Classic Movies, Classic Baby Names?

I’ve been starting to show my daughters some of my favorite classic movies, from screwball comedies like His Girl Friday to sweeping epics like Gone With the Wind. (Plus side: no worries about bad language or nudity. Minus: having to have big talks about racism and sexism and how people were treated back in the day.)

But there’s more to these fab movies than just witty banter and great stories—there’s some cool baby name inspiration. Here’s a few names you might want to consider from some of my (and perhaps your) favorite old movies:

Walter Cary Grant is never better than in His Girl Friday, a smart, fast-talking comedy about a pair of divorced newspaper colleagues—Walter’s trying every underhanded (and hilarious) trick in the book to get Hildy back from the arms of her new fiancé. Walter’s an old-fashioned name that’s making a comeback—it means army ruler and is currently in the top 400 names in the U.S.

Hildy This former newspaperwoman hopes to retire to raise babies—but the enticement of the story of the decade and Cary Grant’s noted charms (along with his trickery) may change her mind. The name is probably short for Hildegarde, a German name that means comrade, and isn’t exactly lighting up the charts. But I think the simple and short Hildy works better.

Rhett The dashing and devilish man who Scarlett came to love a little too late sports a name that’s achieved the same level of popularity as the book and movie. Rhett is a Dutch name that means advice.

Scarlett Brash Gone With the Wind heroine Scarlett sported this equally bold moniker, which has become red hot in the 21st century. (It’s currently #61 here in the U.S.)

Rick Sam may be the most famous name from Casablanca, even if the line is often misquoted (it was Play it, Sam—not Play it again, Sam!). But Rick, played by tough-guy Humphrey Bogart, was the guy all guys aspired to be. This variant on Richard isn’t heard too often nowadays, but it’s a classic that might be worth a second look.

Ilsa Rick’s tragic true love sports a variant on Elizabeth. Ilsa may be a great substitute for the popular Ella.

Tracy In The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn played the wild debutante who veers slightly off course on the way down the aisle—and into a love square with three potential suitors: former husband CK Dexter Haven, newspaper reporter Macaulay Connor, and actual fiancé George Kittredge. Tracy means “of Thracia,” and it fell out of the top 1000 baby names around the year 2000.

Dexter Personal fave Cary Grant plays CK Dexter Haven, the rakish ex of Tracy Lord in Philadelphia Story. Dexter comes from Latin and means right—and it’s enjoying a revival, thanks to the much more sinister serial killer Dexter Morgan from the Showtime hit.

Macaulay Jimmy Stewart plays the newspaperman assigned to write about Tracy’s upcoming nuptials, and ends up falling in love with the lady herself. Macaulay is a name that means righteous. It’s shortened to “Mike” in the movie, but I love Mac better as a nickname myself.

Lisa The luminous Grace Kelly played Jimmy Stewart’s gorgeous girlfriend in Alfred Hitchcock’s much-beloved voyeur thriller, Rear Window. I’d probably trace the popularity of the name, yet another variant of Elizabeth, to this particularly fashionable and adventurous blonde who helped Jeff puzzle out the murder he thought he witnessed through his window.

Jeff In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart’s character, a tough-as-nails photojournalist laid up with a broken leg, goes by Jeff, a nickname based on the surname Jeffries. But this is usually the nickname paired with Jeffrey, which means pledge of peace.

Eliza My Fair Lady may be a Broadway classic, but it’s also a Hollywood classic, thanks to Audrey Hepburn’s gorgeous turn as Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney maiden transformed into a lady. Eliza is—you guessed it—yet another variant on Elizabeth, and it’s currently pretty popular—like #225 in the U.S. popular.

Henry This high-class guy wagers that he can fool the nobility into thinking Cockney flower seller Eliza is upper crust—and ends up with much more than he bargained for. The name Henry means ruler, and is currently in the top 100 names in the U.S.

What are your favorite classic movies? Any names in there that might be worth resurrecting?

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Photo: Cary Grant by catwalker / Shutterstock.com

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