Yvonne De Carlo

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Yvonne De Carlo
Yvonne De Carlo publicity photo.JPG
De Carlo c. 1955
Born Margaret Yvonne Middleton
(1922-09-01)September 1, 1922
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died January 8, 2007(2007-01-08) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death Heart failure[1]
Occupation Actress, singer, dancer
Years active 1941–1995
Notable work Sephora from Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956)
Spouse(s) Robert Drew Morgan (m. 1955; div. 1974)
Children Bruce Morgan (b. 1956)
Michael Morgan (1957–1997)
Parent(s) William Middleton (father)
Marie De Carlo (mother)
Musical career
Instruments Vocals
Labels 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 theater 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]

Yvonne De Carlo was born on September 1, 1922, in West Point Grey (now part of Vancouver), British Columbia, as Margaret Yvonne Middleton. She was generally known as "Peggy".[9] She was the only child of William Middleton, an Australian-born salesman,[10] and Marie DeCarlo (August 28, 1903 – December 19, 1993),[11] a French-born aspiring actress of Sicilian and Scottish origin.[12] Her mother had run away from home at 16 to become a ballerina. After several years of working as a shop girl, she married. Peggy [Yvonne] was three years old when her father abandoned the family. She then lived with her grandparents, Michele "Michael" de Carlo (c. 1873 – July 1, 1954),[13] who was born in Messina, Sicily,[14] and Margaret Purvis (December 30, 1874 – October 26, 1949),[15] who was born in Scotland.

When De Carlo was ten her mother enrolled her in the Jean Roper School of the Dance in Vancouver.[16]

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 they returned to Vancouver.[citation needed]


Entry into show business[edit]

De Carlo and her mother made several trips to Los Angeles until 1940, when she was first runner-up to "Miss Venice Beach." She also came in fifth in a 1940s Miss California competition.[17]

She was hired by showman Nils Granlund as a dancer at the Florentine Gardens.[18] She had been dancing for Granlund only a short time when she was arrested by immigration officials and deported to Canada,[19] but in January 1941, Granlund sent a telegram to 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

In May 1941, she appeared in a revue, Hollywood Revels. A critic from the Los Angeles Times reviewed it saying that the "dancing of Yvonne de Carlo is especially notable."[23] In December 1941, she was dancing in the revue "Glamour Over Hollywood" at Florentine Gardens.[24] Being a skilled horserider, she also appeared in a number of West Coast rodeos.[16]

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).[citation needed] She 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.[citation needed]

Paramount Pictures[edit]

De Carlo was spotted dancing at a Hollywood nightclub by a Paramount talent scout, who signed her to the studio as a back up Dorothy Lamour – what the New York Times later dubbed a "threat girl... for when Dotty wanted to break away from saronging."[25][26] She was kept busy in small roles and helping other actors shoot tests. "I was the test queen at Paramount," she said later.[16] But De Carlo was ambitious and wanted more. "I'm not going to be just one of the girls," she would say.[27]

Cecil B. DeMille saw de Carlo in So Proudly We Hail!, and arranged for her to be screen-tested and interviewed for the role of Tremartini in Cecil B. DeMille's The Story of Dr. Wassell (1943); it was announced she would play a key role.[28][29] She wasn't cast in the end, but DeMille promised to "make it up" to her on another film "in the future."[25]

De Carlo was set to replace Dorothy Lamour in Rainbow Island, but Lamour changed her mind about playing the role.[27] De Carlo was given a bit part in the final movie.

Salome, Where She Danced[edit]

De Carlo in Salome, Where She Danced (1945)

De Carlo received her big break in September 1944 when she was chosen over a reported 20,000 girls to play the lead role in Salome, Where She Danced (1945), a Walter Wanger production in Technicolor.[4][30] Wanger would later claim he discovered De Carlo when looking at footage for another actor in which De Carlo also happened to appear.[31]

Another source says 21 Royal Canadian Air Force bombardier students who loved her as a pinup star campaigned to get her the role.[32] De Carlo later said this was done at her behest; she took several pictures of herself in a revealing costume and got two childhood friends from Vancouver, Reginald Reid and Kenneth Ross McKenzie, who had become pilots, to arrange their friends to lobby on her behalf.[16]

Though not a critical success, it was a box office favorite, and the heavily-promoted De Carlo was hailed as an up-and-coming star. In his review for the film, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote:

"Miss De Carlo has an agreeable contralto 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."[33]


Salome was released by Universal who signed de Carlo to a long-term contract. She was used by the studio as a backup star to Maria Montez, and indeed stepped into a role rejected by Montez when she starred in Frontier Gal.[27] In 1946, exhibitors voted her the ninth-most promising "star of tomorrow."[34]

She followed this up with Song of Scheherazade (1947) and Slave Girl, which, like her previous two movies for Universal, was in Technicolor. These two were box office disappointments.[citation needed]

De Carlo in the trailer for Criss Cross (1949)

De Carlo wanted to act in different types of movies and was given a small role in Brute Force. She was then 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] De Carlo reportedly considered the role the highlight of her career to date.[35]

However, Universal preferred to cast De Carlo in more conventional fare – Black Bart (1948), Casbah (1948) and River Lady (1948). She made three movies in 1949 and 1950, The Gal Who Took the West, Buccaneer's Girl and The Desert Hawk, all directed by Frederick de Cordova.

