Yvonne De Carlo
March 26, 2010 Leave a comment
as Sephora in The Ten Commandments (1956)
September 1, 1922(1922-09-01)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Yvonne De Carlo (September 1, 1922 – January 8, 2007) was a Canadian-born American film and television actress, dancer and singer. She began her film career by starring in small film roles for Columbia Studios, Paramount Pictures, Universal International.During her six-decade career, her most prolific appearances in film came in the 1940s and 1950s and included her best-known film roles, such as of Anna Marie in Salome Where She Danced (1945), Anna in Criss Cross (1949), Sephora the wife of Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956), starring Charlton Heston, and Amantha Starr in Band of Angels (1957) with Clark Gable. As her film career faded, De Carlo accepted an offer to play Lily Munster for CBS television series The Munsters, alongside with Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis.
The daughter of an aspiring actress, Marie De Carlo, and a salesman, William Middleton, De Carlo was born as Margaret Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, British Columbia, and nicknamed ‘Peggy’. “I was named Margaret Yvonne – Margaret because my mother was very fond of one of the derivatives of the name. She was fascinated at the time by the movie star Baby Peggy, and I suppose she wanted a Baby Peggy of her own.” Her maternal grandfather, Michael de Carlo, was Sicilian-born, and her maternal grandmother, Margaret Purvis, was Scottish-born. Margaret’s mother ran away from home, when she was 16 to become a ballerina, after a couple of years working as a shop girl, she was finally married in 1924. Little Peggy was three years old when her father abandoned the family. She lived with her grandparents. By the time she entered grade school, she found that her strong singing voice brought her the attention she longed for. Although her mother recognized Peggy’s singing talent, she had already decided that her daughter would be a dancer. As a teenager Peggy was taken by her mother to Hollywood where she enrolled her in dancing school, also attending Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood. Margaret also lived in a downtown apartment, with her mother, where Marie took on odd jobs such as a waitress. Mother and daughter were uprooted when their visas expired, she would have to make three trips, the first from Los Angeles to Vancouver, within a few years, where they returned, unable to find work.She attended and dropped out of Vancouver‘s now-defunct King Edward High School, to focus more on her dance studies. She then attended the B.C. School of Dancing. It was there that Canadian dance instructor, June Roper, started her in a new direction, for which she was grateful and relieved. The following year at the Orpheum Theatre, Peggy appeared as a hula dancer in the famous revue Waikiki. A new nightclub, the Palomar, opened in Vancouver, and she acquired a week-long booking. Hoping to present more sophisticated image, she combined her middle name with her mother’s maiden name, which turned out to be “Yvonne De Carlo”.The pair made several such trips until 1940, when De Carlo was first runnerup to “Miss Venice Beach” and was hired by showman Nils Granlund as a dancer at the Florentine Gardens. She had been dancing for Granlund only a short time when she was arrested by immigration officials and deported to Canada, but in January 1941, Granlund sent a telegram to Canadian immigration officials pledging his sponsorship of De Carlo in the United States, and affirmed his offer of steady employment, both requirements to reenter the country.Before she worked at Florentine, she also got her first job at 16, working at Vancouver‘s Palomar, where it expanded from a ballroom to a nightclub in 1938. Her time at the nightclub ended when she allegedly was pressured to expose her breasts.. Seeking contract work in the movies, she abruptly quit the Florentine Gardens after less than a year, landing a role as a bathing beauty in the 1941 B-movie Harvard, Here I Come. Other roles were slow to follow, and De Carlo took a job in the chorus line of Earl Carroll, another Hollywood showman. Her sixth film appearance was at the request of Nils Granlund, and the film Rhythm Parade was set at the Florentine Gardens nightclub in Hollywood.In December 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor signaled America’s entrance into World War II. During this period she engaged in morale boosting performances for U.S. servicemen. De
arlo was a favorite leading lady in the 1940s, and a recipient of many letters from GI‘s.She was a Paramount starlet, but the studio apparently signed her mainly for her slight resemblance to Dorothy Lamour, as it was common then for studios to sign lookalikes in order to remind the stars in question that they easily could be replaced should their behavior become difficult or their box-office appeal begin to wane. When she moved to Universal Studios, she was utilized as a B-movie version of Maria Montez, one of the studio’s reigning divas.
