WWI Centennial: New Allied Attack at Gallipoli

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 185th installment in the series. 

June 4, 1915: New Allied Attack at Gallipoli 

Like many of the other great battles of the First World War, Gallipoli was actually a series of clashes, any of which would have qualified as a huge battle by itself in a previous era. After the first wave of amphibious landings failed to conquer the Gallipoli Peninsula in late April 1915, the Allies mounted new attacks but were frustrated by Turkish defenses around the village of Krithia on April 28 and again on May 6-8. On the night of May 18-19 the Turks launched a huge assault against the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) trenches on the peninsula’s western shore, but this also failed at great cost.

After these initial failures the commanders on the scene – Sir Ian Hamilton, in charge of the Allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and Liman von Sanders, the German general commanding the Turkish Fifth Army – issued desperate demands for reinforcements, which they duly received. By the end of May there were ten Turkish divisions on the peninsula (many badly depleted) numbering 120,000 men, while the Allies had the equivalent of around seven divisions plus a brigade, including British, Indian, ANZAC and French troops for a total 150,000 men. 

Although fewer in numbers the Turks benefited from the same tactical advantage enjoyed by entrenched defenders on every front of the Great War, with barbed wire entanglements, machine guns, and massed rifle fire inflicting disproportionate casualties on Allied attackers. Even worse for the Allies, the ANZAC units suffered from a serious artillery shortage, both in guns and ammunition, while naval support was curtailed when the Royal Navy withdrew its battleships to its base at the nearby island of Mudros following the sinking of HMS Triumph and Majestic in late May – so they could no longer count on bombardments from the sea to help make up for the lack of artillery on land. 

“No Reaction, No Feelings At All” 

Nonetheless the Allies were determined to keep pushing forward, and in particular to capture a hill called Achi Baba behind the village of Krithia, which gave the Turks a vantage point to direct relentless shelling on to the Allied camp. The result was yet another frontal attack against the Turkish positions on June 4, 1915, in what became known as the “Third Battle of Krithia.” 

On the Allied side the attack would pit an Indian Infantry Brigade, the 88th Brigade, the 42nd Division, a Naval Brigade from the Naval Division (a force of naval infantry) and two divisions of the French Corps Expeditionnaire d'Orient under Henri Gouraud, altogether numbering 34,000 men, against 18,600 Turkish defenders from the Ottoman 9th and 12th Divisions. With a local advantage of almost two to one, the Allies managed to advance up to a kilometer in places and by some accounts came close to a breakthrough – but once again victory proved elusive. 

Due to continuing shell shortages for British artillery – the French 75mm guns were well supplied – the attack was preceded at 11am June 4 by a brief bombardment using shrapnel shells rather than high explosives, which (like the recent disastrous attack on Aubers Ridge) failed to cut the barbed wire in front of the Turkish trenches in many places (above, a British gun in action). In a bit of subterfuge the Allied bombardment paused to lure the Turks back to their trenches in expectation of an imminent infantry assault, then resumed a few minutes later, causing considerable casualties. 

However the Turkish defenses remained unbroken and the first Allied infantry assault produced wildly uneven results, as the British 42nd Division punched a hole in the Turkish 9th Division to gain around a kilometer, while Allied attacks on the flanks mostly failed to advance (top, the King's Own Scottish Borderers go over the top; above, British infantry charge). A British soldier, George Peake, remembered the fight in the center: 

And over the top we went at the Turks… We all shouted as we went over… I don’t know how many fell, but we kept on running… You’ve no reaction, no feelings at all except to go for him. I wouldn’t say it was fright or anything like that – it’s either you or him. Really you can’t tell what your feelings are like… I didn’t kill anyone with a bayonet. Before I got to them, I pressed the trigger and got a bullet into them. That stopped them. 

Fighting was particularly intense on the left flank, where Indian and British troops faced the daunting task of advancing up Gully Ravine, a valley containing a dry riverbed leading up to the Turkish trenches (below). Here the rough terrain caused some units to lose touch with their neighbors, opening those in the lead to flank fire from the Turks. Oswin Creighton, a chaplain with the British 29th Division, joined a field ambulance following the advancing infantry up the gulley: 

The gully was in a perfect turmoil, of course, guns going off on all sides, and the crack of the bullets tremendously loud. They swept down the gully, and one or two men were hit. I cannot imagine anything much more blood-curdling than to go up the gully for the first time while a fierce battle is raging. You cannot see a gun anywhere, or know where the noise is coming from. At the head of the gully you simply go up the side right into the trenches. 

