Yvonne De Carlo

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Yvonne De Carlo
De-carlo-jewels opt.jpg
Publicity photo, c. 1955
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
(married 1955–1974)
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 on September 1, 1922, in West Point Grey (now part of Vancouver), British Columbia.[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.[18]


First appearances and breakthrough[edit]

De Carlo in the trailer for Criss Cross (1949)

De Carlo's earliest screen appearances were in Columbia Pictures, including the feature Harvard, Here I Come! (1941) and the two-reeler comedy Kink of the Campus (1942). She also sang and danced in a three-minute Soundies musical, The Lamp of Memory (1942), shown in coin-operated movie jukeboxes, and later released for 16mm home movie showings and television by Official Films. She also appeared as a Native American "princess" in an independently produced version of The Deerslayer released in 1943 by Republic Pictures.

De Carlo was a Paramount starlet, but the studio signed her due to her resemblance to Dorothy Lamour.[19][20] She was screen-tested and interviewed for the role of Tremartini in Cecil B. DeMille's The Story of Dr. Wassell (1943); she wasn't cast in the role but DeMille promised to "make it up" to her on another film "in the future."[19]

De Carlo was chosen over 20,000 girls to play the lead role in Salome, Where She Danced (1945), a Walter Wanger production in Technicolor.[4] Though not a critical success, it was a box office favorite, and De Carlo was hailed as an up-and-coming star. In his review for the film, Bosley Crowther of the The New York Times wrote:

Miss De Carlo has an agreeable mezzo-soprano singing voice, all the 'looks' one girl could ask for, and, moreover, she dances with a sensuousness which must have caused the Hays office some anguish. The script, however, does not give her much chance to prove her acting talents.[21]

In 1946, exhibitors voted her the ninth-most promising "star of tomorrow."[22] She was cast in her first important role opposite Burt Lancaster in the film noir Criss Cross (1949). Bosley Crowther noted that De Carlo is "trying something different as Anna. The change is welcome, even though Miss de Carlo's performance is uneven. In that respect, she is right in step with most everything else about Criss Cross."[5]

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 was also a successful character actress on television. She 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.

She starred in the British comedy The Captain's Paradise (1953), as one of two wives a ship captain (played by Alec Guinness) keeps in separate ports. Crowther described her in the film as "wonderfully candid and suggestive of the hausfrau in every dame."[6]

The Ten Commandments and last notable film roles[edit]

De Carlo in the trailer for The Ten Commandments (1956)

In 1954, director Cecil B. DeMille cast her as Sephora, the wife of Moses (played by Charlton Heston), in his biblical epic The Ten Commandments (1956). She prepared extensively for the role, taking weaving lessons at the University of California, Los Angeles and shepherding lessons in the San Fernando Valley.[23] Months before filming began, she had worked on the part with a drama coach.[24] Her performance was well received by film critics, described as "notably good" by Bosley Crowther.[25] In his autobiography, DeMille explained 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.[26]

De Carlo released an LP record of standards called Yvonne De Carlo Sings on Masterseal Records in 1957. This album was orchestrated by future film composer John Williams under the pseudonym "John Towner."

Her last notable screen appearances were in the Civil War drama Band of Angels (1957), with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier; the Italian biblical epic The Sword and the Cross (1958), with Jorge Mistral and Rossana Podestà; and the western comedy McLintock! (1963), with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

The Munsters and last appearances[edit]

Publicity photo of De Carlo as Lily Munster

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.'"[27] She sang and played the harp on at least one episode ("Far Out Munsters") of The Munsters. After the show's cancellation, De Carlo reprised the role as Lily Munster in the Technicolor film Munster, Go Home! (1966), partially in hopes of renewing interest in the sitcom. Despite the attempt, The Munsters was cancelled after 70 episodes. Of the sitcom and its cast and crew, she said: "It was a happy show with audience appeal for both children and adults. It was a happy show behind the scenes, too; we all enjoy working with each other."[28] Years later, in 1987, she said: "I think Yvonne De Carlo was more famous than Lily, but I gained the younger audience through The Munsters. And it was a steady job."[29]

