Do you remember Lily Munster? What about Sephora from The Ten Commandments? Maybe you also fondly remember Aunt Rosa from the 1991 film Oscar? The talent behind these great characters was Yvonne De Carlo.
But do you know about Yvonne De Carlo’s humble beginnings and how she became a film star? While we remember her for the fascinating characters she played as well as her earlier career as a dancer, she had to struggle to get to that point.
Yvonne De Carlo’s life was incredible and her story is one that you won’t forget about anytime soon.
Join FactsVerse to learn about Yvonne De Carlo’s incredible life and legacy and the tragic accident that stopped her career…
Margaret Yvonne Middleton was born on September 1st, 1922, in Vancouver, Canada. Her mother was Marie De Carlo and her father was William Middleton.
Her parents’ marriage troubled and William eventually left Marie to raise little Margaret on her own. Marie De Carlo enrolled Margaret into dance classes at a young age. Marie loved show business and even gave Margaret the nickname ‘Peggy’ after the child actress ‘Baby Peggy.’
Margaret’s childhood wasn’t the easiest. She and her mother moved from one apartment to the next and lived off her mother’s small salary from various odd jobs. In her spare time, Margaret took her dance classes seriously – hoping to earn a great living from it when she grew up.
In addition to her dancing, she also decided to take up writing. She won a prize for publishing a poem called “A Little Boy” in the Vancouver Sun. Yvonne also joined her church’s choir to improve her singing skills. She was on her way to becoming a multi-faceted entertainer.
Margaret later also became interested in modeling, and this would eventually lead into acting.
Beginning in the early 1940s, she began traveling to the United States where she would eventually settle. She decided to pursue a career in Hollywood – hoping to find work as a dancer in the ever-popular musicals that dominated the industry at the time.
In 1940, she won 2nd place in the Miss Venice Beauty Contest. After winning this competition, she approached by a talent agent who recommended that she audition for a chorus girl at the Earl Carrol Theatre. She went for the audition but declined to pursue it further after she told that her midriff would have to be examined first! Naturally, she wanted to known for her talents and not just her beauty.
However, she soon met the showbusiness entrepreneur Nils Granlund who helped her find work as a dancer in nightclubs and stage shows. She was getting regular work as a dancer and was earning a decent amount of money.
But her ambitions were even higher than this. She wanted to become an actress. Hollywood beckoning and she determined to become a star.
Before we tell you more about Yvonne De Carlo’s life and career and why she forced to give up acting, please like this video and subscribe to Facts Verse for more interesting stories about pop culture and your favorite celebrities. Now, back to the video…
As she was becoming a popular dancer, Margaret decided to adopt a professional name. She used her middle name and her mother’s maiden name to transform into Yvonne De Carlo.
She began her film career in 1941, when she had an uncredited role as a ‘Bathing Girl’ in Harvard, Here I Come! This followed by a slew of roles where she appeared as an extra or in a dancing role in feature films. These roles often went uncredited and at times, her scenes even deleted from the final film.
Her first major role was in the 1943 film The Deerslayer. She played Princess Wah-Tah in this film alongside stars Bruce Kellogg, Jean Parker, and Larry Parks. Yvonne got a lot of attention in this ensemble and the offers to appear in more films began pouring in.
She later gained prominence with the lead role in the film Salome, released in 1945. Yvonne then appeared in a slew of popular films produced by Universal Pictures. As the 1940s progressed, Yvonne De Carlo was becoming a successful actress!
Not only was she becoming a recognized talent but her beauty was unparalleled. In other words, Yvonne De Carlo was becoming a movie star!
Her notable acting roles in the 1950s included work in films such as:
- The San Francisco Story
- Scarlet Angel
- Hurricane Smith
- The Captain’s Paradise
- Fort Algiers
- Border River
- The Contessa’s Secret
- Flame of the Islands
- The Ten Commandments
- Timbuktu, and the Italian film
- La spada e la croca
Her film career continued well into the 1960s. While film was the main focus of her career, thus far, she also had a few notable TV appearances. One of her most well known TV roles was in a 1959 episode of Bonanza entitled ‘A Rose for Lotta.’ She played the wealthy lady Loretta Crabtree. She was a huge star by this point so it was a big deal for the Bonanza cast to work alongside her.
In the early 1960s, she had a major role in the Western film McLintock! alongside John Wayne. However, her best known role was just around the corner….
MEET LILY MUNSTER
While the 1960s might have seemed like it would be a continuation of Yvonne’s great career, the decade started on a low note for her. Her husband Bob Morgan, a stuntman, was severely injured performing a stunt for the film How the West Was Won.
He was crushed by falling logs from flatcars. This left him permanently disabled and caused Yvonne to become the breadwinner for the family. She and her husband had a troubled relationship following his accident and they divorced in the early 1970s – though their marriage was strained throughout the 1960s.
Yvonne’s life was strained and, now in her forties, wasn’t receiving the same level of film offers as before.
However, this changed when she was offered the role of a lifetime. While she had some experience in television, it wasn’t the medium that best exploited her talents.
That is, until she was offered the role as Lily Munster. In The Munsters, she played the matriarch of the Munster family – a seemingly ordinary family that looked like some of the most famous horror characters in history.
This TV show made Yvonne De Carlo into a TV star and introduced her to a new legion of fans. For many fans, this is the role that defined her career and permanently solidified her fame. She was grateful to her role in the show as it revived her career and she loved the attention she got from new fans.
The show only ran for 2 years and had a total of 71 episodes. Yet, The Munsters became one of the most popular TV sitcoms of all time. It remains a classic today and if you say the name ‘Yvonne De Carlo’ many people will immediately picture Lily Munster.
Yvonne De Carlo often discussed the show in her interviews and would make appearances at conventions to meet fans. It was a career revival for her and she continued to get a slew of film and TV offers following her work on the show.
During the early part of her career, she was the beauty – often dubbed as ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ who fans loved watching on screen. In the second half of her career, she became perfect for playing mothers and aunts and was still just as adored.
YVONNE’S LATER CAREER AND TRAGIC ACCIDENT
For the later years of her career, Yvonne De Carlo continued to appear in films, TV shows, and even had the occasional stage appearance. While her later roles weren’t among her most popular, she nevertheless remained in-demand until her retirement. She was clearly one of the most respected actresses of her generation and had a reputation of being a joy to work with.
She was one of the few actresses who managed to appeal to a variety of generations. For older audiences, she was one of the greatest starlets of the 1940s and 1960s. For a younger generation, she was one of the best “TV Moms” of all time. She was known for her incredible acting, beauty, dancing and singing skills, and her generosity.
The last years of Yvonne De Carlo’s weren’t the easiest. Her son Michael died at the age of 39 and this tragic accident caused her to have a stroke. Naturally, she could never get over her son’s death and often spoke about him.
She retired from acting in 1995 – with her final role being in the TV movie The Barefoot Executive. Yvonne also appeared in the film Flesh and Bullets which hasn’t been released as yet!
She died on January 8, 2007, at the age of 84 in Los Angeles. She lived a difficult but wonderful life. Yvonne was once asked in an interview about her thoughts about the women’s liberation movement.
She stated that she preferred the man to be in charge and the woman to serve him as long as he also cared for the woman’s needs. During the interview, she discussed how she had to work to look after others and wanted to be looked after herself.
Behind her success was a difficult life from childhood to her death. But her story, though it had its tragedies, is ultimately – one of triumph.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Yvonne De Carlo? Did you know any of these fascinating facts about her life and career?
Could you imagine anyone else playing Lily Munster today?
Or was there truly no other actress like her?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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