On the right flank the two French divisions advanced several hundred meters early in the attack but were later forced back. This started a chain reaction, as the French retreat left the right flank of the British Naval Brigade exposed, forcing them to retreat, which in turn left the right flank of the 42nd Division exposed, eventually forcing it to the withdraw as well.

Unsurprisingly losses were heavy along the entire front, but especially on the left flank, where some Indian and British regiments advancing up Gully Ravine were almost completely wiped out. Sir Compton Mackenzie, an observer with the 29th Division, recorded the results of a gallant, courageous, but ultimately futile charge: 

That morning the Fourteenth (King George’s Own) Sikhs moved out to the attack with fifteen British officers, fourteen Indian officers and five hundred and fourteen men. On the morning after, three British officers, three Indian officers, and one hundred and thirty-four men were left. No ground was given: no man turned his back: no man lingered on the way. The trenches of the enemy that ran down into the ravine were choked with the bodies of Turks and Sikhs… On the slope beyond, the bodies of those tall and grave warriors, all face downward where they fell indomitably advancing, lay thickly among the stunted aromatic scrub.

Creighton recorded similar losses for another regiment: “They had lost five of the six remaining officers, all the ten officers who had recently joined them, and somewhere about 200 of the remaining men. Of the original regiment, including transport, stretcher-bearers, etc., 140 were left.” The next day Creighton noted that hundreds of wounded men were left in no-man’s-land, dying slowly within sight of their comrades: 

The whole situation was terrible – no advance, and nothing but casualties, and the worst was that the wounded had not been got back, but lay between ours and the Turks’ firing line. It was impossible to get at some of them. The men said they could see them move. The firing went on without ceasing… I buried eighteen of them in one grave while I was there… The majority of the bodies are still lying out there. In the gully I buried four more who had died of wounds. 

The Turks had also suffered very heavy casualties and abandoned their frontline trenches in the center, where the 42nd Division advanced almost half the distance towards Krithia. Later this led some supporters of Sir Ian Hamilton to argue that victory was within reach, if only the Allies had more troops and artillery to throw at the overstretched Turks. But there were no Allied reserves, while the Turks were able to hurry more reinforcements, including the 5th and 11th Divisions, the front to contain any Allied breakthrough and then to mount a counterattack. 

In a stunning reversal, on June 6 the Turks unleashed an onslaught against the Allied left wing that almost succeeded in breaking through the British lines and sent the defenders reeling back, as whole units retreated despite orders to hold their positions. Disaster was only narrowly averted by a British officer who shot four British soldiers leading this unauthorized retreat – a severe but legal measure (in fact the officer later received the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration in the British Army). The Allies then managed to establish a new defensive line just a few hundred yards in front of their original starting position (below, Gurkhas take up position in Gully Ravine on June 8, 1915).  

Routine Horror

As on other fronts of the Great War, at Gallipoli fighting continued at a lower intensity between major battles, with shelling, snipers, grenades, and mines producing a steady stream of killed and wounded on both sides. Meanwhile no-man’s-land, only recently cleared of corpses during the truce on May 24, was once again littered with bodies from the Third Battle of Krithia as well as occasional trench raids. George Peake, the British soldier, recalled: 

The whole place was full of dead, unburied. In one trench I was lying down on the firing step, and I’d have to peep up every now and again. There were three Turks buried in the parapet with their legs sticking out, and I had to get hold of their legs to pull myself up just to peer over… They were everywhere, absolutely everywhere, and the bluebottles [flies] were feeding on them.

The scenes were especially shocking for newly arrived troops sent from Britain to bolster the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, including the 52nd Division, which landed at Gallipoli in June. However the newcomers soon grew used to death as part of the daily routine, or at least tried to affect the same blasé indifference as hardened veterans.  One green recruit, Leonard Thompson, recalled his first encounter with dead bodies shortly after disembarking, when the men from his unit looked under a large piece of canvas doubling as a makeshift morgue, followed by their introduction to burial duty: 

It was full of corpses. Dead Englishmen, lines and lines of them, and with their eyes wide open. We all stopped talking. I’d never seen a dead man before and here I was looking at two or three hundred of them. It was our first fear. Nobody had mentioned this. I was very shocked… We set to work to bury people. We pushed them into the sides of the trench but bits of them kept getting uncovered and sticking out, like people in a badly made bed. Hands were the worst: they would escape from the sand, pointing, begging – even waving! There was one which we all shook when we passed, saying “Good morning”, in a posh voice. Everybody did it. The bottom of the trench was springy like a mattress because of all the bodies underneath. 

