Actress Yvonne De Carlo Passes
Lily Munster, Classic Films
Actress Yvonne De Carlo, whose theater, film and television career spanned more than 50 years, died Monday, January 8. De Carlo, who had been living at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, was 84.
Although she appeared in numerous feature films, including a starring role opposite Charlton Heston as Moses’ wife Sephora in Cecil B. De Mille’s The Ten Commandments, De Carlo is perhaps best known as Lily, matriarch of the endearing horror-show household in the 1960s television series The Munsters.
The series ran just two seasons, but thanks to decades of reruns and movie and television spinoffs, it attained pop-culture omnipresence.
Born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, British Columbia, she moved with her waitress mother to Los Angeles after her father deserted the family.
Driven to succeed in show business, she studied dance and acting, and eventually adopted the surname Yvonne and her mother’s maiden name, De Carlo, as her stage moniker.
In California, she began dancing in clubs at night while pursuing movie work by day. She began her film career with uncredited appearances and eventually began to land larger roles.
Her breakthrough came with a starring role in 1945 with the Western Salome, Where She Danced, in which she played a European seductress. Her alluring persona in the otherwise unremarkable film led to roles opposite some of the era’s most popular leading men.
These included Brian Donlevy and Jean Pierre Aumont in Song of Scheherazade; Tony Martin in Casbah; Burt Lancaster in Criss Cross; Van Heflin in Tomahawk; Joel McCrea in The San Francisco Story; Ricardo Montalban in Sombrero; Rock Hudson in Sea Devils; David Niven in Tonight’s the Night; Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in Band of Angels; and, of course, Heston in The Ten Commandments. In all, she appeared in more than 100 movies during her career.
After The Munsters ended De Carlo sometimes pursued theater work, including the 1971 Broadway production of Steven Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies.
De Carlo, who was once linked romantically to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, married actor-stuntman Robert Morgan in 1955; they divorced in 1968. She is survived by their son, Bruce Morgan, and a stepdaughter, Bari Morgan. Another son, Michael, died earlier.