Yvonne De Carlo, Lily From ‘The Munsters’: A Life Of Glamour And Tragedy

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America fell in love with Lily Munster from the classic 1960s sitcom The Munsters, but the woman who brought her to life — Yvonne De Carlo — was a latecomer to that love fest. “When the show started, I could barely look at myself in a mirror with that makeup,” she admitted, “and I would be appalled when people recognized me without it. But then I’d read my fan mail from little kids who would write, ‘You are the most beautifulest vampire I have ever seen,’ and I’d feel good. Almost.”

The Munsters represented a difficult time for the actress, who had starred in dozens of films — including The Ten Commandments — and yet found herself struggling for work. “She was a talented lady and quite beautiful,” muses Geoffrey Mark, a pop culture historian, performer and author, “but often seemed hired to smolder, like a prop rather than a fully-developed character. So it’s no wonder when you talk about her, most people just mention The Munsters and to their mind, that’s the sum total of Yvonne De Carlo, which is not true. ”

THE MUNSTERS, Yvonne De Carlo, Fred Gwynne, 1964-66/Everett Collection

It’s his view that Yvonne’s life story, and the thing that prevents it from standing out, resembles several other actresses of her time. “Although she became famous,” Geoffrey suggests, “it’s almost as if she were Annie Oakley shooting at a target and every seventh or eighth bullet hit a complete bullseye, and the rest of the bullets didn’t even hit the target. What I mean is that she would occasionally make a film where she really did well and the film did well, and there were two or three of them that are beautifully remembered as today’s classic films. The rest of her work was popular in the moment, but if you would mention the names of these films to the average film buff, they wouldn’t remember. They were Grade B to Grade C films in which she was often typecast as some sort of exotic beautify. They were a kind of film that’s no longer made, whether it was Grade B Westerns or films set in some mystical or mythical middle Eastern place where she wore a lot of veils. So for whatever reason, with the successful films she made, one did not lead to the next.”

What race was Yvonne De Carlo?

SALOME, WHERE SHE DANCED, Yvonne De Carlo, 1945/Everett Collection

A Canadian-American actress, Yvonne was born Margaret Yvonne Middleton on September 1, 1922 in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 1944 The Baltimore Sun offered up a profile that paints this portrait of her: “Even as a little girl Yvonne De Carlo wanted to become an actress. When she was 13 years old, she wrote her own plays. Then, using her girlhood friends for players, she directed them in their parts, built her own scenery and a makeshift stage. In her home, for a penny admission charge, the plays were presented. Yvonne’s mother, Marie De Carlo Middleton, had another ambition for her only child. Before Yvonne was born, her mother hoped that her child would  be a girl, a girl who would become a famous dancer. Yvonne’s  mother and father, William Middleton, were divorced when Yvonne was five. The mother’s ambition for her daughter played an important part in Yvonne’s career, providing a stepping stone to the acting career Yvonne preferred.”

TOMAHAWK, Yvonne De Carlo, 1951/Everett Collection

When she was five — after she’d already been dancing for two years — Yvonne and her mother moved to Los Angeles. There she began competing in beauty contests and working as a dancer in nightclubs. Starting in 1941 she appeared in movie short subjects and, in 1942, signed a three-year contract with Paramount Pictures. However, with Universal Pictures she really caught people’s attention in 1945’s Salome, Where She Danced. Between then and 1964’s A Global Affair, she appeared in over three dozen films and made quite a number of television guest appearances, yet true stardom seemed to elude her, which made her financial situation difficult. Added to that was her marriage to Hollywood stunt man Robert Drew Morgan, the two of them being wed in 1955.

RELATED: For Fred Gwynne, ‘The Munsters’ Not Only Derailed His Career, But Brought Tragic Memories As Well

Tragically, he lost his leg — and nearly his life — when he was run over by a train while filming 1962’s How the West Was Won. With his MGM contract assuming no responsibility, the couple was buried in medical bills, though for her there was one silver lining: “Before the accident,” Yvonne reflected, “we were on the verge of breaking up, but when they took me to the hospital that first day, I just choked up and only one thought filled my mind: I don’t want my husband to die.” They would be together until 1973.

Reno, Nevada, wedding of Yvonne De Carlo, right, and Robert Morgan, November 21, 1955/Everett Collection

Geoffrey details, “She had an unhappy married life. After working in the 40s and 50s, by the early 60s, Yvonne was broke due to medical bills and the unevenness of her career. The average fan still does not understand that once the original studio system ended and an actress was on her own, they weren’t being paid a weekly salary anymore. They were being paid project by project. Yes, you make a nice dollar for a project, but that could be a year before you make any more money. And people don’t realize that out of every dollar you make, 10% goes to an agent, 10% goes to a manager and 10% goes to an attorney. On top of that, there’s taxes. So you had to have steady income to live well.”