Natural Adversaries

Soldiers also had to contend with a whole array of environmental privations, including vermin and overpowering heat. Body lice in particular were ubiquitous in Gallipoli as elsewhere in the war zone, inflicting endless torment from itching and infected rashes caused by scratching, while also raising the specter of diseases like typhus – not to mention the sheer embarrassment felt by many of the afflicted. The “cooties” tended to congregate and reproduce in the seams of their shirts, pants and underwear, and soldiers tried to drown them by soaking their clothing in seawater or scouring their bodies and picking through their clothing to kill them by hand (below). Neither strategy proved particularly effective in the long term, and most men resigned themselves to suffering from the lice until they could be deloused before going on leave. 


During the summer months Gallipoli was also covered with swarms of flies, which fed on dead bodies and made life unbearable for the living. Another British chaplain, William Ewing, recalled trying to do basic tasks surrounded by flies, as well as the inescapable dust:

The table was black with them. They came down upon the food likes hives of bees. When you ventured to take a helping, they rose with an angry buzz, and violently contested the passage of each bite to your mouth… They explored your eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. If you tried to write, they crawled over the paper, and tickled your fingers till you could hardly hold the pen. Meantime you breathed dust, and swallowed dust, and your teeth gritted upon dust in your food.

Another natural adversary was the heat, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 100° Fahrenheit. According to some accounts many soldiers coped by simply disrobing and spending the hottest parts of the day nearly – or even entirely – naked. On June 11, 1915, British officer Aubrey Herbert noted: “The Australians and New Zealanders have given up wearing clothes. They lie about and bathe and become darker than Indians.” 


To escape the heat and insects soldiers also spent a great deal of time bathing and swimming in the sea (already a favorite activity for many Australian soldiers). However this was risky too, as the beaches were exposed to Turkish artillery fire in many places. Mackenzie described the odd, cosmopolitan scene he encountered walking along the supply road behind the beach at Cape Hellas: 

The sea was thronged with bathers in spite of the shrapnel which was continually bursting over them… The road itself was thronged with promenaders of every kind – tall grave Sikhs, charming dapper little Gurkhas, button-headed Egyptians, Zionist muleteers, Greek hawkers, Scottish Borderers, Irish Fusiliers, Welshmen… and as many different types besides… The dazzle of the water was blinding. Occasionally stretcher bearers would pass with a man who had been hit, as you may see stretcher bearers jostle through the crowds at Margate [an English seaside resort] with a woman who has fainted on a torrid August bank holiday.

Unable to endure the heat and insects any more than their men, officers set aside their dignity and joined the naked bathers, leading to some amusing scenes, especially among the more egalitarian Australians and New Zealanders (below, ANZAC commander General William Birdwood). Herbert was present when a portly ANZAC officer fleeing biting flies disrobed and waded in amongst the rank and file: 

Instantly he received a hearty blow upon his tender, red and white shoulder and a cordial greeting from some democrat of Sydney or Wellington: “Old man, you’ve been up among the biscuits!” He drew himself up to rebuke this presumption, then dived for the sea, for, as he said, “What’s the good of telling one naked man to salute another naked man, especially when neither have got their caps? 


British Advance in Mesopotamia 

As the fighting ground to a stalemate in Gallipoli, 1700 miles to the east the Anglo-Indian force dispatched by the Government of British India appeared to be making rapid progress in its conquest of Mesopotamia (now Iraq) thanks to the ambition of Mesopotamian theatre commander-in-chief Sir John Nixon and the boldness of Major General Sir Charles Townshend – but events would later reveal their daring was really just sheer recklessness. 

Having foiled the Turkish attempt to recapture Basra at the Battle of Shaiba in April, Nixon ordered Townshend, commanding the Indian 6th (Poona) Division, to begin advancing up the Tigris River after the retreating Turks – in the middle of flood season. Scraping together a ragtag force of old steamboats, barges and local Arab river craft, Townshend first attacked Turkish outposts north of Qurna, where rising floodwaters had isolated the Turkish defensive positions on small islands. One anonymous British junior officer remembered the odd battle that resulted on May 31, 1915: “Was there ever such astonishing warfare – attacking trenches in boats!” 


After driving the Turks out of Qurna, Townshend led his motley flotilla upriver almost unopposed, taking control of town after town in the midst of seasonal floods – a slightly absurd episode with carefree holiday overtones, later remembered as “Townshend’s Regatta.” Believing the Turks were in full flight, and impatient with the slow pace of his supporting infantry, Townshend now took a small force of around 100 men and raced ahead in his fastest boat, the HMS Espeigle (above). 

