress, singer, and dancer made her film debut in 1950 and continued her ascent until reaching new heights in The King I and West Side Story. The name Rita is short for Margarita and means “pearl.”
A beneficiary of the old Hollywood studio “star system,” Rock Hudson was a heartthrob and idol in the 50s and 60s. The name Rock is English in origin and was typically given to those who from “a notable crag.” Like Laurence Olivier, Rock Hudson has two names that would both be wonderful given names. The name Hudson comes from the same Germanic root as the name Hugh and means “hug.”
Charlie makes an excellent girl’s name! Although the name belonged to Charlie Chaplin, one of the most celebrated actors and directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, it’s gained popularity as a name for girls recently. The name has French and English origins and means “free.”
The name Kirk is a Norse name that means “church.” Famously, Kirk Douglas proudly had the name and was a star who appeared in over 90 films including playing the title role in Spartacus. Kirk was born to an impoverished family and his parents were immigrants from Russia. Because of the tough times, he faced as a child, Kirk became a philanthropist and donated the majority of his $80 million fortune.
We can’t get enough of the Olive names. Oliver, Olivier, Olivia, Liv, etc. They’re all so good. Olivia de Havilland became famous starring opposite Errol Flynn in a number of adventure films including Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood. She also is famous for her roles in The Heiress and Gone with the Wind. The name Olivia means “olive tree” and is French.
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The name Cooper is an English occupational name that means “barrel maker.” Actor Gary Cooper had a successful film career for 25 years appearing in blockbuster after blockbuster until 1950 when his career stalled. Many trade magazines dropped him from their top 10 lists and he was written off as a “has-been.” Then, in 1951 he appeared in the biggest film of his career, High Noon.
Legendary actor, Audrey Hepburn is ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top three screen legends of all time. Starring in films like Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and My Fair Lady brought her international fame and critical acclaim. Audrey is an English name that means “noble.”
English actor Alec Guinness is best known to most as Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. Alec had a long and illustrious career before he found “the force.” He appeared in classics like The Bridge On the River Kwai and the film adaptation of the musical Oliver!. The name Alec is Greek and means “defender of man.”
The name Sophia is Greek and means “wisdom.” Italian actor, Sophia Loren actually spelled her name “Sofia” before becoming famous. In 1961, she starred in the film Two Women and won an Academy Award for Best Actress becoming the first (man or woman) to ever win the award for a foreign-language performance.
Actor Tony Curtis who appeared in classic films Some Like it Hot and Sweet Smell of Success is also famous for being the father of Jamie Lee Curtis. The name Curtis has the same root as the French word “courtois” and means “polite.”
Many people don’t know that actor Natalie Wood was actually born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko and was Russian-American. Famously she played the role of Maria in West Side Story. The name Natalie comes from Latin and roughly translates to “Christmas.”
Nils is a Swedish name that means “victory to the people.” Nils Asther was a Swedish actor born to socialite parents in 1897. He would go on to move to Hollywood in 1927 and pursue a successful film career. He starred in 10 silent films before the advent of sound. The foreign actor had to take diction classes to master the English accent.
Glamorous Ava Gardner was born on a tobacco farm in North Carolina in 1922. She would become one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time. Appearing in films like On the Beach and Mogambo in the 1950s she was at the height of her career and decided to divorce her husband, Frank Sinatra. The name Ava was actually popularized in the United States by Ava Gardner. It means “bird” or “life.”
Actor Rex Harrison was an English actor who achieved Hollywood stardom beginning in the 1940s. He starred in some of the biggest Hollywood films ever, including My Fair Lady, Cleopatra, Doctor Dolittle, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The name Rex is Latin in origin and means “king.”
Ruby Keeler was first recognized for her dancing skills in her native Canada in 1923. By the 1930s, she made the move to Hollywood and starred in several popular movie musicals opposite Dick Powell. One of her most popular films 42nd Street was so financially successful that it saved Warner Brothers from bankruptcy. The name Ruby means “red” and is taken from the gemstone ruby.