Her break came in 1945 playing the title role in Salome, Where She Danced. Though not a critical success, it was a box office favorite, and De Carlo was hailed as an up-and-coming star. Of the role, she was less sure, saying of her entrance, “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.”In 1947 she played her first leading role in Slave Girl and then in 1949 had her biggest success. As the female lead opposite Burt Lancaster in Criss Cross, she played a femme fatale, and her career began to ascend. She starred in the 1953 film The Captain’s Paradise, as one of two wives a ship captain (Alec Guinness) keeps in separate ports. Cast in The Ten Commandments (1956) in a leading role as Sephora Moses‘ wife (a role originally chosen for Anne Baxter), De Carlo became part of a major hit. The 1957 film Band of Angels featured her opposite Clark Gable in an American Civil War story, along with Sidney Poitier and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. The actress worked steadily for the next several years, although many of the films failed to advance her career.
Prior to becoming a full-fledged moviestar, De Carlo also became a character actress, and made her debut on a 1952 episode of Lights Out. The part led to other roles in The Ford Television Theatre, Shower of Stars, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Bonanza, Screen Directors Playhouse, Playhouse 90, Burke’s Law, Follow the Sun (2 episodes), Adventures in Paradise, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Custer, The Name of the Game and The Virginian (2 episodes), among others.
The year 1964 was a rocky one for De Carlo, as she was deeply in debt. After having worked for over 30 years, her film career came to a sudden end, and she was suffering from depression. She signed a contract with Universal Studios after receiving an offer to perform the female lead role in The Munsters opposite Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster. She was also the producers’ choice to play Lily Munster when Joan Marshall, who played Phoebe, was dropped from consideration for the role. The short-lived cult sitcom also starred familiar actor Al Lewis as Lily’s father, Grandpa Munster, and new actors Beverley Owen/Pat Priest as Marilyn Munster and Butch Patrick as Eddie Munster.During its second season, ratings began to drop, due in part to the debut of Batman, which dominated the ratings, early in 1966. Later that year, De Carlo accepted an offer to reprise her role in a color Munster movie, Munster, Go Home! (1966), partially in hopes of renewing interest in the TV series. Despite the attempt, The Munsters was cancelled after only 72 episodes.When E! Online asked Butch Patrick if De Carlo didn’t mind playing Lily Munster, he thought, “She seemed to be all right with it,” he then said, “She seemed to have no problem with the Munster thing.” Patrick also said about his professional relationship with her on- the set, as well as off- the set as a friend, “She was sweet and kind, a good TV mother.” In the many years De Carlo has had a long career in movies, before she transferred to television, where she’d became a household word to millions of people, he said, “She had a big presence,” said Butch, “When she walked into a room, everybody knew it.” Compared to many Munsters fans or fans of Yvonne De Carlo’s, he wasn’t unaware of his mother’s past, the last thing he told us was, “My mom kind of told me what a big star she was.” After the series’ cancellation, both De Carlo & Patrick continued to be friends for over 4 decades until her death, but have never kept in touch of one another. In addition, Patrick was too old to reprise his Eddie Munster role in the reunion movie, The Munsters’ Revenge (1981), but was very busy working on other projects, before focusing on his own rock band, Eddie And The Monsters, which he founded, after the character he played, almost 2 decades ago. He got the chance to be reunited with De Carlo three times, once in 1994 on a daytime talk show, Vicki, and the following year in the movie Here Come the Munsters (1995). Marie (Yvonne’s real-life mother) death in 1993, followed by, Michael (Yvonne’s real-life son) death, 4 years later, in 1997, drew De Carlo & Patrick, very strongly, as Patrick was growing more concerned about his mentor’s losses, in retrospective years. His concerned escalated, when De Carlo herself was hospitalized with a stroke, in 1998, Patrick once said a prayer to her and was soon recovered. Just a few weeks before De Carlo’s death, Patrick was her caregiver for one last time at a nursing home, where he spent his Thanksgiving holiday, being right by her side. After De Carlo’s own death, Patrick was very devastated and was so close that he’d loved her so very much, and she taught him some valuable lessons, growing up.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Yvonne De Carlo was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6124 Hollywood Blvd. and a second star at 6715 Hollywood Blvd. for her contribution to television.
