Old-School Hollywood Stars Worth Naming Your Baby After

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Naming your baby is as confusing as it is essential. Along with picking a title whose meaning or characteristics define their child, parents often look to the legacy that precedes the name. And considering the world-changing talent associated with Old Hollywood, it's a goldmine of inspiring names any individual would be honored to inherit the best qualities of. The mere mention of a Montgomery or a Dietrich is enough to conjure the charm, glam, and grace that were so definitive of the halcyon days of classic cinema. Unlike fads that could make you regret giving your child a particularly trendy name (via Fatherly), these vintage names haven't lost style and remain evergreen. With the weight of a Katharine Hepburn behind them, you can be sure your child won't have a bone to pick with you over their name decades down the line! 

From revolutionizing the language of cinema to embodying characters immortalized in film history, the imprint Hollywood's Golden Age stars left is magnificent. Their appeal is timeless, and their popularity is still relevant. And as baby name expert Laura Wattenberg put it (via NPR): "Popular just means well liked. No child's life was ruined by having a popular name." So go on, pick a classic vintage name from the list ahead to give your precious baby an identity that will make them stand apart from the crowd! 

Shirley Temple

One of the most famous faces in Hollywood history, Shirley Temple's legacy as America's ultimate sweetheart is timeless. Famously described as the top box-office draw between 1935 and 1938, Temple starred in hits like "Bright Eyes," "The Little Colonel," and "Curly Top," lighting up the silver screen right through the Great Depression in the United States (via The Wall Street Journal). Her prodigal skill as a lively singing-dancing act earned her the reputation of a "magical child," as The New York Times called her, and is the perfect name to bestow upon your own sweet baby. According to The Bump, Shirley means "bright meadow" and combines scīr (or shire) and leah, Old English words that allude to the idyllic countryside in England. Isn't that charming?

Shirley had long been a gender-neutral baby name before Charlotte Brontë's 1849 novel "Shirley" immortalized it as a girl's name. The feminist tale included the character of Shirley Keeldar, whose father gave her the name intended for a son (via Bookshop.org). Data shows the popularity of the name peaked during the 1930s when Temple was at the zenith of her success (via Mama Natural). The cherubic performer turned to diplomacy in her adult years, even serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ghana. Giving your child this vintage name could set them on the path of success in various interests, from the arts to politics.

Greta Garbo

Few classic cinema stars were as mesmerizing as Greta Garbo. The Stockholm-born beauty ruled Hollywood through the 1920s and 1930s, earning the honorary title of "the divine" (via the BBC). An actor whose career spanned the silent era and the talkies, Garbo was regarded as an early proponent of the school of method acting, and her mastery over the craft was universally acknowledged, including by other esteemed film giants — Gregory Peck called her his "favorite actress of all time" (via the Los Angeles Times). The name Greta means pearl in the German language (via SheKnows). And she was conclusively as enigmatic as the gemstone! 

Though extolled for projecting mold-breaking female characters on-screen, Garbo remained steadfastly private throughout her life (via The New Yorker). Remembered as an extraordinary screen presence, Garbo personified the finest qualities of Hollywood's Golden Age, despite famously being shrouded in mystique. Among the landmarks she set was being one of the highest-paid female stars in America and setting a Guinness record for being "the most beautiful woman that ever lived," per her website. Thanks in no small part to Garbo, the name Greta unequivocally evokes great wonder, and any child called so would be destined for great things. 

Cary Grant

Hollywood's abiding debonair, Cary Grant, was a class apart. It was as much his versatile acting genius as his charisma that endeared him to audiences and critics alike throughout the 20th century. As noted by the British Film Institute, some of Grant's best films are also Hollywood's finest, from the evergreen "The Philadelphia Story" to Hitchcock's "North by Northwest." His light-hearted bearing, combined with a deadly sense of comic timing and irresistible charm, made him one of the most bankable leading men of the Golden Age. In Grant's own words, just "the tilt of [his] head or a facial reaction" was enough to get filmgoers roaring with laughter (via CaryGrant.net).

