Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Yvonne De Carlo Passes On

Yvonne De Carlo died Monday at the age of 84. Although probably best known for playing Lily Munster on the Sixties Sitcom The Munsters, she also had a long film career.

De Carlo was born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 1, 1922. At the age of 22 they moved to California. In 1939 De Carlo was named "Miss Venice Beach." After moving back to Canada, they returned to California in 1940. De Carlo earned a living working in the chorus. In 1941 she made her first screen appearance in the Soundie (musical shorts played on a special jukebox and shown in theatres) "I Look at You." That same year she appeared in a bit part in Harvard, Here I Come. For the next several years De Carlo played small roles in various films, until being cast in Salome, Where She Danced in 1945. For the next several years she would appear in desert oriented programmers (probably because they gave her a chance to show her figure off in harem costumes) such as Slave Girl and Casbah, and various Westerns such as Calamity Jane and Sam Bass and Silver City.

The Fifties saw De Carlo make her biggest screen appearance, as the wife of Moses, Sephora, in The Ten Commandments in 1956. She would later appear as Mrs. Warren in the John Wayne Western comedy McLintock in 1963. Throughout the Fifties and into the Sixties, however, much of her work would be done on television. She first appeared on the small screen in 1953 on an episode of Ford Television Theatre. She appeared on other anthology series, such as Schlitz Playhouse of Stars and Playhouse 90. She made guest appearances on such shows as Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Virginian, and The Name of the Game. Of course, her biggest claim to fame on the small screen would be the role of Lily on The Munsters. The part introduced her to a entire new generation of fans.

Following The Munsters, De Carlo continued to have a film career, although it was largely in B movies such as Blazing Stewardesses, Nocturna, and American Gothic. She also appeared in a television version of The Mark of Zorro and the movie Oscar. On Broadway she appeared in Stephen Sondheim's Follies in 1971.

While she is probably best known as Lily Munster, I actually remember her better from her two major roles, Sephora in The Ten Commandments and Mrs. Warren in McLintock. While she was often utilised as window dressing in many films, these two movies proved that De Carlo was actually capable of acting. Indeed, McLintock displayed the gift for comedy that came to good use in The Munsters (a show which in my mind had a great cast, but lousy scripts). I find it regrettable that many casting directors and studio directors simply failed to see beyond her undoubtedly beautiful looks. At any rate, while she will be remembered as Lily Munster, I rather suspect that she will also be remembered for the few good parts she managed to receive.

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