The Prince of Iran Was Wild About Her...
by Melvin Durslag, TV Guide
Now '156,' former glamor-girl Yvonne DeCarlo is overjoyed at being just the wife of Herman Munster.
A policeman who has worked for years at Universal City Studios in Hollywood stopped Yvonne DeCarlo at the gate not long ago. He looked at her with pure compassion. "It's criminal what they've done to you," he said darkly.
Yvonne smile and hurried inside to resume her role as a descendant of Dracula, married to Frankenstein's monster, in the current CBS comedy series The Munsters.
Lily Munster (Yvonne) is 156 years old, which makes her senior to her ever-lovin' Herman (Fred Gwynne), who was built in 1818. Tenderly, over oatmeal, she says, "Herman, they just don't make men like you any more."
She is attired in a flowing robe, her black hair hanging to her knees. Her fingernails are long and black. Her neck is made to look scrawny and her cheeks sunken. The eyes are heavily shadowed with dark green, dramatizing the eyebrows with flare up to the forehead.
Herman adores her. He punches his hand through the breakfast-room window, reaches into the garden and snatches a bouquet. "Lovely weeds for a lovely lady," he says.
The situation is unmistakably humorous, but not to the studio cop, who, like others, recalls Miss DeCarlo as a celebrated glamor queen of the 1940's, a sultry beauty who melted hearts on several continents.
Yvonne herself doesn't regard her lot today as a stroke of ill fortune. Nor does she recall the past with wistful nostalgia. A practical woman who has known considerable hardship, she is willing to acknowledge simple truth, such as not being 22 any more, and she is frankly happy to be working at a trade she understands.
Yvonne has no recollection of her father, a New Zealander who left his wife when his daughter was only 3. He never returned. Yvonne's mother (whose maiden name was DeCarlo) went to work as a waitress in their home town of Vancouver and, at that occupation, put her child through singing, dancing and drama schools.
Yvonne was never even graduated from high school, but remembers, with pardonable pride, that she won five dollars in a poetry contest at the age of 11. At 19 she was dancing professionally in Hollywood night clubs. From there she advanced to minor parts in several movies.
This led to an audition in 1944 for the feminine lead in a piece of nonsense called "Salome, Where She Danced," produced by Walter Wanger.
"I'll never forget that audition," she says: "Mr. Wanger said to me, 'You're good enough so that you'll never have to cozy up to a producer.'"
"Salome" was an improbable opera which found Yvonne, a Viennese ballerina, feeling to Drinkman Wells, Ariz., from Berlin around 1885. In pursuit of her hand were (a) a Prussian officer in a speared helmet, (b) a Russian intellectual, (c) a cattle rustler and (d) a newspaper reporter. Yvonne became a star and pin-up queen almost overnight.
Other films followed quickly, and the waitress's daughter, dark-haired and striking, was soon mingling with royalty. A Prince of Iran was wild about her. She recalls hunting bighorn sheep with him in the Iranian mountains. Attendants served caviar in the field.
Then there was Lord Lanesborough of England, a mustachioed peer, who occupied a castle near London. He tossed a hunt ball in Yvonne's honor. "His lordship loved my new dress, a Jacques Fath original," she says. "Little did he know that it was a gift from the Prince of Iran."
Aly Khan was a good friend Howard Hughes a dear. One day Hughes took Yvonne's aunt, uncle and cousin for a ride in his airplane.
It was hardly foreseen by Hollywood social historians that Miss DeCarlo would emerge from her international whirl in 1955 to marry an unassuming, honest-to-goodness American named Bob Morgan, a movie stuntman. They met on the set of "The Ten Commandments."
Morgan's first wife was Helen Crlenkovich, diving champion who made the 1940 Olympic team. She died of cancer at 33. They had a daughter, Bari. Two sons, Bruce and Michael, were later born to Yvonne and Bob. For several years Yvonne chose merely to dabble in movies and TV and dropped pretty much from the spotlight.
Morgan, a handsome, strapping 200-pounder, rising 6-feet-3, was at work in Arizona in 1962 on "How the West Was Won." It was a train scene in which he was clinging to a load of logs. The logs shifted unexpectedly, throwing him to the tracks. He was run over by three flat cars. His body was mangled grotesquely. He also lost his left leg.
The convalescence was long and costly. Faced with mounting financial problems, Yvonne really went to work, accepting any parts that came along. "A lot of them were no good," she says, "but I couldn't be fussy."
Yvonne minimizes her predicament, but a friend says privately that she endured rough days, looking after the three children and a a six-acre estate in the hills above San Fernando Valley. She also made frequent visits to her husband, who spent a year in hospitals in Arizona and California.
Morgan has made a satisfactory recovery. He recently signed for a dramatic role on Ben Casey.
When a former glamor girl reaches a plateau in life, like 40, one of two things usually happens, according to Bud Westmore, veteran Hollywood makeup artist now assigned to The Munsters.
"A great disintegration takes place in many," he says. "Some even become psychotic. But those who have developed something more than beauty are able to make a normal adjustment. Yvonne DeCarlo doesn't want to queen again. She's a sensible woman who has learned certain skills and wants to act her age."
Yvonne reports to the studio at 6 A.M. on shooting days for two hours of makeup. The face job, involving the use of heavy grease, is tedious, and the fingernails must be fitted with a special hot wax.
"It's wearisome," says Yvonne, "but no worse than being made up as a glamor doll. They used to spend an hour on my hair alone."
Standing 5-feet-4, Yvonne remains trim at 118 pounds, only two more than her weight 20 years ago. Her personal wardrobe is simple but tasteful, and her attitude easygoing.
Cooking is Yvonne's favorite pastime, and, unblinkingly, she matches her skill in this field with that of Continental culinary artists. Since her husband's accident, however, they have done little entertaining at home.
Those who appraise talent in Hollywood generally agree that DeCarlo the actress never has been a threat to the Ingrid Bergmans and the Bette Davises.
"Yvonne is like a good utility baseball player," says one producer. "She can sing, dance, do comedy or straight stuff. She isn't superior in any, but is valuable for her versatility."
Bob Mosher, who produces The Munsters with Joe Connelly, is pleasantly surprised by the ease with which Yvonne has moved into the part of a vampire who pictures herself as an everyday housewife.
"She has never done anything like this before," says Mosher, as if many women have. "But she has picked up the idea wonderfully fast and has given the character, Lily Munster, warmth and charm. And to date she has been uncomplaining."
It is evident to those who watch television that this is the season of the spook, what with ABC dishing up whimsical ghoulash too. Its answers to The Munsters are The Addams Family and Bewitched.
"We can't worry about the others," says producer Mosher. "We are determined to give quality to our show in the hope that the best of the three will survive."
Referring to Carolyn Jones, Morticia in The Addams Family, Yvonne DeCarlo observes, "We may become the Casey and Kildare of the witches."
Yvonne is quietly amused by the fact that on the same nights she has appeared at 7:30 (ET) as Lily Munster she has been seen in the late show as "Salome," or as the seductive femme fatale of "Casbah."
Asked by an interviewer if she was sexy in her new role, Yvonne replied, "To Herman Munster, yes."