Original image
Getty Images

10 Movie Star Strategies for Changing Your Name

Original image
Getty Images

In the Golden Years of Hollywood, it was almost essential for any movie star to change their name—unless they happened to be born with an instantly cool name like Errol Flynn or Clark Gable. Even Janet Cole, who had a perfectly good name, had it changed to Kim Hunter. (It’s less of an issue in the past few decades, when actresses usually don’t choose to change their name, even if their surname is Bullock.) So if you’re a movie star, how do you choose your new name? Here are some tips.

1. Name yourself after one of your characters.

Dawn Paris presumably wasn’t a good name for an actress, so 16-year-old Dawn renamed herself Dawn O’Day. Perhaps realizing that this was no great improvement, she re-renamed herself after her first big movie role in 1934: Anne of Green Gables. To be exact, she named herself Anne Shirley, the same name as the title character—and kept the name for the rest of her career. Gig Young also named himself after his character in The Gay Sisters (1942), and Donna Lee Hickey renamed herself May Wynn after her character in The Caine Mutiny (1954). Please don’t try this if you ever get cast in a Hobbit movie.

2. Don’t be too obvious.

When Australian actress Louise Carbasse came to Hollywood, she was renamed “Louise Lovely.” She hated the name, and as you’ve probably never heard of her, it didn’t do her much good. Sure, rock stars can have names like Johnny Rotten and Alvin Stardust, but it just looks ridiculous if a film star chooses a name like Doris Beautiful or Jimmy Terrific or (if you want to win an Oscar) Al Pretty-amazing-actor. Subtlety works better. Frances Gumm, for example, was renamed Judy Garland – a name connected with flowers, but not one that’s too blatant.

3. If your first name isn’t so good, just use your middle name.

Terence McQueen had a name that made him sound like a Latin scholar, but as he wanted to be known as an all-American hero, he used his middle name: Steve. Ernestine Russell wanted something sexier, so she took her middle name: Jane. Eldred Peck wanted a name that sounded less like “Eldred,” so he used his middle name: Gregory.

4. Or use your mother’s maiden name.

Joan Fontaine did this, so that nobody could confuse her with her older sister (and fierce rival) Olivia de Havilland. Shirley Maclaine did this to tell her apart from her brother, Warren Beatty. Rita Hayworth, Diane Keaton, and Simone Signoret also renamed themselves after their mothers.

5. Use the same name as a movie star from the past.

Bette Midler named herself after Bette Davis, without realizing that most people pronounced her idol’s name “Betty”, not “Bet.” Most people didn’t know, however, that Bette Davis herself pronounced her name “Bet.” So Bette Midler got it right, accidentally. (Bette Davis, for the record, took her name from Balzac’s Cousin Bette. I’m not sure how Balzac pronounced it.)

6. If you don’t like any past movie stars, name yourself after one of your heroes.

Nicolas Coppola obviously decided that nobody with his surname was going to get anywhere in the film business. Fortunately, he was a devoted comic book reader. Depending on whom you ask, he might have called himself Nicolas Cage after Luke Cage, alias Power Man, a tough superhero in 1970s Marvel Comics blacksploitation comics who would go around wearing an unbuttoned silk shirt and a silver bandanna, and beating up villains while calling them names like “You freakin’ mealymouth!” Always a comic-book geek, Cage was later tapped to play Superman (which never happened) and another 1970s Marvel Comics hero, Ghost Rider (which did happen, sadly).

7. If you still can’t think of anything, hold a contest.

MGM arranged one of these in 1925 for Billie Cassin, a promising 19-year-old actress whom they were grooming to be the next big thing. Billie Cassin didn’t sound special, so she had renamed herself… Lucille Le Sueur! Exactly how that was meant to be pronounced, it’s probably best not to know. Instead, MGM ran a contest in a fan magazine to give her a new name. The winning name was … Joan Arden! Unfortunately, the name was so good that an actress in Hollywood already had it. MGM settled on the name that was runner-up in the contest: Joan Crawford. The actress kept this name for another 50 years.

8. Avoid a name that will provoke embarrassing questions.

Well, you can if you like. Caryn Elaine Johnson got the name Whoopi Goldberg, after her long-standing nickname—but while she came up with stories in interviews, she didn’t admit the real reason for that first name for several years: “I get gassy.” If this is how you got your name, you might prefer to keep it to yourself. Up to you, of course.

