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Top 5 Celebrity Name Changes

Updated on March 5, 2012
Is this the only portrait of the deftly named Rembrandt Q. Einstein?
Is this the only portrait of the deftly named Rembrandt Q. Einstein?

What's in a Name?

When a show named Police Cops appears on network TV, one of the main characters is a bumbling oaf named Homer Simpson. Consequently, the real-life Homer Simpson becomes ridiculed for having the same name as this moronic character. So, Homer decides to change his name to something that is forceful and impressive. In classic Homer fashion, he goes way over the top and devises a list of stunning and hilarious names. Rembrandt Q. Einstein, Hercules Rockefeller and Handsome B. Wonderful are a few that Homer is pondering. Ultimately, he settles on the new moniker: Max Power. All of a sudden, Homer starts going places. Mr. Burns suddenly likes him at work. He is invited to an A-list party. A simple name change drastically improves the way the outside world views Homer. Some of the brightest stars have benefited from adopting an alias. Here is a list of the best...

Fortunately, Marilyn was able to escape the fate of Norma Jean.
Fortunately, Marilyn was able to escape the fate of Norma Jean.

Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Baker)

It is amazing that one of the most alluring women ever originally sounded as if she should be a farmer's wife in the Dust Bowl. The name Marilyn Monroe is truly befitting of a movie star and international sex symbol. Had she remained Norma Jean, there is little doubt that Baker's movie career, and resulting stardom, wouldn't have have come close to the mania and adulation that she encountered at her apex. Consequently, Marilyn Monroe gets top honors for her nom de guerre.

A savvy name change helped John Wayne escape the fate of being a bean counter.
A savvy name change helped John Wayne escape the fate of being a bean counter.

2. John Wayne (Marion Morrison)

This is the male version of the Marilyn/Norma Jean switch: the contrast of their original names to their screen names are both so dramatic, and beneficial, that you can't distinguish which is better. The man who came to epitomize the rough-and-tumble American spirit initially had the name of a spindly-armed accountant. John Wayne couldn't be a better name for a rugged cowboy who vanquishes all foes. Undoubtedly, the best Marion could do in the old West would be to own a general store and say things like, "I don't want no trouble, fellas." John Wayne takes on all-comers and rights wrongs, and earns the second spot only because Marilyn Monroe was ultra-sexy.

Cary Grant parlayed his new name into a clear complexion and Hollywood stardom.
Cary Grant parlayed his new name into a clear complexion and Hollywood stardom.

3. Cary Grant (Archibald Alexander Leach)

The quintessential Hollywood leading man who came into fame for his suave demeanor and dashing good looks entered the world sounding as if he was destined to be a pimply-faced prep school nerd. Cary Grant sounds like a guy who only wears tuxedos, and somehow always wins at games of chance. Also, you might not want leave your wife around him because he is so dashing and charming that she can't resist him, even though he isn't even trying to seduce her. Archibald would probably blend into the crowd, and go home alone every night lamenting what he should have said. As a result, Cary Grant captures the third spot, falling just short of the acme set by Monroe and Wayne.

Lauren Bacall seductively eyes her future as a movie star.
Lauren Bacall seductively eyes her future as a movie star.

Lauren Bacall (Betty Joan Perske)

Bacall and Monroe were contemporaries and followed the same path to movie stardom. Apparently beautiful actresses born in the mid-1920s had terrible names, and somehow came up with alluring aliases that would serve them well. Lauren Bacall came to be known for sultry and seductive looks that turned her into a superstar. An alluring glance from Betty Joan Perske probably doesn't make all the boys come running. In fact, Betty Joan sounds like a shy, lower-middle class housewife from the 1950s, who is sexually repressed and dreams about being a movie star. Instead of accepting her fate, Lauren Bacall was made, and Hollywood had a star. Bacall makes it to fourth on the list.

Maurice Micklewhite would only be armed with a dry wit, and a distinct sense of self-loathing, not a shotgun.
Maurice Micklewhite would only be armed with a dry wit, and a distinct sense of self-loathing, not a shotgun.

Michael Caine (Maurice Micklewhite)

At his apex, Caine was not nearly as famous as the previous four on this list, but Michael Caine has been a very good actor for a long time. He is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade since the 1960s. (Jack Nicholson is the other.) He makes the list for the sheer absurdity of his given name. Sounding as if he was doomed to wander around in the mind of Charles Dickens, Maurice Micklewhite would have led an unfortunate life as a malnourished soul who eventually met his demise due to one of his many vices. Michael Caine, though, had a very successful career in show business, and was eventually knighted by the queen. Caine's transformation from wretched soul to successful actor lands him in the fifth spot.

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