If Troy Donahue can be a movie star…

There is a point in the original production of the musical A Chorus Line where a character sings “If Troy Donahue can be a movie star, then I can be a movie star.” At another point in the musical the same character sings this line a little differently: “If George Hamilton can be a movie star, then I can be a movie star.”

In both cases the rhythm of the name is essential to the lyric. So how do you find names with a particular rhythm?

There are tools on-line for finding words by meaning or by rhyme. But as far as I can tell, there are no Web tools out there to help find words or names by their rhythm.

It turns out that this rhythm is not all that common. In a list of the hundred most famous people, it shows up exactly zero times.

But just thinking about it a bit, I was able to come up with a fairly substantial list of hyper-famous people whose names would have worked with the rhythm of that song lyric: Anne Hathaway, Art Garfunkel, Cab Calloway, Drew Barrymore, Duke Ellington, Faye Dunaway, Fran Lebowitz, Fran Tarkenton, George Hamilton, George Harrison, George Steinbrenner, George Washington, Jack Nicholson, James Madison, Jim Morrison, John Carpenter, John Kerouac, John Lasseter, John Malkovich, John Mellencamp, Jon Anderson, Jon Oliver, Karl Lagerfeld, Mark Zuckerberg, Pat Benatar, Phil Donahue, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Roy Orbison, Sam Worthington, Sean Connery, Shel Silverstein, Ted Kennedy, Troy Donahue, Van Morrison and Wes Anderson.

There are also lots of people with this name rhythm who are hyper-famous if you happen to be in the right literary / political / sports / cinema / etc. sub-world. A few examples are: Bob Balaban, Bob Kaliban, Booth Tarkington, Dag Hammarskjold, John Anderson, John Connolly, Joy Adamson, Ken Lonergan, Pam Oliver, Ralph Bellamy, Ralph Richardson, Ron Oliver and Thor Heyerdahl.

There are even fictional people with this name rhythm, such as Deuce Bigelow, Jack Skellington, John Anderton, Nick Carraway, Sky Masterson and Tom Bombadil.

There tend to be more men than women on these particular lists. I suspect the fact that men are more apt to have a single-syllable first name contributes to this disparity.

Suppose you wanted to find lots of names with a particular rhythm. How would you go about it? Maybe there should be an App for that.

One thought on “If Troy Donahue can be a movie star…”

  1. I asked one of my knowledgeable songwriter friends if she knows of such a resource (to find words or names by their rhythm) and she said that she doesn’t. It does seem like it would be quite useful!

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