Yvonne De Carlo

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Yvonne De Carlo
De-carlo-jewels opt.jpg
Born Margaret Yvonne Middleton
(1922-09-01)September 1, 1922
West Point Grey, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died January 8, 2007(2007-01-08) (aged 84)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death
Heart failure[1]
Resting place
Occupation Actress, singer, dancer
Years active 1941–1995
Spouse(s) Robert Drew Morgan
(m. 1955–1968; divorced)
Children Bari Lee Morgan (b. 1947)
Bruce Ross Morgan (b. 1956)
Michael Morgan (1957–1997)
Musical career
Instruments Vocals
  • Masterseal

Yvonne De Carlo (born Margaret Yvonne Middleton; September 1, 1922 – January 8, 2007) was a Canadian American actress, singer, and dancer whose career in film, television, and musical theatre spanned six decades.

She obtained her breakthrough role in Salome, Where She Danced (1945), produced by Walter Wanger, who described her as "the most beautiful girl in the world."[2][3][4] Success followed in films such as Criss Cross (1949) and The Captain's Paradise (1953).[5][6] Her film career reached its peak when director Cecil B. DeMille cast her as Sephora, the wife of Moses, her most prominent role, in his biblical epic The Ten Commandments (1956).[7]

After her lead performance in Band of Angels (1957) and supporting role in McLintock! (1963), she played Lily Munster, the wife of Herman Munster, in the CBS sitcom The Munsters (1964-1966).[8]

Early life[edit]

Margaret Yvonne Middleton was born in West Point Grey (now part of Vancouver), British Columbia, in 1922.[9] She was the only daughter of William Middleton, an Australian-born salesman,[10] and Marie DeCarlo (August 28, 1903 – December 19, 1993),[11] a French-born aspiring actress.[12] Her mother ran away from home when she was 16 to become a ballerina; after several years working as a shop girl, she married in 1924. De Carlo was three years old when her father abandoned the family. She then lived with her grandparents, Italian-born Michael DeCarlo (born Michele; c. 1873 – July 1, 1954)[13] and Scottish-born Margaret Purvis. By the time she entered grade school she found her strong singing voice brought her the attention she longed for. De Carlo was taken to Hollywood, where her mother enrolled her in dancing school. Mother and daughter were uprooted when their visas expired and ultimately returned to Vancouver.

De Carlo pair made several trips to Los Angeles until 1940, when she was first runner-up to "Miss Venice Beach" and was hired by showman Nils Granlund as a dancer at the Florentine Gardens.[14] She had been dancing for Granlund only a short time when she was arrested by immigration officials and deported to Canada,[15] but in January 1941, Granlund sent a telegram to US immigration officials pledging his sponsorship of De Carlo in the U.S., and affirmed his offer of steady employment, both requirements to reenter the country.[16] 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 Harvard, Here I Come.[17] Other roles were slow to follow, and De Carlo took a job in the chorus line of Earl Carroll. During World War II she performed for U.S. servicemen and received many letters from GIs.[citation needed]



De Carlo in the trailer for Criss Cross (1949)

De Carlo was a Paramount starlet, but the studio signed her due to her resemblance to Dorothy Lamour.[citation needed] When she moved to Universal Studios, she was used as a B-movie version of Maria Montez, one of the studio's reigning divas.[citation needed] De Carlo's 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. In 1946 exhibitors voted her the ninth-most promising "star of tomorrow".[18] In 1947 she played her first leading role in Slave Girl. In 1949 she was cast opposite Burt Lancaster in Criss Cross and her career began its ascension. She starred in the 1953 film The Captain's Paradise, as one of two wives a ship captain (Alec Guinness) keeps in separate ports.

De Carlo as she appeared in The Ten Commandments (1956)

In 1954, during the casting for The Ten Commandments (1956), In his autobiography, DeMille describes why he decided to cast De Carlo as Moses' wife: "I cast Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora, the wife of Moses, after our casting director, Bert McKay called my attention to one scene she played in Sombrero, which was a picture far removed in theme from The Ten Commandments, I sensed in her a depth, an emotional power, a womanly strength which the part of Sephora needed and which she gave it."[19] De Carlo later appeared in Band of Angels and McLintock!.


De Carlo was also a successful character actress on television. 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, Burke's Law, Follow the Sun (2 episodes), Adventures in Paradise, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Name of the Game and The Virginian among others.

De Carlo was in debt by 1964 when she signed a contract with Universal Studios to perform the female lead role in The Munsters opposite Fred Gwynne. She was also the producers' choice to play Lily Munster when Joan Marshall, who played Phoebe, was dropped from consideration for the role. When De Carlo was asked how a glamorous actress could succeed as a ghoulish matriarch of a haunted house, she replied simply, "I follow the directions I received on the first day of shooting: 'Play her just like Donna Reed.'[20] After the show's cancellation, De Carlo reprised the role as Lily Munster in the tecnicolor Munster movie, Munster, Go Home!, partially in hopes of renewing interest in the TV series. Despite the attempt, The Munsters was cancelled after 72 episodes.

