Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lily Munster rejoins the undead

I don't know whether the role of a vampire on a television sitcom was the legacy by which actress Yvonne De Carlo would have wanted to be remembered.

But it's the one she's stuck with.

Ms. De Carlo, who portrayed Lily Dracula Munster on that hoary chestnut of '60s TV kitsch, The Munsters, died today at age 84. Fans of big-budget spectacle and/or religious cinema will also recall her as Zipporah, the wife of Charlton Heston's Moses, in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.

Before the roles in which she gained her dubious immortality, Ms. De Carlo (real name Peggy Middleton, which not only lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, but also would have been easily confused with Penny Singleton, who played Blondie in a series of popular films in the 1930s and '40s; Penny Singleton's real name was Dorothy McNulty, which would not have been easily confused with Yvonne De Carlo) was a contract player at various Hollywood studios, where she tended to be cast in the sort of ethnically ambiguous sex symbol parts that often went to such actresses as Dorothy Lamour and Maria Montez (whose real names were Mary Leta Slaton and María de Santos Silas, respectively... but I digress).

Aside from her two best-known roles, Ms. De Carlo toiled busily in dozens of mostly B-level productions during a lengthy film and television career, ended by age and ill health in the early 1990s.

Truth to tell, I was always a Morticia Addams man anyway.

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