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20 Golden Age Stars Who Used Stage Names Instead of Their Real Ones: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and More

golden age celebrities who used stage names
Source: MEGA

May 19 2024, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

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Audrey Hepburn

audrey hepburn
Source: MEGA

Audrey Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress five times at the Academy Awards.

News outlets shared conflicting information about Audrey Hepburn's birth name: some said it was Audrey Kathleen Ruston, while others listed it as Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston.

But according to her son Sean Hepburn, his grandmother changed the Breakfast at Tiffany's star's surname to Edda van Heemstra during World War II to conceal their family's British heritage while living in the Netherlands.

Before her appearance in Roman Holiday, the studio reportedly asked Audrey if she wanted to change her last name due to a potential conflict. But she told the company it would also have to take her first name.

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Barbara Stanwyck

barbara stanwyck
Source: MEGA

Barbara Stanwyck started acting in talking films in the 1920s.

According to reports, Barbara Stanwyck — born Ruby Catherine Stevens — started using the name after considering the suggestion of either the Ziegfield Follies producer or impresario David Belasco. She debuted using the stage name in her first credited film, The Locked Door.

Cary Grant

cary grant
Source: MEGA

Cary Grant was famous for his roles in ‘To Catch a Thief’ and “North by Northwest.’

Born Archibald Alec Leach, Cary Grant started using the stage name before appearing in his first film, This Is the Night. The name was reportedly inspired by Cary Lockwood, his character in the Broadway play Nikki.

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Dean Martin

dean martin
Source: MEGA

Dean Martin's death was documented in a REELZ documentary.

Dean Martin became a famous singer, comedian and actor before his death on Christmas Day in 1995. However, some fans did not know he was born Dino Paul Crocetti and opted to go by his stage name to create his public persona.

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Debbie Reynolds

debbie reynolds
Source: MEGA

Debbie Reynolds died in December 2016.

Born Mary Frances Reynolds, Debbie Reynolds charmed everyone with her acting skills decades before her passing. According to the Los Angeles Times, Warner Bros. asked her to change her name because it sounded "like old-timey."

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Fred Astaire

fred astaire
Source: MEGA

Fred Astaire died of pneumonia at the age of 88 in 1987.

Fred Astaire did not use his real name, Frederick Austerlitz when he started his career in the industry. He and his older sister, Adele, started using the last name, with theories claiming they borrowed it from their relatives in a former German Empire territory.

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Ginger Rogers

ginger rogers
Source: MEGA

Ginger Rogers starred in 'Shall We Dance' and 'The Gay Divorcee.'

Before launching her career in Hollywood, Ginger Rogers had to create a stage name and leave behind her birth name—Virginia Katherine McMath. She starred in over 73 films before she died in 1995.

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Joan Crawford

joan crawford
Source: MEGA

Joan Crawford used the moniker instead of her real name, Lucille Fay LeSueur.

Through a magazine competition, Joan Crawford scored her stage name after MGM executives said her birth name "sounded too much like a sewer." In addition, she had to hide her freckles and prevent them from being seen on-screen.

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Joan Fontaine

joan fontaine
Source: MEGA

Joan Fontaine was one of the children of former actress Lilian Augusta and professor/attorney Walter Augustus de Havilland.

Before entering Hollywood, Joan Fontaine's sister, Olivia de Havilland, already debuted as an actress. When she wanted to pursue an acting career through Warner Bros., their mother did not allow her to use her real name — Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland — since "two de Havillands on the marquee would be too many."

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John Wayne

john wayne
Source: MEGA

John Wayne was also known as ‘The Duke.’

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison, but he joined the list of stars who opted to use a stage name as director Raoul Walsh, and the studio could not envision his name shining in the industry.

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Marilyn Monroe
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Judy Garland

judy garland
Source: MEGA

Judy Garland died of barbiturate overdose in 1969.

Frances Ethel Gumm chose a stage name and started promoting as Judy Garland. She and her sisters also renamed their group to the Garland sisters.

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Lauren Bacall

lauren bacall
Source: MEGA

Lauren Bacall started her career as a model.

Lauren Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske, used the moniker based on the altered version of her mom's last name, Bacal. Her first name came from Howard Hawks, a director who discovered her.

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Marilyn Monroe

marilyn monroe
Source: MEGA

Marilyn Monroe died on August 4, 1962.

Even Marilyn Monroe did not use her real name when she entered Hollywood. One of 20th Century Studios executives, Ben Lyon, gave her the idea of changing her name from Norma Jeane Mortenson to her stage name.

She was later baptized Norma Jean Baker, according to Vogue.

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Mary Pickford

mary pickford
Source: MEGA

Mary Pickford had a five-decade career in Hollywood.

Gladys Louis Smith chose to promote using the moniker Mary Pickford to have a name with more star power. She became famous for being America’s Sweetheart during the silent film era.

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Merle Oberon

merle oberon
Source: MEGA

Merle Oberon was cast for a role in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII.’

Born Estella Merle O'Brien Thompson, Merle Oberon decided to promote using the stage name after director and producer Alexander Korda suggested it. She also used "Queenie" as her nickname.

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Michael Caine

michael caine
Source: MEGA

Michael Caine legally changed his name in 2016 following an issue with airport security, who recognized him by his stage name.

The Caine Mutiny inspired Maurice Micklewhite to use the stage name, Michael Caine. He initially wanted to use the name Michael Scott, but his agent told him to change it.

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Mickey Rooney

mickey rooney
Source: MEGA

Mickey Rooney passed away in April 2014 at the age of 93.

Mickey Rooney got his stage name based on the role of Mickey McGuire, which he scored as a child actor. When his contract ended, the actor — born Joseph Yule Jr. — also changed his professional surname.

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Rita Hayworth

rita hayworth
Source: MEGA

Rita Hayworth was one of the most sought-after stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Rita Hayworth used the moniker Margarita Cansino instead of her real name. The change, which occurred upon signing a contract with Columbia Pictures, helped her secure more roles.

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Rita Moreno

rita moreno
Source: MEGA

Rita Moreno made her Broadway debut when she was 13.

Rita Moreno was born Rosa Dolores Alverío, but a casting agent informed her she would need to change her name before starting her contract with MGM.

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Rock Hudson

rock hudson
Source: MEGA

Rock Hudson died on October 2, 1985.

Rock Hudson, born Roy Harold Scherer Jr., used the stage name based on the suggestion of his agent, Henry Wilson. He also used his character’s pseudonym, Rex Stetson,

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