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In Search of . . . Yvonne De Carlo

She’s known to TV audiences as Lily Munster in TV’s campy “The Munsters,” but by the time she took that role Yvonne De Carlo had already been in roughly 100 feature films, including many during the ‘40s and ‘50s in which she starred.

Sicilian on her mother’s side, Scotch-English on her father’s, De Carlo was often cast as the exotic siren. Of her first starring role in “Salome, Where She Danced” (1945), she laughs, “I came through these beaded curtains, wearing a Japanese kimono and Japanese headpiece, and then performed a Siamese dance. Nobody seemed to know quite why.”

For her latest role, she goes comedic--and Italian--as Sylvester Stallone’s Aunt Rosa in the gangster comedy, “Oscar.” Directed by John Landis, it’s due this spring from Touchstone. “Mine is a small part--but funny,” she says, explaining that her character will witness Kirk Douglas extracting a deathbed promise from gangster son Stallone that he’ll go straight.

Born in Vancouver 66 years ago, De Carlo was a teen-ager when her mother brought her to Hollywood. From 1942 to 1944 she played bit parts. Then came “Salome,” and leading-lady status.

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Today, some of her films have taken on a camp quality--such as “Hurricane Smith” (1952), in which she’s a half-Tahitian princess who entices lusty South Seas pirate John Ireland. Or “The Desert Hawk” (1950), an Arabian nights saga. But she held her own against some of Hollywood’s top leading men--including Clark Gable, who literally buys her in “Band of Angels” (1957) when it’s discovered that her Southern belle character has black ancestors.

She moved into TV and movie character parts in the ‘60s, made her Broadway debut in “Follies” in 1971. In years since, she’s kept busy, including many low-budget horror titles--"I seem to get killed a lot"--and touring stage productions.

“It’s all been very exciting,” says De Carlo, now divorced and a resident of the Santa Ynez Valley. “I’ve loved it all.”


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