- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Actress Yvonne De Carlo, who starred in films opposite Clark Gable and Charlton Heston but won enduring fame as wife of a Frankenstein monsterlike character in the TV series “The Munsters,” died Jan. 8 of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s retirement home in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills. She was 84.

“She passed away in my arms,” said her son Bruce Morgan, adding that she had been in declining health for several years.

Miss De Carlo was born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was raised in poverty and had to drop out of high school to work. But she won a beauty contest and used that as an entree to movies, starting in the 1940s.

She had bit parts in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943) and “The Road to Morocco” (1941). But in 1945, she won a key role in “Salome, Where She Danced,” about a ballerina who lands in a small Arizona town.

Paramount Pictures signed her to a contract in 1942, and she adopted her middle name and her mother’s middle name. Dropped by Paramount after 20 minor roles, she landed at Universal.

Although most of the films she made during that period were forgettable, she starred as one of Alec Guinness’ two wives in the British comedy classic “The Captain’s Paradise” (1953) and opposite Mr. Heston as Moses’ wife in “The Ten Commandments” (1956). She also appeared with Mr. Gable and Sidney Poitier in 1957’s “Band of Angels.”

She dropped out of films in 1959 to raise a family but returned to work in television, where she became a favorite as the heavily made-up, ghoulish Lily Munster on the popular sitcom “The Munsters.”

From 1964 to 1966, she played opposite Fred Gwynne, who starred as her good-natured but scary-looking spouse, Herman Munster, the head of an oddball family who lived in a big, creepy house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

“I think she will be best remembered as the definitive Lily Munster. She was the vampire mom to millions of baby boomers. In that sense, she’s iconic,” longtime friend and television producer Kevin Burns said.

“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.”

George Barris, who created the ghoulish “Munsters” car, equipped Miss De Carlo’s Jaguar with spider web hubcaps, a gargoyle hood ornament and a glossy black sunroof.

“She was a wonderful lady and a car buff. She loved the show so much that she incorporated it into her life, her own car,” Mr. Barris said.

She made nearly 100 films in all, played on Broadway, most famously in Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” and made guest appearances on such TV series as “Bonanza” and “The Virginian.”

Over the years, Miss De Carlo augmented her stardom by shrewd use of publicity. Gossip columnists reported her dates with famous men. In her 1987 book, “Yvonne: An Autobiography,” she listed 22 of her lovers, who included Howard Hughes, Burt Lancaster, Robert Stack, Robert Taylor, Billy Wilder, Aly Khan and an Iranian prince.

She performed supporting roles in two independent movies that have yet to be released, playing a psychic who channels UFOs in one and an orphanage nun during World War II in the other, her son said.

“So she’s not done yet,” Mr. Morgan told Reuters news agency.

Her last screen role seen before her death was as an eccentric apartment dweller in the 1995 TV movie “The Barefoot Executive.”

“She was quite a pistol,” said her longtime agent, Scott Stander. “She aged gracefully; she was a beautiful lady.”

In 1955, Miss De Carlo married Bob Morgan, a top-flight stunt man, and the marriage produced two sons, Bruce and Michael. During a stunt aboard a moving log train for “How the West Was Won,” Mr. Morgan was thrown underneath the wheels. The accident cost him a leg, and for a time Miss De Carlo abandoned her career to care for him. The couple later divorced.

In her later years, Miss De Carlo lived in semi-retirement north of Santa Barbara. Her son Michael died in 1997, and she suffered a stroke the next year.

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