The Munsters Arrives

THE MUNSTERS, Yvonne De Carlo, portrait (CBS, 1964 – 1966)/Everett Collection

When the idea of The Munsters — created as a comedically ghoulish take-off of The Donna Reed Show — came her way, Yvonne was reluctant but liked the idea of a steady paycheck. “I had misgivings when I was told about the role,” she admitted to The Daily Mail of Maryland in 1964. “After all, I didn’t want to destroy whatever image I had established. So I asked the makeup man what the makeup was supposed to be. He told me the character would have a green face, hollow cheeks, etc. Then I became more worried. But I decided to try the test, figuring I would also be testing the role to see if I wanted to do it. But when I appeared for the test, I found out I was one of nine girls testing, and we had to sign options that we would accept the role if chosen. Now I was really worried. I decided all I could do was put my trust in my agent, and he wanted me to do it.”

THE MUNSTERS, Butch Patrick, Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Pat Priest, Al Lewis, 1964-66/Everett Collection

The Munsters came along when she really, truly needed a job,” explains Geoffrey. “She was 42, a year older than Al Lewis, who was playing her father on the show. At first, she and her costars did not get along, because Yvonne wanted to be treated like the star she had been in the classic studio days and didn’t understand that nobody had the luxury of time for that sort of thing. Things did settle down several episodes in.”

Unfortunately, The Munsters only ran until 1966, which meant that that steady flow of cash was cut off and Yvonne quickly found out that Lily Munster was preventing her from getting other roles. She did, however, find herself cast in a number of stage roles in dramas and musicals. And it’s in the latter that she probably achieved her greatest success outside of the series, most notably as Carlotta Campion in Stephen Sondheim’s ’70s musical Follies, in which she introduced — ironically enough — the song “I’m Still Here.”

FOLLIES, Yvonne De Carlo, Winter Garden Theatre, New York, 1971-72 (photo by Martha Swope/Everett Collection)

Frank De Caro, author of Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Showbiz, points out, “Despite everything she did, people know her for a couple of roles. I think of her in the movie Criss Cross, as Lily Munster and as Carlotta Campion. You don’t need to know anything else about her career, because she’s got these three home runs that are so spectacular, that it’s enough for her to be in your heart forever.”‘

In 1998, Yvonne suffered what was considered to be a minor stroke. In her later years, she became a resident of the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, located in Woodland Hills, California. There she would pass away from heart failure in 2007 at age 84.

To view the full run of Yvonne De Carlo’s career, please scroll down for a visual filmography — you’ll undoubtedly be shocked at the sheer quantity of films she was associated with. 

‘Harvard, Here I Come’ (1941)

(Everett Collection)

Yvonne made her debut in this comedy in an uncredited role.

‘This Gun for Hire’ (1942)

(Everett Collection)

Above, left to right, Robert Preston, Yvonne, and Laird Cregar. She followed this with the same year’s Youth on Parade in an uncredited role as “Student.”

‘Road to Morocco’ (1942)

(Everett Collection)

Bob Hope surrounded by Yvonne De Carlo, Theo De Voe, Susanne Ridgeway, Patsy Mace, Brooke Evans, and Louise La Planche.

‘Deerslayer’ (1943)

(Everett Collection)

Yvonne De Carlo and Philip Van Zandt star in this Western.

‘Rainbow Island’ (1944)

(Everett Collection)

Another uncredited role, this one as “Lona’s Companion.”

‘Here Come the Waves’ (1944)

(Everett Collection)

From left, front, Betty Hutton, Bing Crosby, and Yvonne star in this romantic comedy.

‘Salome, Where She Danced’ (1947)

(Everett Collection)

Yvonne’s first starring role as Anna Marie. Also starring Rod Cameron, David Bruce, and Walter Siezak.

‘Frontier Gal’ (1945)

(Everett Collection)

Rod Cameron and Yvonne were reteamed in this Western.

‘Song of Scheherazade’ (1947)

(Everett Collection)

You know, we’re not really seeing Lily Munster here.

‘Brute Force’ (1947)

(Everett Collection)

This crime noir stars Yvonne alongside Burt Lancaster and Hume Cronyn.

‘Slave Girl’ (1947)

(Everett Collection)

This adventure comedy stars Yvonne, George Brent, and Broderick Crawford.

‘Black Bart’ (1948)

(Everett Collection)

Yvonne found herself very comfortable in the Western genre, this one featuring her with Jeffrey Lynn and Dan Duryea.