While in England making Hotel Sahara in early 1951, she asked Universal for a release of her contract although she still had three months to go; the studio agreed.[36] After that, she signed to make one film a year for Universal for three years, but actually did not return to the studio until 1955.[37]


Clark Gable and Yvonne De Carlo in Band of Angels, 1957

De Carlo travelled extensively to promote her films, and her appearances were widely publicised. In 1951 she became the first American star to visit Israel.[38]

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 order to expand her appeal she began frequently singing on television and trained in opera. In 1951, she was cast in the role of Prince Orlovsky in a production of the opera Die Fledermaus at the Hollywood Bowl.[39]

A number of western films cast her in starring roles, among them Tomahawk (1951), Silver City (1951), Border River (1954), Passion (1954) and Raw Edge (1956).

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]

In 1954, after the success of The Captain's Paradise, she expressed a desire to do more comedy:

"I've had my share of sirens and am happy to get away from them, no matter what the part. Just to look pretty on the screen as a romantic lead is probably all right, but – so what? I'd much rather do something in a good Western provided there's plenty of action. Action is what I like."[40]

The Ten Commandments and last notable film roles[edit]

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

In September 1954,[41] 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.[42] Months before filming began, she had worked on the part with a drama coach.[43] Her performance was well received by film critics, described as "notably good" by Bosley Crowther.[44] 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."[45]

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 the character (originally called "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.'"[46] She sang and played the harp in 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."[47] 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."[48]

Butch Patrick who played Eddie Munster said in a 2013 interview with Rockcellar magazine: "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."[49]

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] Playing a washed-up star at a reunion of old theater colleagues, she introduced the song "I'm Still Here," which would become well-known.

She had a small cameo role in a television film remake of The Munsters, 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's name was linked with a number of people through her career, including Howard Hughes[1] and Robert Stack. In 1947 she announced her engagement to Howard Duff,[50] but it did not last.

In 1954 she told a journalist:

"I think it is wonderful to work. I dedicate more time now than ever to study. I really like to delve deeply into the characters and the stories in order to make the most of each part I play. It seems best to remain free of any serious romantic attachments under these circumstances. I will have to meet an exceptional and understanding person, indeed, before I think of marriage. I haven't met such a person yet."[40]

De Carlo married stuntman Robert Drew Morgan,[51] 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 had a daughter, Bari Lee (b. 1947), from a previous marriage.[52]

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.[citation needed] DeCarlo's mother died in 1993 from a fall. Her younger son Michael died in 1997.[citation needed]

De Carlo was a naturalized citizen of the United States. De Carlo was a Republican who campaigned for Richard Nixon,[53] Ronald Reagan,[54] and Gerald Ford.[55]


De Carlo suffered a minor stroke in 1998. She later became a resident of the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, in Woodland Hills, where she spent her last years. She eventually died from heart failure on January 8, 2007, and was cremated.[1]