On June 3, 1915 Townshend’s tiny crew of sailors and soldiers sailed into the strategic town of Amara and, incredibly, convinced the garrison of 2,000 Turkish soldiers to surrender by claiming that the larger infantry force was about to arrive (in fact it was over two days’ march away). Townshend’s capture of Amara was one of the great bluffs of the First World War – but eventually his luck was going to run out. 

Meanwhile Anglo-Indian troops in Mesopotamia had to endure even worse conditions than their comrades in Gallipoli. As the Mesopotamian summer drew near temperatures rose to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade by midday, so the advancing troops could only march in the early morning end evening hours, sheltering in tents for most of the daytime. As at Gallipoli, some men tried to deal with the stifling heat by simply giving up wearing clothing altogether. Edmund Candler, a British war correspondent, recorded an officer’s account of the approach to Ahvaz in southwest Persia (Iran) in late May 1915:

From eight to eight it was hell… You lay under your single fly [mosquito net] naked. You soaked your handkerchief in water and put it on your head. But it was dry in five minutes. The more you drank the more you wanted to drink. We were on the edge of the marsh all the way. We used to sit in it. The water was as warm as soup and about the same colour. It was very brackish, and got salter and salter every day. One’s body became impregnated with salt. You could scrape it off your arms, and the dried sweat on your shirt was as white as snow.

 The same anonymous British officer cited above described the daily routine in Ahvaz: 

From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. it was hot. From 9 a.m. to 12 damned hot. From 12 to 5.30 much too damned hot. From 5.30 to 6 p.m. one could venture out… In the afternoon, from 3.30 to 5.30, there was usually a hot dry wind and a sandstorm blowing, and once could not see more than five yards… the only thing to do was to lie on one’s bed and drink lots of water and sweat. 

Again like Gallipoli, immersion was a popular method for escaping both heat and biting insects, especially sandflies, although here as well there were risks associated with the water, as recounted by Colonel W.C. Spackman, a British medical officer who accompanied Townshend’s river fleet upstream:

The sandflies were so small that they could get in through a mosquito net… It was far too hot to try to protect yourself with even a thin cotton sheet so I spent most of that night lying uncomfortably in the shallow waters of the shelving river bank, risking taking a mouthful of dirty Tigris water if I dozed off. Next night I gave up any idea of repeating this procedure when I heard that one of our sepoys had gone fishing with a baited hook and caught a shark!

Przemysl Falls, Again 

The Russian Army’s capture of Przemyśl on March 23, 1915 would prove to be a short-lived victory. Following the strategic breakthrough by the Austro-German Eleventh Army at Gorlice-Tarnów from May 3-7, the retreating Russians were forced to abandon their recent conquest on June 5. The loss of Przemyśl was a major blow to Allied prestige, but its strategic importance was diminished by the fact that the most of the fortifications had been destroyed by Russian bombardment or the Austrians themselves at the end of the previous siege. And in any event, it was just a small part of the territory surrendered by the Russians during the Great Retreat, when their armies on the central Eastern Front were forced to fall back hundreds of miles.


Click to enlarge

Under Germany’s new rising star August von Mackensen, the new Eleventh Army had punched through the Russian defensive line in the first week of May, forcing the Russian Third Army back and eventually exposing the flank of the neighboring Russian Eighth Army. Meanwhile the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army rumbled in to action, following on the Eleventh Army’s flank, signaling an even wider offensive to come. By May 11th the Third and Eighth Armies were in full-scale retreat, opening a 200-mile gap in Galicia and southern Russian Poland that threatened to unravel the entire Eastern Front; in mid-May the Galician city of Jaroslaw fell to the advancing Germans, who brushed aside a counterattack on May 15, inflicting massive losses on the Russian Caucasian Corps.

By this point the Russian Third Army, dragging itself across the River San, had been reduced from its original strength of 200,000 to 40,000, with tens of thousands of men killed or wounded and still more taken prisoner. On May 17 the Russian high command, called Stavka, relieved Third Army commander Radko Dimitriev of command and replaced him with General Leonid Lesh – but it was too late. The Austro-German offensive had torn a huge hole and it was only going to get wider. After the failure of desperate counterattacks on May 27, Russian commander-in-chief Grand Duke Nicholas had no choice but to order a fighting withdrawal to a new defensive line. 


The Russians would receive no respite from Mackensen, who kept driving forward with a series of new offensives (above, German troops advance in Galicia), using overwhelming artillery power to smash through Russian defenses again and again. To the north he was aided by the German Fourth Army, to the south by the German Südarmee (South Army) as well as the Austro-Hungarian Second Army and newly formed Seventh Army.

