So I took my own advice and started rereading Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny." Just as fabulous as I remember.
But a short ways into the book, Willie Keith meets his girlfriend -- May Wynn. In my "Reeling Backward" review, that's the name I used for the actress who appears in the movie version. I thought I'd made a mistake, and used the character's name rather than the actress'. So I logged on here to fix it.
Wanna hear something really screwy? The actress' name is May Wynn.
In something that could only happen in Golden Age Hollywood, her name was changed to the name of her character in the movie, which was going to be her big break-out role.
After a little digging, I learned that big-wheel producer Stanley Kramer decided that the name of Donna Lee Hickey just wasn't going to cut it as a movie star. So he had her take the name of her character in the movie!
It does have a nice ring to it, with those two short syllables. Kramer liked it because it was impossible to mispronounce. Plus it has a positive connotation since it sounds like, "May win."
It's actually not the real name of the character, either. When Willie tells her he likes her name, she says, "That's good. It took me a long time to think of it." Turns out her real handle is Marie Minotti, and she's using May Wynn as her stage name.
So let me just lay out this scenario again: A fictional character gives herself a stage name, an actress is hired to play her in the movie, and the studio makes her change her real name to that of the character's made-up name. So May Wynn is a triple-fake name, or something.
Isn't that screwy? Imagine if in 1977 Carrie Fisher was forced to change her name to Princess Leia Organa. Or if Indiana Jones was played by a guy named Han Solo.
Anyway, May Wynn made quite an impression on me in the film, even though it's a small role. We first see her singing in a nightclub wearing this red dress that's really va-voom for the era. She had short, dark hair -- unusual for female stars of the time, long and blonde being the thing in the 1940s and '50s. She actually resembles my mother when she was a youngster ... very Freudian, I know.
Anyway, May's showbiz career was pretty short. She did a bunch of television for a few years after "Caine Mutiny," but Imdb.com lists no credits for her after 1959. She's still alive, reportedly living quietly in California. I'd be very curious to know: Does she still go by the name bestowed on her by a studio honcho 55 years ago?