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Pronounced Opinions


Richard Kimble
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I was listening to a 1944 episode of the radio series Suspense starring Laird Cregar and was surprised to learn his last name is pronounced "Cree-GAR". That's not just an announcer's affectation -- Cregar pronounced it that way himself when he spoke briefly at the end of the program.

 

Franchot Tone  -- "Fran-cho". I once a heard a clip of him saying it.

 

Mel Torme claimed he didn't change his name, just the pronunciation. He said it was originally pronounced "TOR-mee", but when he was starting out as a singer manager at the radio station where he worked Frenchified it to "Tor-MAY" to sound more upscale.

 

Jakc Lemmon's last name was actually pronounced "Le-MON", but got changed. He was lucky to keep his name at all -- Harry Cohn wanted to change it to "John Lennon".

 

James Arness ("Ar-NESS") was originally "Aurness" (pronounced "OUR-niss") when RKO changed it, allegedly without his knowledge.

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When I'm watching old episodes of The Streets of San Francisco there's an on-air announcer that tells us who the night's guest stars are going to be. Some of the guests are fading movie queens, and half the time the announcer pronounces them differently than I do. I am wondering if he said them correctly, or if some of these people had names where the pronunciations changed over time. Because I can't be wrong, can I..?

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I once worked with a guy who prided himself on having a hard-to-pronounce Greek last name.  He used to mess with people, sometimes for up to 10 minutes, on how to pronounce it.  I wouldn't stand around and wait, I would just walk away and come back some other time.

 

As far as last names in Hollywood, there are those whose names were changed because of other people with the same last name, and then there are those who just had unlikeable names.  While I don't have any issue so far with that, I just wonder where they came up with some of these fake names.  Probably a different story for each case.

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I once worked with a guy who prided himself on having a hard-to-pronounce Greek last name.  He used to mess with people, sometimes for up to 10 minutes, on how to pronounce it.  I wouldn't stand around and wait, I would just walk away and come back some other time.

 

As far as last names in Hollywood, there are those whose names were changed because of other people with the same last name, and then there are those who just had unlikeable names.  While I don't have any issue so far with that, I just wonder where they came up with some of these fake names.  Probably a different story for each case.

 

In some of David Selznick's memos (collected in a published volume) he talks about the process of coming up with a new name for an actor or actress. He calls them synthetic names. He was in the process of renaming Phyllis Isley (she would soon become Jennifer Jones).

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-11-02%2Bat%2B12.33.

In one of his memos, he says the best synthetic name a studio ever created was-- Veronica Lake. He doesn't say why he likes it so much, but I agree it's a great movie star name. She was born Constance Ockelman, which just doesn't have the same ring to it. And when her mother remarried, she took her stepfather's last name and became Connie Keane, which is how she's billed in her first few films.

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Names aside, I'm amazed at the number of times in 30's radio and old movies I hear "Drama" pronounced "Dramma", to rhyme with "Gramma"--

 

Was that a thing in West Coast accents at the time, or Midwest-raised stars who became actors?

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Names aside, I'm amazed at the number of times in 30's radio and old movies I hear "Drama" pronounced "Dramma", to rhyme with "Gramma"

 

Memorably illustrated in the closing scene of The Fighting Kentuckian w/ John Wayne. He and his men march off as we hear a male chorus singing on the soundtrack:

 

"Only five hundred miles more to go

Only five hundred miles more to go

We are finished with the dramma

So goodbye to Alabama

Only five hundred miles more to go..."

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A name I fogot to mention: Ronald Reagan's last name was apparently pronounced "Ree-gan", at least by audiences. My mother always pronounced it that way, and as late as RR's 1954 What's My Line one of the panelists refers to him as "Ronnie Reegan". When/why did it change? GE Theater?

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Lohss Ang-a-leeze.

 

Yep, that's a good one alright, Fedya, and that of course was just one of the ways my old hometown of L.A. was pronounced back in the day.

 

While spotlighting this city, James A. Fitzpatrick in one of his "Traveltalk" featurettes kept referring to it as "Los ANGLE-less".

 

And which now reminds me of this old question one can usually get others to slip up on: What is the proper pronunciation of the capital city of Kentucky? Is it "LOU-is-ville" or "LOU-ah-ville" or "Lou-EE-ville"?

 

 

 

 

(...and the answer of course is: The proper pronunciation of the capital city of Kentucky is...wait for it..."FRANK-fort")

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You're too smart for us, Dargo. But you knew that!

 

In a clip introducing several new Twentieth Century Fox films, Darryl F. Zanuck pronounces Pier Angeli's first name as "Pierre." Of course, her real last name was Pierangeli, but Annamaria Pierangeli was a bit much to put on a marquee.

 

I have to agree that Veronica Lake is a perfect movie star name.

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While spotlighting this city, James A. Fitzpatrick in one of his "Traveltalk" featurettes kept referring to it as "Los ANGLE-less".