9. Make it gender neutral.

At first glance, this question doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Obviously, if your name is “Miriam” or “Anthony,” the pundits know what they’re getting—or your gender, at least. Stars like Drew Barrymore, Daryl Hannah and Cameron Diaz, however, make it slightly more unpredictable—and perhaps that might help your career. Jamie Foxx (real name: Eric Marlon Bishop) tried for years to break into the entertainment business, going to open-mike nights in a standup comedy venue in Los Angeles. The thing is, every other aspiring comedian had the same idea, so he had to struggle for a space. After a while, it was obvious that most of the comics had one thing in common: testosterone. If a female comic was found on the list, she could jump the queue. While he could have changed his name to Penelope or Rosanna to make it clear, he decided to call himself Jamie just to provide a shadow of doubt. Soon, his acting career was well on its way—all because of the chance he might have been a woman.

10. Shorten your name.

Is your name Rudolpho Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla? Funnily enough, we’ve seen this problem before. The name was changed to Rudolph Valentino. Sorry, but it’s going to have to fit on the poster.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Original image
10 Classic Books That Have Been Banned
Original image

From The Bible to Harry Potter, some of the world's most popular books have been challenged for reasons ranging from violence to occult overtones. In honor of Banned Books Week, which runs from September 24 through September 30, 2017, here's a look at 10 classic book that have stirred up controversy.


Jack London's 1903 Klondike Gold Rush-set adventure was banned in Yugoslavia and Italy for being "too radical" and was burned by the Nazis because of the author's well-known socialist leanings.


Though John Steinbeck's 1939 novel, about a family of tenant farmers who are forced to leave their Oklahoma for California home because of economic hardships, earned the author both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, it also drew ire across America become some believed it promoted Communist values. Kern County, California—where much of the book took place—was particular incensed by Steinbeck's portrayal of the area and its working conditions, which they considered slanderous.


The cover of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Google Play

Whereas some readers look at Dr. Seuss's Lorax and see a fuzzy little character who "speaks for the trees," others saw the 1971 children's book as a danger piece of political commentary, with even the author reportedly referring to it as "propaganda."


James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses may be one of the most important and influential works of the early 20th century, but it was also deemed obscene for both its language and sexual content—and not just in a few provincial places. In 1921, a group known as The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice successfully managed to keep the book out of the United States, and United States Post Office regularly burned copies of it. But in 1933, the book's publisher, Random House, took the case—United States v. One Book Called Ulysses—to court and ended up getting the ban overturned.


In 1929, Erich Maria Remarque—a German World War I veteran—wrote the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, which gives an accounting of the extreme mental and physical stress the German soldiers faced during their time in the war. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book's realism didn't sit well with Nazi leaders, who feared the book would deter their propaganda efforts.


The cover of George Orwell's Animal Farm
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The original publication of George Orwell's 1945 allegorical novella was delayed in the U.K. because of its anti-Stalin themes. It was confiscated in Germany by Allied troops, banned in Yugoslavia in 1946, banned in Kenya in 1991, and banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002.


Though many people consider William Faulkner's 1930 novel As I Lay Dying a classic piece of American literature, the Graves County School District in Mayfield, Kentucky disagreed. In 1986, the school district banned the book because it questioned the existence of God.


Sure, it's well known that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is about a middle-aged literature professor who is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl who eventually becomes her stepdaughter. It's the kind of storyline that would raise eyebrows today, so imagine what the response was when the book was released in 1955. A number of countries—including France, England, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa—banned the book for being obscene. Canada did the same in 1958, though it later lifted the ban on what is now considered a classic piece of literature—unreliable narrator and all.


Cover of The Catcher in the Rye

Reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is practically a rite of passage for teenagers in recent years, but back when it was published in 1951, it wasn't always easy for a kid to get his or her hands on it. According to TIME, "Within two weeks of its 1951 release, J.D. Salinger’s novel rocketed to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Ever since, the book—which explores three days in the life of a troubled 16-year-old boy—has been a 'favorite of censors since its publication,' according to the American Library Association."