As a testament to his broad appeal, the only Academy Award to Grant's name recognized his acting and sociable character (via Hollywood Walk of Fame). Synonymous with the image of the consistently well-dressed gentleman with always a witty quip and an odd trick up his sleeve, Grant successfully redefined the rom-com hero as attractive to both men and women (via Forbes). In trademark Grant tenor, he once said: "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant." Sure enough, anyone can be Cary! The name, which means pure, bases its Welsh origins, and alludes to a pleasant stream, per its Irish roots (via The Bump), is gender-neutral. A perfect fit for any baby as beloved as the film star! 

Marilyn Monroe

Easily one of the most magnificent figures associated with American cinema, Marilyn Monroe is an icon of the ages. With a stylish blonde bob and a dazzling red smile that forever changed the glamour game, the screen star was endeared worldwide by her stage and birth name. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson (later Baker), Monroe got her legendary identity through the efforts of studio executive Ben Lyon whom she credited with naming her, per Time magazine. Marilyn, believed to be a portmanteau of names Mary and Lynn, holds deep ties to water, meaning drop of the sea (per Nameberry). The more obscure Norma, meanwhile, has Latin origins and refers to set rules or patterns, according to SheKnows

The name Marilyn grew in popularity during the early 19th century and was a fixture on the list of the top 100 names in America between 1925 and 1958 (via Oh Baby! Names). Growing adulation for Monroe during the 1950s, with hits like "Niagara" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," only magnified the name's appeal. Though showbiz has seen the rise of many Marilyns — such as Broadway star Marilyn Miller — the name summons lively images of Hollywood's blonde bombshell most strongly. There's no title more chic or feminine for your baby girl! 

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier was a true icon of classic Golden Age cinema. His groundbreaking win of a Best Actor Oscar in 1963 — the first for a Black artist — paved the way for a future of equal talent recognition in Hollywood. In every sense, Poitier was the first Black superstar of American cinema and, per Vanity Fair, the last figure of quintessential Old Hollywood grace — "the gentleman hero in the bespoke suit." What name better than Sidney, therefore, to give your little gentleman (or gentlewoman)? A gender-neutral forename, Sidney derives its meanings from French and English roots and refers to a wide riverside meadow (per BabyCentre). Besides its pastoral connotations, the name Sidney has the weight of a film and cultural legend attesting to its might.

Against all odds — premature birth, segregation laws, and screen stereotypes — Poitier emerged as a towering icon with a lofty motto: "To walk through my life as my own man" (via Oprah.com). The "To Sir, With Love" star's decision to turn down roles that typecast Blacks and instead pick projects that accorded him the necessary dignity ran parallel to the civil rights movement challenging racism in the United States during the 1950s and '60s (via The New York Times). It wasn't without reason that he was honored as the "Martin Luther King of the movies." An influential actor, revolutionary, and cultural idol all rolled into one! 

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly was the personification of Hollywood entertainment through and through. With his ballet shoes on and electric energy in tow, Kelly enthralled audiences in acclaimed musicals during the 1940s and 50s, notably "An American in Paris," "Singin' in the Rain," and "Anchors Aweigh" (via Britannica). He was among a flock of Golden Age waltzers, including Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra, who were credited with redefining dance musicals on-screen. Ballet, especially, was a dance form Kelly is said to have made accessible to the general population. His influence in creating the image of a dancing man acceptable in the mainstream was marked. "I wanted to dance in a pair of jeans. I wanted to dance like the man in the streets," he famously said (via PBS). 

Taking after the award-winning actor, Gene would be an apt name for an active, lively child. With its roots in Greek, Gene is a diminutive of the longer Eugene and means of good birth or noble (via The Bump). The title was held by several historical French figures celebrated for their military might. Per Oh Baby! Names, the name's amplified popularity during the 1930s could be attributed to the cowboy singing sensation that was Gene Autry. Any child called Gene would surely be a powerhouse of talent! 

Katharine Hepburn

If you wish for your girl to sparkle in the crowd, then there's truly no better name than Katharine to get her started on that journey! It belongs to one of cinema history's most pathbreaking figures — Katharine Hepburn. With a career spanning over six decades, the actor was regarded as an embodiment of modernism and feminist progressivism, especially during the 19th-century film era when such ideas were unconventional (via the Los Angeles Times). She was outspoken, liberated, and self-assured — basically, as concisely summed up by Vanity Fair, "Miss Independent." Who wouldn't want to name their girl after an inspiring woman like Hepburn?