Butch Patrick who played De Carlo's younger werewolf son, Eddie Munster, in all the episodes said in a 2013 interview with Rockcellar Magazine, who (along with De Carlo herself) weren't playing their own original roles in the Munster pilot was: "I don’t know why Happy Derman didn’t work out. I was living in the Midwest with my grandmother and going to parochial school in the fifth grade. I got a call that there was going to be a screen test on the West Coast and told to get on a plane. I met with Yvonne DeCarlo, who replaced Joan Marshall, the actress in the pilot. They changed the character name from 'Phoebe' to 'Lily' and Happy Derman was out and I was in and cast as “Eddie Munster” on The Munsters. I was told Eddie was just a regular ten-year-old kid living in this spooky house with his family. On paper it looked strange but once you got onto the set and saw the soundstage you kind of understood what was going on." He also added about his relationship with Ms. De Carlo: "Yvonne would be a maternal influence. She’d be a mom because my mom wasn’t around so she’d be a matriarch, not only on the show but when I’d see her outside of the makeup on Mondays and Tuesdays. Once in a while she’d bring her kids down to the set."[30]

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]

She had a small cameo role on The Munsters television film remake Here Come the Munsters in 1995. Her final film appearance was in the 1995 television film The Barefoot Executive, a Disney Channel remake of the 1971 film of the same name.

Personal life[edit]

De Carlo circa 1979

De Carlo married stuntman Robert Drew Morgan,[31] 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.[32] 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.


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.[33]

Awards and honors[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (January 11, 2007). "Yvonne De Carlo, Who Played Lily on 'The Munsters,' Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ ""Most Beautiful Girl" Discovered". Spokane Daily Chronicle. September 18, 1944. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ Cohen, Harold V. (May 7, 1945). ""Salome, Where She Danced" Comes to Harris". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Yvonne De Carlo Chosen for Role Over '20,000 Beautiful Girls'". The Montreal Gazette. July 25, 1945. Retrieved March 25, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Movie Review: Criss Cross (1948) Burt Lancaster Same Old Tough Guy". The New York Times. March 12, 1949. Retrieved March 25, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b 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 March 25, 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 April 9, 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 April 9, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Marie Decarlo Middleton, "California, Death Index, 1940-1997"". FamilySearch. Retrieved April 9, 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 April 9, 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. ^ "Yvonne DeCarlo: Gilded Lily". Biography. July 18, 2000. A&E.
  19. ^ a b Orrison, Katherine (1999). Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic The Ten Commandments. Vestal Press. pp. 109–114. ISBN 9781461734819. 
  20. ^ Graham, Sheilah (September 24, 1949). "Yvonne DeCarlo, Technicolor Queen". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  21. ^ Crowther, Bosley (May 3, 1945). "Salome Where She Danced (1945) The Screen; 'Rose's Diamond Horseshoe,' With Betty Grable, at Roxy-- 'Salome, Where She Danced,' Is Newcomer of the Criterion At Loew's". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  22. ^ "The Stars of To-morrow.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). September 10, 1946. p. 11 Supplement: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  23. ^ Orrison 1999, p. 113.
  24. ^ "Hard Work Pays Off For Yvonne". The Deseret News. July 18, 1958. Retrieved October 16, 2014. 
  25. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 9, 1956). "Movie Review: The Ten Commandments". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  26. ^ DeMille, Cecil Blount (1959). The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. Prentice-Hall. p. 416. 
  27. ^ "The Day - Google News Archive". News.google.com. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  28. ^ a b Johnson, Erskine (April 24, 1966). "Monstrous Mayor". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  29. ^ Oricchio, Michael (May 30, 1987). "Yvonne DeCarlo Enjoys 'Munsters' Rebirth". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  30. ^ http://www.rockcellarmagazine.com/2013/08/02/eddie-munster-grows-up-interview-butch-patrick/#sthash.Bxsc2jMV.dpuf
  31. ^ Time Magazine
  32. ^ Genealogy
  33. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo (1922 - 2007) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  34. ^ a b "Boxoffice Magazine (February 28, 1966) - Blue Ribbon Honor Roll Call, pg. 154.". BoxOffice. 
  35. ^ "America's Greatest Legends - A compendium of the 500 stars nominated for top 50 "Greatest Screen Legends" status.". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 

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