The southern theatre saw another round of fierce fighting over the bitterly contested passes through the Carpathian Mountains, down into the foothills and then further north on to the plains along the Dniester River. Anton Denikin, a Russian general, recalled the fighting here: 

Those battles south of Peremyshl were the bloodiest of all for us… The 13th and 14th Regiments were literally blown away by incredibly heavy German artillery fire. The first and only time I saw my brave Colonel Markov in a state approaching despair was when he brought the remnants of his squad out of battle. He was covered with blood which had gushed all over him when the 14th Regiment commander, walking beside him, had his head torn off by a bomb splinter. The sight of the colonel’s headless torso standing for several seconds in a living pose was impossible to forget. 

Although they were advancing victoriously, for ordinary German and Austrian soldiers this renewed war of movement was just as confusing and terrifying as the static conflict in the trenches. Dominik Richert, a German soldier from Alsace, described a battle which took place in late May outside an unnamed village south of Lemberg (today Lviv in western Ukraine): 

We had to occupy a hollow in a wheat field outside the village. Nobody knew what was actually happening. Suddenly the German batteries roared out a terrible salvo, and then the heavy barrage started… From up ahead we heard the detonation of the shells. Soon the Russians answered, firing shrapnel, and a number of men were wounded. We sat on the ground with our backpacks over our heads. The young soldiers who were experiencing their baptism of fire were all shaking like leaves. 

The effect on its intended victims was even more remarkable:

In the smoke of the exploding artillery and shrapnel shells the Russian position was almost invisible… First as individuals, then in greater numbers, and finally in masses, the Russian infantrymen came running towards us with their hands in the air. They were all trembling as a result of having had to endure the terrifying artillery fire... Across the whole territory you could see lines of advancing German and Austrian infantry, and in between them were groups of Russian prisoners who were being led back. 


By early June the Russians had lost an astonishing 412,000 men, including killed, wounded, and prisoners – but the Russian Army could draw on the massive manpower of the Tsarist empire to make good these losses. It should also be noted that the Russian retreat was not chaotic, but took place in stages and for the most part in good order. As during Napoleon’s invasion, the retreating armies and fleeing peasants enacted a policy of scorched earth, destroying crops, vehicles, buildings and bridges – and anything else of use – to deny the invaders any advantage (above, Russian troops retreat through a burning village). Manfred von Richthofen, who later won fame as the “Red Baron,” described the scene from the air: “The Russians were retiring everywhere. The whole countryside was burning. A terribly beautiful picture.” 

See the previous installment or all entries. 

Star Wars Fans Are Petitioning to See J.J. Abrams's The Rise of Skywalker Director's Cut

Joonas Suotamo, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
Joonas Suotamo, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
Lucasfilm Ltd.

We've all seen the use of petitions in Hollywood before, such as when disappointed Game of Thrones fans signed the now-iconic petition for HBO to remake the final season of the epic series with "competent writers." Unsurprisingly, the petition didn't work—but it did likely cause some mild humiliation for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

According to ComicBook.com, a new petition has popped up for another major fandom: Star Wars. This one is calling for the release of the supposed three-plus-hour director's cut of The Rise of Skywalker, which is believed to be director J.J. Abrams's personal telling of the final film in the Skywalker Saga. This new plea for the "J.J. Cut" has already amassed more than 6200 signatures on Change.org.

As ComicBook.com reports, the studio cut Abrams's work down to two hours and 22 minutes to adhere to the estimated patience of the average moviegoer. However, on Reddit, user egoshoppe stirred up some controversy by claiming that Abrams was "devastated and blindsided" by the changes that were made to the most recent film, and that they were made without the director's approval. The person claimed to have gotten information after speaking "with someone who worked closely on the production" of The Rise of Skywalker. Whether or not the claim is true, it has made fans even more determined to see the film's original cut.

Though the Game of Thrones petition didn't work, if enough people come together, maybe we could get at least a bit more footage from The Rise of Skywalker than was released in theaters. The Force is strong with these ones.

[h/t ComicBook.com]

The Real Names of 30 Famous Actors

Brad Pitt promotes Ad Astra at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.
Brad Pitt promotes Ad Astra at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.
Maria Moratti/Getty Images

There’s no business like show business for having to leave your birth name behind. Movie stars throughout the past century have often adopted new names for a ton of reasons, from evading racial bias to pure whim. Here are 30 celebrities who you may not know changed their name, and who you may never look at the same way again.

1. Brad Pitt

One of the simplest stage name changes for one of the most famous men on the planet: It’s difficult to think of Brad Pitt as anything other than Brad Pitt, but the Oscar-winning star of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was born William Bradley Pitt. Does Bill Pitt have the same ring to it?