According to The Bump, the name Katharine originates from the Greek katharos, which means pure. An honor named after the silver screen legend further elaborates how its titleholder is someone who "embodies the bold spirit, fierce independence, and distinctive character" Hepburn was celebrated for (via The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center). Her penchant for living life on her own terms colored the tenor of the characters she played on screen, which mirrored her own empowered persona. "I'm a personality as well as an actress," she once declared (via the BBC). Her history-making win of four Oscars — which the fiercely private star never showed up to receive, per The Hollywood Reporter – is a record that remains unbroken (as of 2022). 

Judy Garland

Judy Garland's presence in Hollywood was as significant as it was short-lived. A prodigal performer, Garland made her stage debut at the unbelievably early age of 2 (via TCM). She continued as part of a triple vaudeville act with her sisters through her girlhood until she caught the eye of MGM studios. At 16, her defining role as the endearing Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz" marked a turning point in her career, becoming an inseparable part of her identity for the rest of her life. Though she was best known for the 1939 fantasy, Garland's screen achievements went far beyond, and, as observed by The Conversation, she introduced a unique, powerful language to the film musical genre. 

Interestingly, her first name was one Garland chose for herself. Born Frances Ethel Gumm, the "Over the Rainbow" singer apparently changed her forename as her showbiz journey began taking off, picking Judy after a namesake song by iconic musician Hoagy Carmichael (via Collider). The name holds strong ties to Judaism, meaning a Jewish woman in Hebrew. Judy also figures as a central character in the Book of Judith as part of Biblical literature, per Behind the Name. The name, of course, has another Hollywood heavyweight lending it eminence: Judy Dench. A powerful name to give your child, without a doubt! 

Ava Gardner

It is widely accepted in Hollywood that Ava Gardner was one of the most beautiful actors ever to grace the silver screen. A fashion and film icon, her regal appearance consistently landed her a place amongst cinematic greats and, as aptly expressed by actor Dirk Bogarde, Gardner was "essential to the Hollywood myth about itself" (via The New York Times). A child of the Great Depression, her ethereal beauty eventually attracted the showbiz spotlight. With classics like "Bhowani Junction," "The Killers," and "Mogambo" under her belt, Gardner established her place as an actor worth her salt. As noted by The Guardian, she was a balancing act of elegance and daring — a liberated woman with a devil-may-care attitude. 

She was as hotly chased for her film status as she was for her larger-than-life personality. Such was her celebrity! "The truth is, honey, I've enjoyed my life. I've had a hell of a good time," Gardner famously said (via Goodreads). This is one feisty woman to name your baby after! Ava is believed to have a varied background; the name alludes to meaning birdlike in Latin and life or lively in Hebrew (per Verywell Family). Though the name's popularity naturally bumped up during Gardner's Hollywood reign during the 20th century, it enjoys continued appeal. Per People, actor Reese Witherspoon notably named her daughter after Gardner! 

Gregory Peck

With his matinee idol looks and upstanding comportment that often mirrored the righteous characters he played, Gregory Peck is best describable as a bona fide Old Hollywood star. To film-going audiences, he was a personification of everything human and humane, his most celebrated roles being those where his idealism always fought the good fight (via Britannica). Peck was apparently much like his on-screen personas, the standout, of course, being his legendary portrayal of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." The role won Peck an Oscar and earned his character the honor of the greatest hero of all time (by the American Film Institute). 

Capturing the essence of who Peck was, Lee said: "Gregory Peck was a beautiful man. Atticus Finch gave him the opportunity to play himself" (via Life). When the cameras stopped rolling, Peck's calls for justice didn't go mute since, as noted by the Oscars, he committed himself to social issues of importance. Who wouldn't want their child to take after this actor and live in the light of his name? Gregory is of Greek origin and has been a favored name for centuries, associated especially with the Church. The name means to be watchful or alert, per Ancestry, and is commonly shortened as Greg. Dignified and hip, this name offers the best of both worlds! 

