DeForest Kelley might have had the most misspelled name in TV history

By: H&I Staff     Posted: March 27, 2019, 12:54PM

It's just one of those names, like Carroll O'Connor. No matter how often we write about Star Trek — and it is quite often — each and every time we come to type "DeForest Kelley" we have to pause. Are there two Rs in there or just one? Is the F capitalized or lowercase? Are there four Es or three?

Well, if you're going off his onscreen credits, then, yes. All of the above is correct. At least, every iteration of his name has been used at some point.

Kelley was born to a Baptist minister outside of Atlanta, Georgia. His parents named him after Lee de Forest, the electrical engineer and inventor who helped pioneer advancements in radio and movie sound. Lee de Forest was also the man behind the American DeForest Wireless Telegraph Company, so there was already a history of surname variation. Is there a space after the "De" or no?

It was a rather prescient baby name for a boy who would go on to work in both radio and motion pictures.

Kelley started his acting career with small supporting roles in crime flicks and Westerns. Studios typically cast him as a bad guy. They also spelled his name any and every way they could.

A 1949 episode of The Lone Ranger credited him as De FOREST KELLEY, as seen on the lower left in the image. In 1954, he appeared in an episode of The Lone Wolf, which tossed in a second R along with the extra space to make him DE FORREST KELLEY. The following year, the rising actor landed a role alongside Jayne Mansfield and Edward G. Robinson in the noir legal thriller Illegal. It was a breakthrough for his career. However, the movie billed him as DeFOREST KELLY. Jump to 1956, when Gunsmoke restored the "–ey" but left the double Rs:

Fortunately, once he became better known as Leonard "Bones" McCoy on Star Trek, "DeForest Kelley" was locked in. His name was never miscredited again. Fame has a funny way of curing that.

Watch Star Trek: The Original Series on H&I

Sunday through Friday at 8 PM Eastern/Pacific

Love Star Trek? Discover where to watch on H&I