Ah yes. From Around the World in California: "Los Angle-less has a population of several thousand Mexicans."

 

(And there's no traffic in Beverly Hills, either.)

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My own LAST NAME is pronounced THREE DIFFERENT WAYS, and by FAMILY MEMBERS no less.  And each pronunciation makes sense.  Even I'M not sure of the correct one!

 

I've brought this up before.  Actor KEIR DULLEA too, gets his name pronounced a few different ways.  Everyone seems to agree the first name is said "KEER", to rhyme with beer.  But the LAST name I've heard said as---"DOO-yay",,"Doo-YAY" ,  DOOL-yay" and "dool-AY".

 

Singer GLORIA ESTEFAN too, goes through this.  I've heard "Es-STEF-an", and "ESS-tefan".

 

The only time I've heard LOS ANGELES pronounced "Los Angel-EEZ" was in Arlo Guthrie's song, in the line---

 

"Coming into los Angel-EEZ, Bringing in a couple of keys..."  ;)

 

 

Sepiatone 

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I've brought this up before.  Actor KEIR DULLEA too, gets his name pronounced a few different ways.  Everyone seems to agree the first name is said "KEER", to rhyme with beer.  But the LAST name I've heard said as---"DOO-yay",,"Doo-YAY" ,  DOOL-yay" and "dool-AY".

I recently saw an episode of Quinn Martin's TV series Twelve O'Clock High in which KD guest starred. The announcer pronounced his name as "Ke-EER Doo-LAY-uh" -- five syllables.

 

Which completely destroys Noel Coward's line:

 

"Keir Dullea

Gone tomorrow"

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MovieCollector asked: While I don't have any issue so far with that, I just wonder where they came up with some of these fake names.  Probably a different story for each case.

 

A friend "in the know" of old Hollywood once told me to create an actor's new name they started by trying the actor's middle name as their first, presumably because they would recognise & answer to it when called. Then they'd try their street name for a last name.

 

I'd be Lori Hixson, which sounds good & I'd easily answer to.

 

This method certainly wouldn't have worked for Arlington Spangler Taylor if he lived on Rural Route Seven. 

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MovieCollector asked: While I don't have any issue so far with that, I just wonder where they came up with some of these fake names.  Probably a different story for each case.

 

A friend "in the know" of old Hollywood once told me to create an actor's new name they started by trying the actor's middle name as their first, presumably because they would recognise & answer to it when called. Then they'd try their street name for a last name.

 

I'd be Lori Hixson, which sounds good & I'd easily answer to.

 

This method certainly wouldn't have worked for Arlington Spangler Taylor if he lived on Rural Route Seven. 

 

That's funny.  I used to LIVE on a street named ARLINGTON.  So by the method YOU stated, Arlington must have been that person's MIDDLE name!

 

For ME, it would have depended on when I was "discovered".  Going by your stated formula, my name might have been either...

 

GARY LAFAYETTE  or

 

GARY WALNUT  or...

 

GARY DROUILLARD,

 

GARY WHITE,

 

GARY LEWERENZ,

 

GARY LANE,

 

GARY ARLINGTON  or finally...

 

GARY BURNS.

 

They needed to come up with some other method.  :D

 

 

Sepiatone

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MovieCollector asked: While I don't have any issue so far with that, I just wonder where they came up with some of these fake names.  Probably a different story for each case.

 

A friend "in the know" of old Hollywood once told me to create an actor's new name they started by trying the actor's middle name as their first, presumably because they would recognise & answer to it when called. Then they'd try their street name for a last name.

 

I'd be Lori Hixson, which sounds good & I'd easily answer to.

 

This method certainly wouldn't have worked for Arlington Spangler Taylor if he lived on Rural Route Seven. 

 

I'd be Lee 16th Ave... 

 

I don't think that works! Lol!

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A friend "in the know" of old Hollywood once told me to create an actor's new name they started by trying the actor's middle name as their first, presumably because they would recognise & answer to it when called. Then they'd try their street name for a last name.

 

If you used a common shortened version of my middle name then I'd have the amazing moniker of:

 

"Dick Bambi".

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In some of David Selznick's memos (collected in a published volume) he talks about the process of coming up with a new name for an actor or actress. He calls them synthetic names. He was in the process of renaming Phyllis Isley (she would soon become Jennifer Jones).

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-11-02%2Bat%2B12.33.

In one of his memos, he says the best synthetic name a studio ever created was-- Veronica Lake. He doesn't say why he likes it so much, but I agree it's a great movie star name. She was born Constance Ockelman, which just doesn't have the same ring to it. And when her mother remarried, she took her stepfather's last name and became Connie Keane, which is how she's billed in her first few films.

 

If you notice, when the character is rich , powerful or evil, they give them a long first name and a short one syllable last name like "Veronica Lake" .

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