2. Rihanna

Rihanna attends the "Queen & Slim" Premiere at AFI FEST 2019 presented by Audi at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California
Rihanna attends the Queen & Slim at AFI FEST 2019.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Like Brad Pitt, the actor and singer from Barbados goes by her middle name professionally. She was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty. "I get kind of numb to Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna," she told Rolling Stone, noting that her close friends and family still call her by her first name. "When I hear Robyn, I pay attention."

3. Michael Caine

English actor Michael Caine, throwing a punch, August 1965
English actor Michael Caine, throwing a punch, August 1965
Stephan C Archetti, Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some actors streamline their names to be more memorable, which is what Maurice Micklewhite did when he became Michael Caine in 1954. He considered becoming Michael Scott (that’s what she said), but picked Caine because of Humphrey Bogart’s film The Caine Mutiny. In 2016, after a half-century of using the stage name and being unbelievably famous, Micklewhite finally legally changed his name to avoid hiccups at airports.

4. Audrey Hepburn

A photo of actress Audrey Hepburn
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The daughter of a Dutch noblewoman, Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston and baptized as Edda Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston. Her professional name is sleeker, but it still would have been lovely to see "My Fair Lady starring Edda Hepburn-Ruston."

5. Cary Grant

Cary Grant is pictured in a publicity photo circa the 1940s
Cary Grant is pictured in a publicity photo circa the 1940s.
Getty Images

Hepburn’s co-star in Charade played a man with a lot of aliases, which had to have been at least a little familiar since Cary Grant began life as Archibald Leach. In 1931, Leach impressed the general manager of Paramount Pictures, B.P. Schulberg, enough to score a contract with the caveat that he pick a name that sounded more American. They came up with "Cary Grant" together.

6. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
A photo of Marilyn Monroe.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Most everyone knows that Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson and that she was a natural brunette. Before acting, she modeled and sometimes flip-flopped her name, going as Jean Norman. But when she signed with 20th Century Fox, an executive there changed her name to "Marilyn" because she reminded him of Broadway actress Marilyn Miller. Monroe is Norma Jeane’s mother’s maiden name.

7. Albert Brooks

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Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TCM

Is there any need to explain why Albert Einstein changed his name to Albert Brooks? The legendary comedic factor and filmmaker was born into a showbiz family. His mom was a singer, and his father was a comedian on the radio. His brother, the late Bob Einstein, didn’t have the same need to change his name.

8. Tina Fey

Tina Fey attends the 2018 Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Junket on May 2, 2018 in New York City
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

It seems appropriate that Tina Fey, who is famous for playing 30 Rock's Liz Lemon, is actually named Liz. Born Elizabeth Stamatina Fey, the former head writer of SNL and creator of 30 Rock has used the shortened form of her Greek middle name since early in her career, which kicked off in grand fashion with a banking commercial (and by "fashion" we mean: "Check out that swell vest").

9. Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' speaks onstage during the Hulu segment of the Summer 2019 Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles in 2019
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Vera Mindy Chokalingam got her start doing stand-up, where she noticed that emcees would butcher her last name or mock it, so she shortened it. She also chose to go by her middle name, which her mother chose for her because she watched a lot of Mork & Mindy while she was pregnant.

10. Spike Lee

Spike Lee attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Spike Lee attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California.
John Shearer/Getty Images

The legendary filmmaker goes by Spike, but his birth name is Shelton, which is also his mother’s maiden name. She gave him the nickname "Spike" when he was a baby because he was tough. With that in mind, "Spike" has been his identity since almost the very beginning.

11. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman attends the premiere of FOX's "Lucy In The Sky" at Darryl Zanuck Theater at FOX Studios on September 25, 2019 in Los Angeles, California
Natalie Portman attends the premiere of FOX's "Lucy In The Sky" in Los Angeles, California.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Getting a professional start at a very young age, the Israel-born Neta-Lee Hershlag was an understudy on Broadway at 11 and starred in the hitman movie The Professional before she turned 13. To protect her family’s identity, she adopted her grandmother’s maiden name as her stage name.

12. Vin Diesel

Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel attend the 45th Chaplin Award Gala at the on April 30, 2018 in New York City
Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel attend the 45th Chaplin Award Gala in New York City.
Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

“Vin Diesel? Of the New Brunswick Diesels?” It’s no surprise that “Vin Diesel” is a made-up name, but it’s interesting that Mark Sinclair didn’t come up with it because of his acting ambitions (even though he’s been acting since he was a child). Vin Diesel became Vin Diesel when he was a nightclub bouncer in New York City, which is why his name makes him sound like a nightclub bouncer. He’s the one who made us believe a bouncer could become an international movie star.