‘Casbah’ (1948)

CASBAH, Peter Lorre, Yvonne De Carlo, 1948

‘River Lady’ (1948)

RIVER LADY, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, 1948

‘Criss Cross’ (1949)

CRISS CROSS, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Burt Lancaster, 1949

‘Calamity Jane and Sam Bass’ (1948)

CALAMITY JANE AND SAM BASS, from left: Yvonne De Carlo, Howard Duff, 1949

‘The Gal Who Took the West’ (1949)

THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Charles Coburn, 1949

‘Buccaneer’s Girl’ (1950)

BUCCANEER’S GIRL, from left, Philip Friend, Yvonne DeCarlo, 1950

‘The Desert Hawk’ (1950)

THE DESERT HAWK, Yvonne De Carlo, 1950

‘Tomahawk’ (1951)

TOMAHAWK, from left, Alex Nichol, Yvonne De Carlo, 1951

‘Hotel Sahara’ (1951)

HOTEL SAHARA, Peter Ustinov and Yvonne De Carlo on the set between scenes, 1951

‘Silver City’ (1951)

SILVER CITY, from left, Richard Arlen, Yvonne De Carlo, 1951

‘The San Francisco Story’ (1952)

THE SAN FRANCISCO STORY, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Joel McCrea, 1952

‘Scarlet Angel’ (1952)

SCARLET ANGEL, US lobbycard, from left: Rock Hudson, Yvonne De Carlo, 1952

‘Hurricane Smith’ (1952)

HURRICANE SMITH, from left: John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, 1952

‘Sea Devils’ (1953)

SEA DEVILS, US lobbycard, from left: Yvonne De Carlo, Rock Hudson, 1953

‘Sombrero’ (1953)

SOMBRERO, Yvonne De Carlo, 1953

‘The Captain’s Paradise’ (1953)

THE CAPTAIN’S PARADISE, from left, Alec Guinness, Yvonne De Carlo, 1953

‘Fort Algiers’ (1953)

FORT ALGIERS, from left, Raymond Burr, Yvonne De Carlo, 1953

‘The Backbone of America’ (1953 TV Movie)

THE BACKBONE OF AMERICA, from left: Yvonne De Carlo, Wendell Corey, writer Robert E. Sherwood (seated), during rehearsal, 1953

‘Border River’ (1954)

BORDER RIVER, Yvonne De Carlo practices her riding on location in Moab, Utah, 1954

‘Tonight’s the Night’ / ‘Happy Ever After’ (1954)

TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT, (aka HAPPY EVER AFTER), US lobbycard, from left: Yvonne De Carlo, David Niven, 1954

‘La Contessa di Castiglione’ (1954)

(Warner Bros)

‘Passion’ (1954)

PASSION, Yvonne De Carlo, 1954

‘Shotgun’ (1965)

SHOTGUN, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Sterling Hayden, 1955

‘Flame of the Islands’ (1956)

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS, from left, Howard Duff, Yvonne De Carlo, 1956

‘Raw Edge’ (1956)

RAW EDGE, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Rory Calhoun, 1956

‘Magic Fire’ (1956)

MAGIC FIRE, from left, Carlos Thompson, Yvonne De Carlo, 1955

‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, Yvonne DeCarlo, Charlton Heston, John Derek, 1956

‘Death of a Scoundrel’ (1956)

DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL, Yvonne De Carlo, George Sanders, 1956

‘Screen Director’s Playhouse’ (1956)

SCREEN DIRECTORS PLAYHOUSE, ‘Hot Cargo,’ from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Rory Calhoun, director Tay Garnett, on-set, aired January 4, 1956

‘Band of Angels’ (1957)

BAND OF ANGELS, Clark Gable, Yvonne De Carlo, 1957

‘Timbuktu’ (1958)

TIMBUKTU, from left, Victor Mature, Yvonne De Carlo, 1959

‘Mary Magdalene’ / ‘The Sword and the Cross’ (1958)

MARY MAGDALENE, (aka THE SWORD AND THE CROSS, aka LA SPADA E LA CROCE), Yvonne De Carlo, Rossana Podesta, 1958

‘Adventures in Paradise’ (1960)

From left; West Virginia University All-American basketball player Jerry West visiting Yvonne De Carlo on the set of ADVENTURES IN PARADISE, 1959

‘McLintock!’ (1963)

MCLINTOCK!, Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne, Yvonne de Carlo, 1963

‘Law of the Lawless’ (1964)

LAW OF THE LAWLESS, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Lon Chaney, Jr., 1964

