Yvonne De Carlo, Actress, singer and dancer, Died at 84

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Dead, Yvonne De Carlo at the age of 84 on January 8, 2007, she was a Canadian-American actress, singer, and dancer whose career in film, television, and musical theatre spanned six decades.

Born on September 1, 1922, in West Point Grey (now part of Vancouver), British Columbia. She was the only child of William Middleton, an Australian-born salesman, and Marie DeCarlo (August 28, 1903 – December 19, 1993), a French-born aspiring actress of Sicilian and Scottish origin.

Her mother ran away from home at 16 to become a ballerina; after several years working as a shop girl, she married in 1924. 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”. In December 1941 she was dancing in the revue “Glamour Over Hollywood” at Florentine Gardens.

Being a skilled horse rider, she also appeared in a number of West Coast rodeos.

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.

Wanger later claimed he spotted De Carlo when looking at footage for another actor in which De Carlo also happened to appear. Another source says 21 Royal Canadian Air Force bombardier students who loved her as a pinup star campaigned to get her the role.

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.

In 1951, RKO Radio Pictures tried to compose a film noir entitled “The Sins of Sarah Ferry”.

The story was about a courthouse clerk in Binghamton, New York who finds herself falling in love with a beautiful liar who’s accused of armed robbery as well as a hit run charge involving a death.

The cast would have starred Laraine Day, Fred MacMurray, Yvonne De Carlo, Hugh Beaumont, Glenn Ford, Howard Duff and Evelyn Keyes, with the studio wanting to shoot on location in Binghamton and neighboring Johnson City.

This project never materialized because the plot was considered too close of a generic step-up of Double Indemnity (1944) and the studio never received a reply via phone call or standard mail from the Binghamton Courthouse or then Mayor Donald Kramer granting them permission to film on location in the area and negotiate a fair range of payment.

In the early 1960s, De Carlo starred in a string of B-features, which inspired little interest in audiences.

With the demise of her film career, the struggling actress made a transition to the small screen.

In 1964, she was chosen to play the ghoulish mom in a pilot for CBS.

Her portrayal of Lily Munster in the horror-spoof sitcom The Munsters (1964-’66) marked her television debut, and introduced her to a whole new generation of audiences.

In the early 1970s, the middle-aged actress found renewed success in the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Follies (1971). Eventually, she settled into a routine of lowbrow comedy—Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)—and horror films, such as Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977), Silent Scream (1980) and Vultures (1983).

In her late years, De Carlo lived in semi-retirement near Solvang, north of Santa Barbara.

Her son Michael died in 1997, and she suffered a stroke the following year.

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