Awards and honors[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang (January 11, 2007). "Yvonne De Carlo Dies at 84; Played Lily on 'Munsters'". The New York Times. p. B6. 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). Encyclopædia 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. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312002176. 
  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 death certificate states her mother's birthplace as France.
  13. ^ "Michael Decarlo, "British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986"". FamilySearch. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Michele De Carlo mentioned in the record of Kenneth Ross McKenzie and Constance Marguerite Anna Decarlo". FamilySearch. Retrieved August 6, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Margaret Decarlo - British Columbia Death Registrations". FamilySearch. Retrieved August 6, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d "The Unveiling of Yvonne (Salome) De Carlo: Herewith Some Early Film Entries in the Easter Week Sweepstakes" by Thomas M. Pryor. New York Times 25 March 1945: X3.
  17. ^ "Schoolgirl, 17 and Blond, Chosen as Miss California: Crowd of 100,000 Sees Parade of 50 Beauties as Venice Brings Four-Day Mardi Gras to Close" Los Angeles Times 12 August 1940: A1.
  18. ^ Hoefling, Larry J. (2008). Nils Thor Granlund: Show Business Entrepreneur and America's First Radio Star. Oklahoma: Inlandia Press. pp. 178–181. ISBN 978-0-7864-4849-4. Retrieved 29 December 2015. 
  19. ^ De Carlo and Warren, p. 12.
  20. ^ Hoefling, p. 182.
  21. ^ De Carlo and Warren, p. 60.
  22. ^ "Yvonne DeCarlo: Gilded Lily". Biography (July 18, 2000).
  23. ^ "Bright Bill at Orpheum" Kingsley, Grace. Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1941, pg. 12.
  24. ^ "Travel: Taxco Basks in Grandeur and Beauty of Early Days" Los Angeles Times, December 28, 1941, pg. C4.
  25. ^ a b Orrison, Katherine (1999). Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic The Ten Commandments. Vestal Press. pp. 109–114. ISBN 9781461734819. 
  26. ^ Graham, Sheilah (September 24, 1949). "Yvonne DeCarlo, Technicolor Queen". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b c "Yvonne De Carlo Stands Out Again as 'Threat Girl': Carroll Cutie Has Spotlight in Sarong Set Yvonne De Carlo Causes Concern in Sarong Circles" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1945, pg. B1.
  28. ^ "Drama: 'Cousin' Rewrite Set; Hubbard Joining Cast" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1943, pg. A8.
  29. ^ "Drama and Film: Gladys George Named Bankhead Successor Edward Small Plans Picture Glorifying Famous Maternity Center in Chicago" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times, July 3,1943, pg. 8.
  30. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Guild Player Deemed Fit Valentino Double: David Bruce Wins Acting Opportunity in Wanger's Film Drama, Salome" Los Angeles Times, Spetemner 19, 1944, pg. A8.
  31. ^ "Hollywood Memoranda: Noted in Hollywood", New York Times, September 24, 1944, pg. X1.
  32. ^ "From Pinup to Star!", Chicago Daily Tribune, November 12, 1944, pg. D5.
  33. ^ 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. 
  34. ^ "The Stars of To-morrow". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. September 10, 1946. p. 11. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  35. ^ Strong, E J., "Yvonne De Carlo May Brave Suspension, So She Can Return to Troops: GI's Show Needs Told by Actress", Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1948, pg. D1.
  36. ^ Brady, Thomas F. "Paramount Buys Two New Stories: Giler Melodrama and Clark Adventure Acquired by Studio --Jean Arthur Gets Role", New York Times, January 30, 1951, pg. 21.
  37. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "New Contract to Let Yvonne Travel: Looking at Hollywood", Chicago Daily Tribune, March 7, 1951, pg. A-14.
  38. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo Admits Serious Loves, but Chooses to Keep Them Mysterious" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 22 June 1952: D1.
  39. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo Pins Hopes for Future on Switch to Dramatic and Singing Roles" Schuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 27 May 1951: D1.
  40. ^ a b "Yvonne's Persistence Making Believers of Her Critics" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 2 May 1954: E1.
  41. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo yesterday was cast by Cecil B. DeMille in the role of Sephora, Jethro's daughter and the shepherd girl who married Moses, in The Ten Commandments". Variety. September 15, 1954. 
  42. ^ Orrison 1999, p. 113.
  43. ^ "Hard Work Pays Off For Yvonne". The Deseret News. July 18, 1958. Retrieved October 16, 2014. 
  44. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 9, 1956). "Movie Review: The Ten Commandments". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  45. ^ DeMille, Cecil Blount (1959). The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. Prentice-Hall. p. 416. 
  46. ^ "The Day – Google News Archive". News.google.com. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  47. ^ a b Johnson, Erskine (April 24, 1966). "Monstrous Mayor". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  48. ^ Oricchio, Michael (May 30, 1987). "Yvonne DeCarlo Enjoys 'Munsters' Rebirth". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  49. ^ "Eddie Munster Grows Up – Interview with Butch Patrick |". Rockcellarmagazine.com. 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2016-06-21. 
  50. ^ "Screen Lovers to Be Married" Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1947, pg. 7.
  51. ^ Profile, time.com; accessed June 21, 2016.
  52. ^ Profile, genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com; accessed June 21, 2016.
  53. ^ Christy, Marian (July 12, 1972). "Yvonne DeCarlo A Star Reborn". Reading Eagle. United Feature Syndicate. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  54. ^ "Southland Observations: There's No Business Like Politics" Kerby, Phil. Los Angeles Times, August 12, 1976, pg. D1.
  55. ^ Schwartzenberg, Roger-Gérard (1980). The Superstar Show of Government. Barron's Educational Series. p. 128. ISBN 9780812052589. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  56. ^ a b "Boxoffice Magazine (February 28, 1966) – Blue Ribbon Honor Roll Call, pg. 154.". BoxOffice. 
  57. ^ "Yvonne De Carlo - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  58. ^ "America's Greatest Legends – A compendium of the 500 stars nominated for top 50 "Greatest Screen Legends" status." (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 


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