You’d think a name like “Dawn O’Day” would have been enough, but it wasn’t enough for the starlet who went by that moniker in the 1930s. After being cast as the lead in the 1934 film of Anne of Green Gables—based on the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, who was born on this day, Nov. 30, in 1874—she decided to do more than just play the part of Anne Shirley on screen, as TIME reported that December:
But, even though the trick may have been called “banal,” it worked. By 1936, TIME was calling the switch “an improvement that deserved but did not get an Academy Award”—and the movie was a hit.
The actress Anne Shirley managed to make the name work until her retirement in her 20s, after starring in movies like Stella Dallas and Murder, My Sweet. Shirley wasn’t the only star to take the name of a character during that period of the Hollywood studio system; a few years later, the actor Byron Barr became Gig Young after playing that role in The Gay Sisters.
Read the full story from 1934, here in the TIME Vault: The New Pictures
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