Yvonne De Carlo, 84; Said Her 'Munsters' Role Made Her Hot
Friday, January 12, 2007
Yvonne De Carlo, 84, the beautiful star who played Moses's wife in "The Ten Commandments" and achieved her greatest popularity on the television series "The Munsters," died Jan. 8 at the Motion Picture and Television health-care center in suburban Los Angeles. No cause of death was reported.
For TV viewers, Ms. De Carlo will always be known as Lily Munster in the 1964-66 slapstick horror-movie spoof "The Munsters."
Lily, vampire-like in a filmy gown, presided over the faux-scary household and was a rock for her gentle, often bumbling husband, Herman, played by 6-foot-5 character actor Fred Gwynne.
Although it lasted only two years, the series had a long life in syndication and resulted in two movies.
At the series's end, Ms. De Carlo said: "It meant security. It gave me a new, young audience I wouldn't have had otherwise. It made me 'hot' again, which I wasn't for a while."
A longtime student of voice, Ms. De Carlo sang opera at the Hollywood Bowl. When movie roles became scarce, she ventured into stage musicals.
Her greatest stage triumph came on Broadway in 1971 with Stephen Sondheim's "Follies," which won the 1972 Tony Award for best original musical score. She belted out Sondheim's show-stopping number, "I'm Still Here," a former star's defiant recounting of the highs and lows of her life and career.
Over the years, Ms. De Carlo shrewdly augmented her stardom with publicity. Gossip columnists reported her dates with famous men. In her 1987 memoir, she listed 22 of her lovers, who included Howard Hughes, Burt Lancaster, Robert Stack, Robert Taylor, Billy Wilder, Aly Khan and an Iranian prince.
She was born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, B.C., on Sept. 1, 1922 (some sources say 1924). Abandoned by her father, she was raised by her mother in poor circumstances. She took dancing lessons and dropped out of high school to work in nightclubs and theaters. She continued dancing in clubs when she and her mother moved to Los Angeles.
Paramount Pictures signed her to a contract in 1942, and she adopted her middle name and her mother's middle name. Dropped by Paramount after 20 minor roles, she landed at Universal, which cast her as the B-picture version of the studio's sultry star Maria Montez.
She emerged as a star in 1945 with "Salome -- Where She Danced," a routine movie about a dancer from Vienna who becomes a spy in the Wild West.
She recalled her entrance in the film: "I came through these beaded curtains, wearing a Japanese kimono and a Japanese headpiece, and then performed a Siamese dance. Nobody seemed to know quite why."
Universal Pictures exploited her slightly exotic looks and a shape that looked ideal in a harem dress in such "sex-and-sand" films as "Song of Scheherazade," "Slave Girl" and "Casbah."
The studio also employed her to add zest to Westerns, usually as a dance-hall girl or a sharpshooter.
In 1956, she veered from her former image when Cecil B. DeMille chose her to play Sephora, wife to Charlton Heston's Moses in "The Ten Commandments." The following year she co-starred with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in "Band of Angels" as Gable's upper-class sweetheart who learns of her black forebears.
Among her later films: "McClintock" with John Wayne and "A Global Affair" with Bob Hope, as well as "Blazing Stewardesses," "Satan's Cheerleaders" and Sylvester Stallone's "Oscar."
In 1955, Ms. De Carlo married Bob Morgan, a stuntman, and the marriage produced two sons as well as much-publicized separations and reconciliations.
During a stunt aboard a moving log train for "How the West Was Won," Morgan was thrown underneath the wheels. The accident cost him a leg, and for a time Ms. De Carlo abandoned her career to care for him. They later divorced.
Her son Michael died in 1997, and she had a stroke the following year.