Ingrid Bergman

Here's looking at you kid — literally! Any girl would be fortunate to be named after one of cinema's greatest legends, Ingrid Bergman. Universally acclaimed as the epitome of American womanhood (per Britannica), the Sweden-born star was renowned for her charismatic screen presence and appearance in a series of game changing films — from the seminal "Casablanca" to "Joan of Arc" and "Gaslight." Bergman collaborated with top names during the Golden Age, charming as a leading lady opposite contemporaries like Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, and, of course, Humphrey Bogart. Three Oscar wins attested to her acting finesse, even though Bergman declared: "I've never sought success in order to get fame and money; it's the talent and the passion that count in success." 

Film royalty herself, Bergman shared her name with the Queen of Denmark who ruled during the 20th century (via official records). The name Ingrid is of considerable significance. It finds its origins in Old Norse, according to Oh Baby! Names. In the Scandinavian context, the name refers to the beauty of the Nordic god Freyr, who is believed to preside over peace, fertility, and pleasant skies. Ingrid continues to enjoy popularity in both Norway and Bergman's home country of Sweden, though it will shine through as a majestic name anywhere! 

Marlene Dietrich

Hollywood has seen few icons as badass as Marlene Dietrich. Though best known for starring in classics like "Destry Rides Again," "Shanghai Express," and "Witness for the Prosecution," and held high status as a glam icon (via Britannica), Dietrich's monumental legacy boasts of feats that transcend cinema by great measures. Born in Germany, Dietrich's tryst with cinema first began on her home turf in the 1920s and continued through the 1930s as the Third Reich pushed the country towards war. For being a fearless critic of Adolf Hitler and leaving Germany for America, Dietrich was branded a traitor by her country (via UNHCR). Even as she charmed Hollywood audiences with her sultry voice and sophisticated screen persona, Dietrich never stopped committing herself to wartime volunteer work (per National Women's History Museum).  

A name with Biblical links, Marlene in Hebrew alludes to the woman from Magdala and is a derivative of Mary Magdalene (via Family Education). It also means star of the sea or high tower. Data shows that the name Marlene peaked in popularity in 1935, coinciding with Dietrich's popularity growing (via Our Baby Namer). In an era when women were circumscribed by convention, she broke barriers as a progressive figure across the scope of fashion, art, and politics. The name Marlene is appropriate to give a baby girl you want to see blaze a trail in the world — much like Dietrich.

Montgomery Clift

One of the most attractive names on the list (and maybe ever!), Montgomery is sure to give its bearer distinction. Not to mention, if you decide to name your tot Montgomery, they would have the honor of being tied to the legacy of a timeless screen legend of the same name. Montgomery Clift was a motion picture genius who was regarded as one of the earliest method actors to break new ground in Hollywood (per the British Film Institute). His avant-garde characters in films like "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "The Misfits" stand out in his matchless oeuvre. He is credited with introducing a new kind of stereotype-breaking masculinity to the screen: "Here was someone who was vulnerable and sensitive — and who actually listened to women," a relative of Clift's expressed (via The Guardian). 

"Montgomery Clift changed everything," as The New Yorker put it. An inherently awe-inspiring name, Montgomery carries grand meanings. Of French origin, the name alludes to male power and can be read as a reference to a mountain ruled by a powerful man (via The Bump). It also holds prominence as a surname, with roots in Normandy, France, where it boasts links to the nobility (via Forebears). We'd say that there are many good reasons to attach your baby to this impressive name! 

Bette Davis

Bette Davis didn't just master her acting craft — she perfected it. The star of films like "Dangerous," "Jezebel," and "All About Eve," Davis was best known for her on-camera intensity and earned the title of "The First Lady of the American Screen" (via LiveAbout). She stood tall as a Hollywood pioneer, defending herself against insufficient roles and bad pay (per Britannica). She was notably the first female star to clinch 10 Oscar nominations and the first woman to head the Academy as the film authority's president, a role she gave up after a brief stint (per The Hollywood Reporter). She worked with her quintessential intensity well into the final years of her life. 

The name Bette, which means God's promise in Hebrew (via The Bump), is a diminutive of the beloved name Elizabeth. It was one of Davis' birth names, which she shared with another titan of the age: Elizabeth Taylor. Interestingly, Davis played the role of arguably her most famous namesake during her career twice: Queen Elizabeth. Following the death of the British monarch in 2022, Daily Mail noted that there would likely be a surge in the popularity of Elizabeth as a baby name. With the weight of three towering personalities behind it, Bette (or Elizabeth) is a great name for your girl!