Not everyone has what it takes to be a movie star. Then again not everyone is as beautiful as Yvonne De Carlo. She was born Margaret but went by her middle name Yvonne when she arrived in Hollywood. De Carlo was her mother’s side of the family, and they were Sicilian, not Spanish, as she often pointed out.
Originally Yvonne and her mother had left their native Canada illegally, and they were deported back across the Canadian border. A short time later mother and daughter were allowed to return to the U.S., legally. They settled in Los Angeles, and Yvonne began to pursue her dreams of becoming a movie star. She was signed with Paramount during the war, but the studio couldn’t seem to figure out how to use her. At one point Yvonne, like so many other actresses, tried out for a role in a Cecil B. DeMille picture, but she was not selected. Soon Paramount dropped her and she was back to square one.
But Yvonne and her mother did not give up. In 1945 she moved over to Universal, and that is where she achieved her greatest success. The studio put her in a sensational action-dance western war picture (there’s no other way to describe it), and she became an overnight star in SALOME, WHERE SHE DANCED. Universal saw great value in promoting its hot new commodity. She was featured in adventure tales and westerns. And occasionally she was used in gritty crime dramas, such as BRUTE FORCE; and the classic noir CRISS CROSS, both with Burt Lancaster.
By the mid-50s, Yvonne had become a freelancer. She was in great demand in England and other parts of Europe. Her career experienced a resurgence when Mr. DeMille asked her to come back to Hollywood and play the part of Sephora in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Years later Yvonne cited this as her best performance.
She was now back at Paramount and an even bigger star. She enjoyed other prestigious assignments, including a role opposite Clark Gable in Warners’ BAND OF ANGELS.
In the early 60s Yvonne took a break from the movies. But when her husband, stuntman Bob Morgan, was severely injured on the set of an MGM western, she was forced to return to the screen to pay his medical bills. Their friend John Wayne gave Yvonne a role in MCCLINTOCK!; and producer A.C. Lyles used her in several of his westerns at Paramount in subsequent years. As part of her husband’s settlement with MGM, Yvonne went to work at Metro; and she had strong secondary roles there in the 60s.
She also managed to squeeze in a two-year gig as Lily Munster in the classic sitcom The Munsters. It brought her a whole new audience. Unlike other actresses, she did not become typecast– her versatility led to more opportunities during the following decades. In 1990, she had a good role in Sylvester Stallone’s mobster comedy OSCAR, where she was able to play a character that was Sicilian, not Spanish.
- salome, where she danced (1945); universal; western war adventure; rod cameron; 90 mins.
- frontier gal (1945); universal; western; rod cameron; 84 mins.
- song of scheherazade (1947); universal; musical comedy; jean-pierre aumont; 105 mins.
- slave girl (1947); universal; adventure; george brent; 80 mins.
- casbah (1948); universal; musical adventure; tony martin; 94 mins.
- black bart (1948); universal; western; dan duryea; 80 mins.
- river lady (1948); universal; western; rod cameron; 78 mins.
- criss cross (1949); universal; crime; burt lancaster; 84 mins.
- calamity jane and sam bass (1949); universal; western; howard duff; 86 mins.
- the gal who took the west (1949); universal; western; charles coburn; 84 mins.