No one is as cool as James Dean. He became a cultural icon after playing a disillusioned teenager in the hit film Rebel Without a Cause. He appeared in a total of three films inducted into the Library of Congress which is substantial given that his career only lasted four years. The name Dean is English in origin and means “valley.”
The nickname Viv for Vivien is the cutest thing ever for a little girl. Vivien Leigh was one of the most talented actresses working in Hollywood’s Golden Age. However, she didn’t limit herself just to the screen. She appeared in many stage productions portraying Shakespearean characters Ophelia, Lady Macbeth, Juliet, and Cleopatra. Vivien or the alternative spelling Vivian are French names that mean “alive.”
In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in Lillies of the Field. In 1974, he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. And in 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Impressed? Consider naming your son Sidney! It’s a gender-neutral baby name that means “wide meadow.”
Silent picture star Theda Bara was one of the era’s most popular actors. She became known as “the vamp” after several successful turns as a femme fatale. She appeared in over 40 silent movies but many were lost in a vault fire at Fox in 1937. She never appeared in a movie with sound. She used the name Theda but her actual name was Theodosia. We’re not suggesting you name your daughter Theodosia, but by all means, do you. The name Theda has Greek origins and means “supreme gift.”
The name Sterling means “pure” and is English in origin. Actor Sterling Hayden appeared in several notable movies including Dr. Strangelove, The Godfather, The Killing, and The Asphalt Jungle. Sterling wasn’t just a talented actor, he also enjoyed sailing. In 1969, he purchased a canal barge in the Netherlands and then moved with it to Paris to live part-time.
You might have some reservations about naming your child after Joan Crawford, but if you just see how insanely good she is in Mildred Pierce, you’ll change your mind. Joan Crawford was born in Texas in 1904 and had a storied career filled with controversy. We urge you to let her work speak for itself! Joan is the English version of the French name Jeanne which means “gift of God.”
Actor Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn, and we love each one of his names! He is an Academy Award-winning actor and starred in classics like Lawrence of Arabia, Zorba the Greek, Lust for Life, and Viva Zapata!. The name Quinn is Gaelic and means “counsel.”
Luckily actor Lauren Bacall rose to prominence after the advent of sound in movies. She’s known for her one-of-a-kind voice and cool intensity. She appeared in a number of hit films in the 40s and 50s that solidified her as a star of the Golden Age. The Big Sleep is one of her best. She worked until her death in 2014 and definitely made her mark on American cinema. The name Lauren means “laurel tree.”
Actor Omar Sharif is probably best known for playing Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia. He would later go on to star in the masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago. His groundbreaking career started in Egypt before he achieved international acclaim for his performance in one of the biggest movies of all time, Lawrence of Arabia. The name Omar is a very handsome name for boys and means “flourishing.”
According to the American Film Institute, Katharine Hepburn was the greatest female star of the Classic Hollywood Age. She was outspoken, assertive, and athletic, and wore trousers before they were fashionable for women. Bringing Up Baby, The African Queen, Little Women, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner are just a handful of notable films she starred in. The name Katharine is Greek and means “pure.”
There are so many excellent names to come out of the Golden Age of Hollywood. We didn’t even get to Ingrid of Ingrid Bergman fame. Nor did we mention Orson, famously the name of Orson Welles. Sometimes to find the most unique and interesting names it’s a good idea to look to the past. These 30 names from Old Hollywood will definitely be a big hit. Every one of them would look good in lights.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 30. Cary
- 2 29. Greta
- 3 28. Errol
- 4 27. Temple
- 5 26. Olivier
- 6 25. Rita
- 7 24. Rock
- 8 23. Charlie
- 9 22. Kirk
- 10 21. Olivia
- 11 20. Cooper
- 12 19. Audrey
- 13 18. Alec
- 14 17. Sophia
- 15 16. Curtis
- 16 15. Natalie
- 17 14. Nils
- 18 13. Ava
- 19 12. Rex
- 20 11. Ruby
- 21 10. Dean
- 22 9. Vivien
- 23 8. Sidney
- 24 7. Theda
- 25 6. Sterling
- 26 5. Joan
- 27 4. Quinn
- 28 3. Lauren
- 29 2. Omar
- 30 1. Katharine
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