‘A Global Affair’ (1964)

A GLOBAL AFFAIR, from left: Yvonne de Carlo, Bob Hope, 1964

‘The Munsters’ (1964 to 1966 TV Series)

THE MUNSTERS, Butch Patrick, Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, 1964-66

‘Munster, Go Home!’ (1966)

MUNSTER, GO HOME, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, Butch Patrick, Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, Debbie Watson, 1966

‘Hostile Guns’ (1967)

HOSTILE GUNS, from left: George Montgomery, Yvonne De Carlo, 1967

‘The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.’ (1967)

THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E., (from left): Yvonne De Carlo, Noel Harrison, ‘The Moulin Ruse Affair,’ (Season 1, aired Feb. 23, 1967), 1966-1967.

‘The Power’ (1968)

THE POWER, from left, Yvonne De Carlo, George Hamilton, 1968

‘Arizona Bushwhackers’ (1968)

ARIZONA BUSHWHACKERS, Yvonne De Carlo, Howard Keel, 1968

‘The Delta Factor’ (1970)

(Continental Distributing)

‘The Seven Minutes’ (1971)

THE SEVEN MINUTES, Yvonne De Carlo, 1971. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

‘The Girl on the Late, Late Show’ (1974)

THE GIRL ON THE LATE, LATE, SHOW, from left, Joe Santos, Ralph Meeker, Yvonne De Carlo, Van Johnson, Don Murray, Gloria Grahame, Cameron Mitchell, Laraine Stephens, aired April 1, 1974

‘Blazing Stewardesses’ (1975)

(Independent-International Pictures)

Also in 1975, Yvonne appeared in the films It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, Black Fire and The Intruder.

‘Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood’ (1976)

WON TON TON: THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD, from left: Won Ton Ton, Yvonne De Carlo, 1976

Also in 1976, Yvonne appeared in La casa de las sombras.

‘Satan’s Cheerleaders’ (1977)

SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS, Yvonne De Carlo, 1977

In 1977 she also played a slave owner’s wife in the TV miniseries Roots and between 1978 and 1979 appeared in two episodes of Fantasy Island.

‘Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula’ (1979)

NOCTURNA, from left, John Carradine, Yvonne De Carlo, 1979, ©Compass International Pictures

‘Guyana: Cult of the Damned’ (1979)

GUYANA: CULT OF THE DAMNED, (aka GUYANA: CRIME OF THE CENTURY), Yvonne De Carlo, 1979, ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

In 1979, Yvonne also appeared in Fuego negro.

‘The Silent Scream’ (1979)

THE SILENT SCREAM, from left, Brad Rearden, Yvonne De Carlo, Juli Andelman, 1979, ©American Cinema Releasing/courtesy Everett Collection

‘The Man with Bogart’s Face’ (1980)

THE MAN WITH BOGART’S FACE, (aka SAM MARLOWE, PRIVATE EYE), U.S. poster, from top: Robert Sacchi, Michelle Phillips, Franco Nero, Yvonne De Carlo, Misty Rowe, George Raft, Sybil Danning (blonde), Olivia Hussey (brunette), Victor Buono, Herbert Lom, 1980. ©20th Century-Fox Film Corporation, TM & Copyright/courtesy Everett Collection

‘Play Dead’ (1981)

PLAY DEAD, Yvonne De Carlo, 1983. ©Aquarius Releasing/courtesy: Everett Collection

Yvonne also appeared in Liar’s Moon in 1981.

‘The Munsters’ Revenge’ (1981)

THE MUNSTERS’ REVENGE, K.C. Martel, Yvonne De Carlo, Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, Jo McDonell, 1981

‘Flesh and Bullets’ (1985)

In 1985, Yvonne appeared on the 1985 “Jessica Behind Bars” episode of Murder, She Wrote and the film Flesh and Bullets, followed the next year by playing Mrs. Murphy on the TV series A Masterpiece of Murder. From there she was in VulturesAmerican Gothic and Cellar Dweller (both 1988) and Mirror, Mirror and an episode of The New Adventures of Black Beauty (both 1990).

‘Oscar’ (1991)

(Buena Vista Pictures)

There was also a 1991 guest appearance on HBO’s Dream on, the episode titled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told.” Then, in 1992, there were the features The Naked Truth and Desert Kickboxers. Her final big-screen role was in Seasons of the Heart (1993) and her last TV appearance was in the TV movie The Barefoot Executive.

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The post Yvonne De Carlo, Lily From ‘The Munsters’: A Life Of Glamour And Tragedy appeared first on DoYouRemember? – The Home of Nostalgia. Author, Ed Gross

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