The newest book on this list, Lois Lowry's 1993 novel The Giverabout a dystopia masquerading as a utopiawas banned in several U.S. states, including California and Kentucky, for addressing issues such as euthanasia.

Original image
Heritage Auctions
10 Vintage Canes With Amazing Hidden Features
Original image
Heritage Auctions

Sometimes a vintage walking stick is more than a dapper statement piece. It can also be a men’s grooming kit, a croquet set, a microscope, or even a projector. Multipurpose canes were all the rage at the turn of the 19th century, and now some of the most unique examples of the trend are going up for auction.

The Gentleman Collector auction from Heritage Auctions will feature dozens of canes, many of which offer bonus features beyond what meets the eye. Check out these useful, sneaky, and oddly specific specialty canes, which hit the auction block on September 22.


Cane with a weight in the handle.

Can’t decide if you identify more as a rabologist (someone who collects canes) or a numismatist (someone who collects coins)? This artifact will appeal to both halves of your heart. Inside the ebonized wood handle of this late 19th-century cane is a space for weighing and storing coins. Just push a button to reveal the tiny brass scale.

Estimated price: $7000 - $10,000


Cane with hidden projector.

Who needs a bulky iPhone taking up space in your pocket when you can carry a miniature movie theater in your walking stick? The top of the "magic lantern" cane slides up and acts as a portable projector. Point it at the nearest wall to view the hand-painted illustrations housed within the shaft. A tiny torch brings the full-color slideshow to life.

Estimated price: $3000 - $5000


Cane that makes cider.

There's nothing like a long walk to work up a thirst for a glass of cider. With this walking stick in hand, you can get to work making one immediately. The interior wood rod of this device doubles as an apple press. Along the the tin shaft is a siphon and spout for collecting juice.

Estimated price: $1000 - $1500


Cane with hidden architect's tools.

With a mahogany shaft and a leather-wrapped handle, this walking stick is a piece of art on its own. Architects can twist it open and use the supplies inside to draw up something equally exquisite. The handle has two secret compartments containing a compass, graphite, and drafting tools. Inside the lower part of the cane is a level, straightedge, letter opener, an elevation drawing, and a plumb-line (a pendulum with a rope-suspended weight).

Estimated price: $3000 - $5000


Cane with hidden grooming kit.

The original owner of this grooming kit/walking stick combo was likely the envy of every fancy gentleman in town. Inside the cane’s segmented oak shaft are vials, brushes, a sponge, a button hook, and shaving supplies—everything necessary to look fresh and fine on the go.

Estimated price: $4000 - $6000


Chrome handle of a cane.

The hidden camera is the quintessential spy accessory. This circa 1980 cane, based on a patent from 1904, holds its camera and film winder inside the chrome handle. Snap it closed and the device transforms back into an inconspicuous, black walking stick.

Estimated price: $6000 -$8000


Cane handle shaped like a face.

The handle on this item portrays a man’s face scrunched up into a nasty expression. What it does is even nastier: Push a button on the top and liquid comes shooting out the mouth. The trick cane could possibly be used for good, like refilling people’s drinks at parties. Or you could just fill it with water and spray anyone who invades your personal space.

Estimated price: $1500 - $2500


Cane with miniature croquet set.

You wouldn’t think that a mallet, a ball, and a full set of wickets would fit easily inside a cane, but a 19th-century inventor found a way to make it work. Of course, this croquet set is much smaller than one you'd find on a lawn. Luckily a desktop makes a fine alternative to a playing field.

Estimated price: $800 - $1200


Cane with hidden microscope.

A botanist going on a stroll through the woods would be fortunate to have this walking stick with them. Upon spotting an interesting specimen, they could pause their journey and use the cane as their miniature laboratory. The ebonized wood shaft contains a compartment with glass slides and vials, and the detailed silver handle holds an actual brass microscope.

Estimated price: $3000 - $5000


Cane with wooden eagle handle.

If you’re still not convinced that canes can be hardcore, take this specimen from the late 1800s. The carved eagle-head handle is intimidating on its own, but pop it off and you have all the components necessary to put together a crossbow. Brandishing a dangerous weapon never looked so classy.

Estimated price: $1500 - $2500

All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.


More from mental floss studios