I’m watching The Bride of Frankenstein and I noticed that Boris Karloff was credited as Karloff. Is this the first example of this? I know Valentino was known by his last name but I don’t know if he was credited that way.
Le Petomane started giving public performances in 1887, pre-dating Cher by close to six months.
Although she has also been credited as M. Ciccone and Madonna Ritchie, I think she counts.
Rachel (1821–58). Predated Cher by 150 years (unless those rumors are to be believed . . .).
In many of her films (most notably The Third Man), Alida Valli was simply credited as Valli.
The OP is asking for examples predating “Karloff.” Why are people mentioning Iman, Madonna, Sting and Prince?!
Oh, and to answer the OP’s other question, according to IMDB Valentino was variously credited as
but not as “Valentino.”
“You can call him Rudy, or you can call him Rudolph, or you can call him Rodolpho . . . But’cha doesn’t have t’ call him Valentino!”
Now appearing. Limited run. Seven Days only!
Was Harry Houdini ever billed simply as “Houdini”?
How about Charlemange? Napoleon? Rembrandt? Michalangelo? Galeleio? Leonardo? Caravaggio? Christ? Nero? Caesar? Socrates? Buddha?
Six days. On the seventh day, the theatre was dark.
Dunno about his BILLING, but the press sure loved to call him that.
Examples from San Francisco
This website is selling rare Houdini memorabilia (in some cases I THINK they said they’re repros), including a book by / about him that sold in the theaters he performed at that called him simply “Houdini”.
The same site also has rare “Hardeen” items, which is the single-name his brother toured as after Houdini’s death, so it looks like we can add “Hardeen” to the list of single-billings.
Magicians were often billed by just their last names, although it’s not clear whether they were known that way at all times.
In any case, Houdini himself took his name from Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, who became perhaps the world’s most famous magician by the 1840s. His 1858 book (published in English in 1859 as Memoirs of Robert-Houdin) set the standard for magic for a half-century.
In the book, Robert-Houdin talks about being saved from death and taught magic by a one-named Italian magician, Torrini, in about 1827. Although modern scholarship now thinks that Torrini never existed outside of a dramatic device, it does appear to show that one-named magicians were taken for granted even that early. And Robert-Houdin was certainly famous under that name long before Houdini combined the Houdin with the “i” of Torrini.
All information from Jim Steinmeyer’s wonderful history, Hiding the Elephant.