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Follies and 'Munsters' Star Yvonne De Carlo Dies at 84

Yvonne De Carlo, the beautiful brunette actress whose performance in Follies immortalized her as a theatre star, has passed away at the age of 84. She died of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television facility in Woodland Hills, CA on Monday, January 8th. 

The star, who appeared in a multitude of TV shows (most famously "The Munsters") and films, is most remembered by theatre fans for originating the role of Carlotta Campion in Follies - and for belting out its triumphant anthem of survival, "I'm Still Here."

Born Peggy Yvonne Middleton on September 1, 1922, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, De Carlo trained from childhood as a dancer and actress.  She made her film debut with a bit part in 1941's I Look at You, and throughout the forties and fifties, made her name as a sultry film siren.  1945's Salome - Where She Danced marked her emergence as a bona fide star. 

"I came through these beaded curtains, wearing a Japanese kimono and a Japanese headpiece, and then performed a Siamese dance. Nobody seemed to know quite why," quipped the star, in reference to her typecasting in smoldering roles in B-films with exotic locales.  She also often appeared in Westerns.

Her film credits included Road to Morocco, Kismet (starring Marlene Dietrich), Slave Girl, Song of Scheherezade, Casbah, River Lady, The Desert Hawk, Silver City, Scarlet Angel, Sombrero, Passion, and Magic Fire.  Her most notable screen role was as Sephora in the DeMille biblical epic The Ten Commandments

In 1964, De Carlo first donned a white-streaked black wig as vampiric matriarch Lily Munster in "The Munsters," which ran through 1966.  The series put De Carlo before a younger audience, and also spawned two movies - 1966's "Munsters Go Home" and 1981 "The Munsters' Revenge."

In 1971, De Carlo was cast as Carlotta in Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's milestone musical Follies.  Playing a glamorous ex-showgirl who has "careered from career to career," DeCarlo's solo "I'm Still Here" lyrically reflected the actress' own show biz journey as a former "sloe-eyed vamp" who has learned to survive in performance and in life.  Also an accomplished vocalist, DeCarlo, at one point, performed opera at the Hollywood Bowl.  In 1957, she released an LP of standards called "Yvonne de Carlo Sings."

DeCarlo continued to perform through the 1990's.  Later appearances included American Gothic, Mirror, Mirror, The Naked Truth and "Tales from the Crypt."  Her 1987 autobiography detailed her diverse career, as well as liaisons with such men as Howard Hughes, Billy Wilder, Burt Lancaster and Aly Khan.  She was married once, to stuntman Bob Morgan.  The marriage, which lasted from 1955 to 1968, produced two sons.

"I think she will best remembered as the definitive Lily Munster. She was the vampire mom to millions of baby boomers. In that sense, she's iconic.  But it would be a shame if that's the only way she is remembered. She was also one of the biggest beauty queens of the 40s and 50s, one of the most beautiful women in the world. This was one of the great glamour queens of Hollywood, one of the last ones," stated her friend, producer Kevin Burns.

 


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