Opera and musical theatre[edit]

De Carlo with Clark Gable in Band of Angels (1957)

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. In 1951 she was cast in the role of Prince Orlovsky in a production of the opera Die Fledermaus at the Hollywood Bowl. De Carlo 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.

After 1967 De Carlo 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.[9] Her defining stage role was as "Carlotta Campion" in Stephen Sondheim's musical, Follies in 1971-1972.[9]

De Carlo 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 television movie remake Here Come the Munsters in 1995. Her final movie appearance was as Norma, in the 1995 Disney remake of The Barefoot Executive. Her last television 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.


De Carlo suffered a minor stroke in 1998. She later became a resident of the Motion Picture & Television Hospital, in Woodland Hills, where she spent her last years. De Carlo died of natural causes on January 8, 2007. Her remains were cremated.[21]

Personal life[edit]

De Carlo circa 1979

De Carlo married stuntman Robert Drew Morgan,[22] whom she met on the set of Shotgun, on November 21, 1955. They had two sons, Bruce Ross (b. 1956) and Michael (1957-1997). Morgan also had a daughter, Bari Lee (b. 1947), from a previous marriage.[23] Morgan lost his left leg after being run over by a train while filming How the West Was Won (1962). However, his contract with MGM assumed no responsibility for the accident. De Carlo and Morgan filed a $1.4 million lawsuit against the studio, claiming her husband was permanently disabled. They divorced in June 1974.

Her mother 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 was a naturalized citizen of the United States. She was an active Republican and campaigned for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon during their presidential elections.[24] She educated herself in conservative grassroot politics and was later elected the Honorary Mayor of North Hollywood in 1969.[24]

Awards and honors[edit]



  1. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (January 11, 2007). "Yvonne De Carlo, Who Played Lily on 'The Munsters,' Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  2. ^ ""Most Beautiful Girl" Discovered". Spokane Daily Chronicle. September 18, 1944. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Cohen, Harold V. (May 7, 1945). ""Salome, Where She Danced" Comes to Harris". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo Chosen for Role Over '20,000 Beautiful Girls'". The Montreal Gazette. July 25, 1945. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "Movie Review: Criss Cross (1948) Burt Lancaster Same Old Tough Guy". The New York Times. March 12, 1949. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (September 29, 1953). "Captain's Paradise (1953) The Screen: New British Comedy Arrives; Alec Guinness Keeps Two Wives Happy in 'The Captain's Paradise' at Paris But Yvonne De Carlo and Celia Johnson Finally Cause the Downfall of Skipper". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Jacob Sparks, Karen (2008). Encyclopedia Britannica. p. 123. ISBN 9781593394257. 
  8. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo Is The Mama In a Nice Monster Family". St. Petersburg Times. June 23, 1964. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne: An Autobiography. St Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-00217-3. 
  10. ^ Willett, Bob (November 13, 1954). "Slave Girl Wants Freedom: Tired of playing exotic sirens, Canada's lovely Yvonne De Carlo seeks more serious film roles". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Marie Decarlo Middleton, "California, Death Index, 1940-1997"". FamilySearch. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Yvonne De Carlo's official death certificate states her mother's birthplace as France.
  13. ^ "Michael Decarlo, "British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986"". FamilySearch. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Nils Thor Granlund: The Swedish Showman Who Invented American Entertainment; Hoefling, Larry J.; Inlandia Press, OK, 2008, p. 259
  15. ^ De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne: An Autobiography. USA: St Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-00217-3.  p. 12
  16. ^ Nils Thor Granlund: The Swedish Showman Who Invented American Entertainment; Hoefling, Larry J.; Inlandia Press, OK, 2008, p. 262
  17. ^ Yvonne: An Autobiography; De Carlo, Yvonne & Warren, Doug; St. Martins Press (1987), p. 60
  18. ^ "The Stars of To-morrow.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 10 September 1946. p. 11 Supplement: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  19. ^ DeMille, Cecil Blount (1959). The autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. Prentice-Hall. p. 416. 
  20. ^ "The Day - Google News Archive". News.google.com. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  21. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo (1922 - 2007) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  22. ^ Time Magazine
  23. ^ Genealogy
  24. ^ a b Christy, Marian (July 12, 1972). "Yvonne De Carlo: A Star Reborn". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  25. ^ a b "Boxoffice Magazine (February 28, 1966) - Blue Ribbon Honor Roll Call, pg. 154.". BoxOffice. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas, Nick (2011). Raised by the Stars: Interviews with 29 Children of Hollywood Actors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6403-6.  (Includes an interview with De Carlo's son, Bruce Morgan)

External links[edit]