Yvonne De Carlo – Goth’s Donna Reed?

Day 117 of Colourisation Project – September 1

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

What do Moses’s wife and Lily Munster have in common?

Answer: Today’s subject for colourisation, Yvonne De Carlo.

Born in Vancouver, this day, September 1, 1922, Yvonne De Carlo was a Canadian American actress, singer, and dancer who worked in film, television and musical theatre. She appeared in nearly 100 films over a period of six decades.

Yvonne De Carlo

Publicity Still – Yvonne De Carlo – Colourised by Loredana Crupi

De Carlo’s film career began in the early 1940s, but it was her standout lead role in the box-office Technicolor hit, Salome, Where She Danced (1945), which brought her fame.  Described as ‘the most beautiful girl in the world’ by producer Walter Wanger, success followed in other films including Criss Cross (1949) opposite Burt Lancaster and The Captain’s Paradise (1953) with Alec Guinness. Her career reached its peak in 1956 when she was cast as Sephora, the wife of Moses played by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. Later notable screen appearances were in the Civil War drama Band of Angels (1957), with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier, and the western comedy McLintock! (1963), with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and many, many more.

Most fans however will always remember her as Lily Munster in the CBS slapstick sitcom/horror-movie spoof, The Munsters, a family of benign monsters. Although it lasted only two years, (1964-66), the series had a long life in syndication and resulted in two movies. The opening credits in the first season’s were a brazen parody of the opening credits of The Donna Reed Show (1958). They always began with the matriarch lovingly handing out packed lunches to family members as they left the house one by one. Yvonne De Carlo, as the vampire-like Lily Munster, did the exactly the same. Originally conceived as a color show, The Munsters was ultimately filmed in black-and-white as the network felt that the color version was too garish and scary for children.

The Munsters came along at a time when De Carlo was deeply in debt and was suffering from depression. Her husband Robert Morgan, a stuntman was run over by a train while filming How the West Was Won, suffering facial injuries and the loss of his leg. De Carlo had reservations about the show and only accepted the role of Lily Munster in order to help pay her husband’s mounting medical expenses. As De Carlo explained, “It meant security. It gave me a new, young audience I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It made me ‘hot’ again, which I wasn’t for a while.”

In 1987 she published, Yvonne: An Autobiography, which according to several reviews is more a ‘kiss and tell’ than an account of her film career.

She continued appearing in occasional films through the ’80s and ’90s. In 1998 she suffered a minor stroke. With her health in decline she became a resident of the Motion Picture & Television Hospital, where she spent the rest of her days until her death of natural causes in 2007, at age 84.

De Carlo was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6124 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6715 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.


“I follow the directions I received on the first day of shooting: ‘Play her just like Donna Reed.’  –  Yvonne De Carlo on playing Lily Munster

This entry was posted in Black & White, Colorization, Colourisation, Photography, Television, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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