Trained in opera and a former chorister at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, when she was a child, De Carlo possessed a powerful contralto voice and released an LP of standards called Yvonne De Carlo Sings in 1957. This album was orchestrated by the movie composer John Williams. She sang and played the harp on at least one episode of The Munsters.From 1967 onward she became increasingly active in musicals, appearing in off-broadway productions of Pal Joey and Catch Me If You Can. In early 1968 she joined Donald O’Connor in a 15 week run of Little Me staged between Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas, performing 2 shows per night. But her defining stage role came with her big break on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies, which ran from February 1971 until July 1, 1972. As “Carlotta Campion” she introduced the song “I’m Still Here”, which would become an anthem of sorts. The show opened later in Los Angeles with the original Broadway cast on July 22, 1972, and closed 11 weeks later. She was the last lead female performer from the original production to die (having been predeceased by Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Ethel Shutta, Mary McCarty , and Fifi D’Orsay). DeCarlo received recognition for her work in various B-horror films and thrillers, such as The Power, The Seven Minutes, House of Shadows, Sorority House Murders, Cellar Dweller, The Man with Bogart’s Face, Mirror, Mirror, Blazing Stewardesses, and American Gothic.
De Carlo circa 1979.She also made a cameo a
ppearance on The Late Show which was hosted by comedian Ross Shafer in 1988, to talk about her own autobiography, she’d written Yvonne: An Autobiography in 1987.
De Carlo’s final appearance on the big-screen was as Aunt Rosa in the 1991 Sylvester Stallone comedy Oscar, directed by John Landis. De Carlo also appeared on the talk show, Vicki, hosted by her lifelong fan, Vicki Lawrence, on a special episode Sitcom Legends, along with Dawn Wells, Jamie Farr, Dick Sargent, Donna Douglas and former co-star Butch Patrick in 1994.She had a small cameo role on the Munsters TV movie remake Here Come the Munsters in 1995. Her last TV movie appearance was as Norma, in the 1995 Disney remake of The Barefoot Executive, opposite Eddie Albert.Her last TV interview appearance was on January 20, 2002, in a segment of Larry King Live which also featured Richard Hack, author of Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters.
- Yvonne: “Men, no matter what their promises, rarely leave their spouses… the louses.” (Source: Behind The Bedroom Doors of Famous Women)
- Yvonne on writing her own autobiography: “If I could, I’d change a lot of things because I’m not proud of everything I’ve done in my life. But to those people who helped me, and there were a lot, I say, thank you. They’re the reason I wrote this book.” (Source: USAToday.com)
- Yvonne on The Munsters: “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.” (Source: LATimes.com)
- Yvonne on using a car that would be perfect for The Munsters: “I thought it would be fun to drive around.” (Source: LATimes.com)
- Yvonne when Stephen Sondheim invited her to join the musical, Follies: “He wrote it for me, just for me!” (Source: Eonline.com)
- Yvonne when asked in 1972 about her affair with Howard Hughes before he turned into a legendary recluse: “Howard taught me how to land a plane and how to take off. But he never taught me anything about flying in between. He thought that I had learned the difficult parts, and that was enough.” (Source: LATimes.com)
- Yvonne on Howard Hughes‘s romance, after watching Salome Where She Danced (1945): “A man came over … he said ‘Mr. Hughes would like to meet you.’ Well, I was not too much aware of Mr. Hughes at the time — who he was or anything. So, I said, ‘Oh, yes, fine!’ And so, I looked and thought, ‘Wow, this would be a terrific boyfriend for my aunt.'” (Source: Eonline.com)
