LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Yvonne De Carlo, who starred in films opposite Clark Gable and Charlton Heston but won enduring fame as wife of a Frankenstein monster-like character in the TV series “The Munsters,” has died at age 84, her son said on Wednesday.
Bruce Morgan said his mother, who played Moses’ wife in Cecil B. De Mille’s 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments,” died of natural causes on Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Retirement Home in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills.
“She passed away in my arms on Monday,” Morgan said, adding that she had been in declining health for several years.
Born in Vancouver, De Carlo was raised in poverty and had to drop out of high school to work. But she won a beauty contest and used that as an entree to bit parts in movies, starting in the 1940s.
She had bit parts in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943) and “The Road to Morocco” (1941). But in 1945, she won a key role in “Salome, Where She Danced,” about a ballerina who lands in a small Arizona town.
Paramount signed De Carlo, it was said, because she resembled its major star, Dorothy Lamour, and executives there wanted to warn Lamour that she could be replaced if she gave the studio trouble.
De Carlo appeared in such B-movie staples as “Frontier Gal,” “Scarlet Angel” and “Shotgun,” showing off an hour-glass figure that won her many fans.
While most of the films she made during that period were forgettable, she starred as one of Alec Guinness’s two wives in the British comedy classic “The Captain’s Paradise” and opposite Heston as Moses’ wife in “The Ten Commandments.” She also appeared with Gable and Sidney Poitier in 1957’s “Band of Angels.”
She dropped out of films in 1959 to raise a family, but returned to work in television, where she became a cult favorite as the heavily made-up, ghoulish Lily Munster on the popular sitcom “The Munsters.”
From 1964 to 1966, she played opposite Fred Gwynne, who starred as her good-natured but scary-looking spouse, Herman Munster, the head of an oddball family who lived in a big, creepy house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
She made nearly 100 films in all, played on Broadway, most famously in Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” and made guest appearances on such TV series as “Bonanza” and “The Virginian.”
In a 1987 autobiography, she claimed to have had affairs with several of Hollywood’s leading figures, including Howard Hughes, Robert Taylor and Billy Wilder.
Before her death, she performed supporting roles in two independent movies that have yet to be released, playing a psychic who channels UFOs in one and an orphanage nun during World War Two in the other, Morgan said.
“So she’s not done yet,” he told Reuters.
Her last screen role seen before her death was as an eccentric apartment dweller in the 1995 TV movie “The Barefoot Executive,” said her longtime agent, Scott Stander.
“She was quite a pistol,” Stander said. “She aged gracefully, she was a beautiful lady.”