13. Helen Mirren

A name like Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov makes it sound like Helen Mirren was born to Russian royalty, but she was the child of an immigrant diplomat-turned-taxi driver in London. Her father, Vasily, and British mother, Kathleen, Anglicized the family name to Mirren in the 1950s. In 2003, after four decades of stellar work (plus Caligula), Mirren was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, making her name even more impressive.

14. Sir Ben Kingsley

Sir Ben Kingsley arrives for the European premiere of "The Jungle Book" at BFI IMAX on April 13, 2016 in London, England.
Sir Ben Kingsley arrives for the premiere of The Jungle Book at London's BFI IMAX.
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

The celebrated actor changed his name, like so many actors do, as a survival technique. He wasn’t getting stage work under his birth name, Krishna Pandit Bhanji, but almost immediately got roles once he started going by Ben Kingsley. Unlike other actors, Kingsley has completely absorbed the stage name as his own, even signing his paintings with it.

15. Awkwafina

Awkwafina attends the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
Awkwafina attends the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association

The show is called Awkwafina is Nora From Queens because Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. Born Nora Lum, the rapper-turned-actor chose her stage name at 15 and views it as a full alter ego that embodies that wild, teenage energy that she learned to tone down in college. She carried the name over into her acting career for Ocean’s 8, Crazy Rich Asians, and The Farewell.

16. David Tennant

David Tennant speaks onstage during the ‘Call of Duty: WWII Nazi Zombies’ Panel at San Diego Convention Center on July 20, 2017 in San Diego, California
Joe Scarnici, Getty Images for Activision

The guy who became an actor because of Doctor Who—and then became The Tenth Doctor and married his favorite Doctor’s daughter, who played his cloned daughter in an episode of Doctor Who—was originally named David McDonald. He picked a stage name for the rather boring (and common) reason that there was already another actor named David McDonald in the union. Since Tennant started working at 16, he did the 1980s teen thing and named himself after Neil Tennant, the lead singer of the Pet Shop Boys.

17. Demi Moore

Actress Demi Moore attends the signing of her memoir "Inside Out" at Barnes & Noble Union Square on September 24, 2019 in New York City
Demi Moore at a book signing of her memoir, Inside Out, at Barnes & Noble Union Square.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for ABA

Model Demi Gene Guynes changed her name when she married musician Freddy Moore at the age of 18 and held onto the name after their divorce a few years later, having used it for her role on General Hospital. There’s also some confusion about her first name, with some publications referring to her as Demitria despite Moore confirming that Demi is indeed her birth name. Of course, the more popular confusion about her first name can be cleared up like this: It’s pronounced Duh-Mee, not Dimmy.

18. Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton arrives at the 31st Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California.
Michael Keaton arrives at the 31st Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California.
Jennifer Lourie/Getty Images

Batman star Michael Keaton is an example of an actor who needed to change his name because there was already an actor in the Screen Actors Guild with his birth name. Since actors’ names are their trademarks, it’d be like someone named Coca-Cola wanting to join the Soda Union. When you know that Keaton’s birth name is Michael Douglas, you can probably imagine why he had to pick a new moniker. He thought about becoming Michael Jackson. Ultimately, he went with “Keaton” and not for any particular reason (though there is one pervasive rumor—more on that below). Yet to this day, he has never legally changed it; he still goes by Michael Douglas in real life.

19. Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton at the 2020 Writers Guild Awards West Coast Ceremony in Beverly Hills, California.
Diane Keaton at the 2020 Writers Guild Awards West Coast Ceremony in Beverly Hills, California.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for WGAW

Ever since Michael Douglas changed his name to Michael Keaton, a rumor has floated around that he chose his now-famous name because of an attraction to Annie Hall actress and all-around titan Diane Keaton. Michael has dismissed the rumor, but not even Diane Keaton is actually a Keaton. The actress was born as Diane Hall; she chose her mother’s maiden name as her stage name. (And yes, the fact that she shares a surname with one of her most famous characters was very much intentional.)

20. Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase attends the premiere of The Last Movie Star in Hollywood, California.
Chevy Chase attends the premiere of The Last Movie Star in Hollywood, California.
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

The former SNL star's nickname/stage name was given to him by his grandmother, who took it from the medieval English ballad "The Ballad of Chevy Chase." But Cornelius Crane Chase is named for his grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane. It turns out that Chase's Community character’s father being named Cornelius was a nice inside joke.

21. Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg attends Netflix’s ‘Quincy’ New York Special Screening on September 12, 2018 in New York City
Brad Barket, Getty Images for Netflix

Whoopi. Funny name for a funny person (and a serious actress with an EGOT under her belt). She started life as Caryn Elaine Johnson, and her silly nickname-turned-stage name means exactly what you think it means. “I was a bit of a farter!” Goldberg admitted during an interview with Graham Norton. “The theaters I was performing in were very small, so if you were gassy you had to walk away farting, and people would say I was like a Whoopee cushion.”

22. Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in Carefree (1938).
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in Carefree (1938).
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

With a natural gift for performance, Frederick Austerlitz became the most famous American dancer of the 20th century. Like Spike Lee, it was Fred Astaire's mother who changed his name: When the family pursued a vaudeville career for their two children, she dropped the last name and replaced it with Astaire when he was 18.

23. Ginger Rogers

Astaire’s dance partner didn’t go by her birth name either: Virginia Katherine McMath changed her name after winning a Charleston (the dance, not the city) competition in 1925 and heading on tour. Ginger comes from her first name, and Rogers is her stepfather’s last name. She initially toured as "Ginger and her Redheads."

24. Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah attends the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, Illinois.
Queen Latifah attends the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, Illinois.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

When Renaissance woman Queen Latifah released The Dana Owens Album in 2004, she was being true to her roots. Born Dana Elaine Owens in 1970, she changed her name when she was eight years old after finding Latifah (meaning delicate, sensitive, or kind) in a book of Arabic names at a time when others in her New Jersey neighborhood were switching to names with Arabic origins. When it came time to go pro, she added the “Queen” to evoke strength.

25. Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx attends a screening at Cinemark Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles, California
Jamie Foxx attends a screening at Cinemark Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles, California.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

When Eric Marlon Bishop was starting out in comedy, he felt that female comics were put up on stage first since there were fewer of them. Looking for a somewhat androgynous name to misdirect emcees picking which stand-up hit the stage next, he chose Jamie, and he landed on Foxx as an homage to comic legend Red Foxx.

26. Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur at a podium on stage.
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Two things that might surprise you about The Golden Girls star: One, she was in the Marine Corps. Two, she was born Bernice Frankel. She married another Marine, Robert Aurthur, after she was honorably discharged, and modified that new last name to act as her stage name.

27. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga attends Lady Gaga Celebrates the Launch of Haus Laboratories at Barker Hangar on September 16, 2019 in Santa Monica, California
Lady Gaga attends the launch of Haus Laboratories in Santa Monica, California.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Haus Laboratories

It’s appropriately mysterious that there are conflicting accounts as to how Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta came by her stage name. The root of it stemmed from producer and then-boyfriend Rob Fusari comparing Germanotta’s sound to Queen’s "Radio Ga Ga." Fusari takes credit for the full name, saying his phone autocorrected “Radio” to “Lady” when he texted her one day. (He relayed this version of the story when he sued his ex back in 2010.) Gaga disputes that recollection, however; she says she liked how the stately elegance connoted by “Lady” offset and played with the craziness evoked by “Gaga.”

28. Jackie Chan

Actor Jackie Chan makes a public appearance
Kiyoshi Ota, Getty Images

Peerless as a modern martial arts star, Chan was born Chan Kong-sang in Hong Kong. He picked up "Jackie" while working in construction during college, where he worked with a man named Jack who thought highly enough of Chan to call him "Little Jack." More surprisingly, Chan’s mom called him Pao Pao ("Cannonball") as a baby, and it’s slightly disappointing that it didn’t became his stage name. Pao Pao Chan is an ideal martial arts movie star name. Jackie’s cool, too.

29. Portia De Rossi

Portia de Rossi attends the Nate and Jeremiah for Living Spaces Upholstery Collection Launch at Casita Hollywood on October 3, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Portia de Rossi attends the Nate and Jeremiah for Living Spaces Upholstery Collection Launch in Los Angeles, California.
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Living Spaces

Usually aspiring actors will change a name they find clunky to something almost blandly inoffensive. The opposite is the case for Amanda Lee Rogers, who legally changed her name at the age of 15 to the Shakespearean "Portia." "In retrospect, I think it was largely due to my struggle about being gay," de Rossi told The Advocate. "Everything just didn’t fit, and I was trying to find things I could identify myself with, and it started with my name."

30. Kirk Douglas

Some of the time you learn an actor’s real name, and it makes perfect sense why they wanted to make the change. Other times you learn that Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch and wonder why he abandoned the raw power of that name. He grew up extremely poor but was able to attend the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts on scholarship where one of his classmates was Betty Joan Perske (a.k.a. Lauren Bacall).

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