- Yvonne who told the media in 1971 about her stars, if she was really nervous about residing in New York City: “I’m from Hollywood, I’m too dumb to be nervous about New York.” (Source: Eonline.com)
- Yvonne: “I was on cloud nine all the time. After I made my hit in Salome, Universal sent me to New York so I could learn to be a proper movie star.” (Source: Eonline.com)
While starring in The Gal Who Took the West (1949), De Carlo not only walked away with the picture, but she walked away with Jock Mahoney, who was her boyfriend at the time. She and Jock were going to start a family, and in 1949, they were engaged. In her first trimester, she suffered a miscarriage, and her relationship with Jock was unsuccessful, hence, De Carlo called off the engagement.She was married to the stuntman Robert Morgan, whom she met on the set of Shotgun, from November 21, 1955 to June 1974, when they divorced. They had two sons, Bruce and Michael. Morgan also had a daughter, Bari, from a previous marriage. De Carlo was a naturalized citizen of the United States. In her autobiography, published in 1987, she listed 22 intimate friends, including Aly Khan, Billy Wilder, Burt Lancaster, Howard Hughes, Robert Stack and Robert Taylor.She received a phone call from Phoenix, Arizona that Morgan had been run over by a train, while doing stunt work on How the West Was Won (1962). A distraught De Carlo quickly went to the hospital to be by her husband’s side. The doctors did everything they could to fix her husband’s body. When his left leg was amputated, Morgan received a prosthetic leg after months of surgeries. However, his contract with MGM assumed no responsibility for the accident. De Carlo & Morgan filed a $1.4 million lawsuit against the studio, claiming her husband was permanently disabled.Her mother Marie died in 1993 from a fall. Her son Michael died in 1997; causes were unknown, although a Santa Barbara Police report contains concerns about possible foul play. De Carlo had a stroke the following year, but soon recovered.
Later, she moved to a home in the Black Lake Retirement Community, near Solvang, California, but in declining health, she then became a resident of the Motion Picture & Television Hospital, in Woodland Hills, California, where she spent her last years. Her son Bruce R. Morgan was Yvonne’s key caregiver during her last days. There, on January 8, 2007, she died of natural causes. A memorial service was held a few days later at The Woodland Hills MGM Theater, among those attending the service was television and film producer Kevin Burns. She is survived by her son, Bruce R. Morgan, who is filming ProjectLodestar, a film featuring a cameo appearance by De Carlo.
- I Look at You (1941)
- The Kink of the Campus (1941)
- The Lamp of Memory (1942)
- Fun Time (1944)
- Bonanza: A Rose For Lotta (1959) – Miss Lotta Crabtree
- The Greatest Show on Earth: The Night the Monkey Died (1964)
- The Munsters (1964–1966) – Lily Munster
- Custer (1 episode, 1967)
- The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974)
- The Mark of Zorro (1974)
- Roots (1977) (miniseries)
- The Munsters’ Revenge (1981)
- Murder, She Wrote: Jessica Behind Bars (1985) (guest star)
- A Masterpiece of Murder (1986)
- Tales From the Crypt (1995)
- Here Come the Munsters (1995) (cameo)
- The Barefoot Executive (1995)
- De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne: An Autobiography. USA: St Martins Press. ISBN 0312002173.
- Official website
- Yvonne De Carlo at the Internet Movie Database
- Yvonne De Carlo at the Internet Broadway Database
- Yvonne De Carlo at TV.com
- AP report at CNN.com (January 10 2007): “Yvonne De Carlo, ‘Munsters’ star, dead”
- Media Newswire press release: ‘Munsters’ Television Star Yvonne De Carlo Dies at 84
- Yvonne De Carlo in ‘Lamp Of Memory’ (1944, Soundie) at The Prelinger Archive
- “Yvonne de Carlo”. Obituary (Daily Telegraph). 12 January 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/news/2007/01/12/db1201.xml.
- Yvonne De Carlo at Find a Grave