In a new segment at Histornamia and inspired by this post over at Nameberry from last November, I shall be taking a look back at some screen legends and the characters they played on screen. In honour of the fact that my Clara Bow biography finally came in the mail, I shall be starting with her. The original ‘IT’ Girl, Clara was a star of the silent-films and was in over 50 films between the years of 1922-1933. She was also used as inspiration for Berenice Bejo’s wonderful performance as Peppy Miller in 2012’s Oscar Winning, The Artist as well as staring in the only other silent film to win Best Picture, the 1927 Wings (yes, only two silent films have ever won best film at the Oscars). Also of note, she was the inspiration behind Betty Boop.
As well as the characters below, Clara played characters with names typical from the period like Helen, Molly, Norma, Ruby, Gladys, Stella, Nancy, Clara, Cynthia, Dorothy, Mary, Lila and Alice (among others).
Here are eleven character names that Clara portrayed on screen:
Orchid (from the 1924 lost film, Grit) – in Clara’s seventh film, Grit, Clara played Orchid McGonigle. Pronounced ohr-KID, it is a rare exotic flower name. While it would make an interesting choice it does come from the Latin ‘orchis’ and Ancient Greek ‘orkhis’ which unfortunately means ‘testicle’. If the meaning is overlooked and technically, most people would think of the pretty flower, it would make an interesting name choice. In 2011, 6 baby girls were given this name.
Grizette (from the 1925 lost film, Kiss Me Again) – in this other lost film from 1925, Clara played Grizette. A variation of the word Grisette, the name refers to a French working class woman from the last 17th century. In 1964, a French dictionary described it as ‘a woman of lowly condition’. This type of woman is found in many French operas and musicals, including La Boheme and Les Miserables as the character of Fantine is this type of woman.
Lolly (from the 1925 lost film, The Keeper of the Bees) – in another lost film of Clara’s (though a trailer exists from this one), Clara played Lolly Cameron. A sweet inspired name, it would be more likely to be found as a nickname rather than a given name. It is a diminutive of Laura which means ‘bay laurel’ though it could be used as a nickname for many a name including Talullah or Dolores.
Prudence (from the 1925 film, My Lady of Whims) – in this film from 1925, Clara plays Prudence Severn. A virtue name meaning ‘caution’, this is a name that would more likely be found on a birth certificate than the ones above. It has puritan charm but beware of the ‘prude’ connotations. Prue is an excellent nickname and it seems that parents like this name as well as in 2011, 80 baby girls were given the name.
Kittens (from the 1926 film, Dancing Mothers) – in this 1926 film, Clara played Kittens Westcourt. Probably along with ‘Bubbles’ to be the least likely to be given to a child, though would make a cute nickname, is Kittens. Obviously taken from the baby cats, Kittens does give off a sweet connotation though, might make an interesting middle or nickname.
Betty Lou (from the 1927 hit film, It) – in the film that made Clara a true ‘It’ girl and star, she played Betty Lou Spence. This was Clara’s biggest hit and the name Betty means ‘pledged to God’ (and ranked #3 in the year of the movie’s release) and Lou means ‘renowned warrior; (and ranked #304 in 1927). In 2011, Betty was given to 163 babies while Lou was given to 16 but also has the virtue of being a celeb-baby name as the name of Heidi Klum and Seal’s youngest daughter.
Hula (from the 1927 film, Hula) – in this film directed by Victor Fleming (best known for Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind), Clara played Hula Calhoun. More commonly associated with a ‘hoop’ or the banned baby name from New Zealand (Talullah does the Hula in Hawaii), Hula could make an interesting name on its own. The only meaning I could find was Native American for ‘eagle’.
Bubbles (from the 1928 lost film, Red Hair) – in this film Clara plays Bubbles McCoy. Indeed a rare name, Bubbles is a word name and is probably most associated in today’s culture by three other things – a) Michael Jackson’s chimp, b) one of the Powerpuff Girls and c) one of the fish-tank fish in Finding Nemo. Has possibility as a nickname.
Trixie (from the 1928 lost film, The Fleet’s In) – in this lost film Clara played Trixie Deane. A diminutive of Beatrix, Trixie contains the meaning of ‘she who brings happiness’. Fitting it with celebrity baby name Dixie, in 2011 the name was given to 7 baby girls as a given name.
Pepper (from the 1930 film, Love Among the Millionaires) – in one of her ‘talkie’ films, Clara played Pepper Whipple. Recently given to a celeb-tot and the girlfriend of Iron Man, Pepper is a name in the spotlight. With the meaning of ‘berry’, Pepper is a name for those who like Saffron and Sage. In 2011 it was given to 116 baby girls, much I think from the influence of Iron Man and I think it could grow thanks to the Avengers, but we will have to find out in May if that is correct.
Nasa (from the 1932 film, Call Her Savage) – in her second last film, in this ‘talkie’ Clara plays Nasa Springer. Today we associate the name with space travel, Nasa could make an interesting space tribute instead of Nova or Stella. I can’t currently find a meaning to the name though I have found that it comes of Japanese origin. If anyone has any more information please bring forth as I would be fascinated to know.