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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 08:49 GMT
Munsters star De Carlo dies at 84
Yvonne De Carlo
Yvonne De Carlo played the vampiric wife of Herman Munster
Actress Yvonne De Carlo, best known as vampire Lily Munster in US sitcom The Munsters, has died aged 84.

"She passed away in my arms on Monday," said the star's son, Bruce Morgan, adding that his mother's health had been in decline for several years.

De Carlo's heavily made-up matriarch presided over the raucous, cobwebbed Munsters house from 1964-1966.

Although the spoof horror comedy only ran for two years, it had a long life in syndication and two films were made.

"It meant security. It gave me a new, young audience I wouldn't have had otherwise," she said when it ended.

She was the vampire mom to millions of baby boomers
Kevin Burns, friend
"It made me hot again, which I wasn't for a while."

Born Peggy Yvonne Middleton in Vancouver, Canada, De Carlo was raised in poverty and dropped out of high school.

After winning a beauty contest, she landed bit parts in Hollywood and later graduated to leading lady status.

Film studio Paramount initially signed her, it was said, because she resembled its major star, Dorothy Lamour, and executives wanted to warn Lamour she could be replaced.

Her first starring role was in 1945's Salome - Where She Danced, where she played a ballerina who became a spy in the wild west.

The Ten Commandments
De Carlo starred alongside Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments
The film was a box office success and, with her star on the rise, De Carlo won roles opposite Burt Lancaster in the film noir Criss Cross and Clark Gable in Band of Angels.

Often cast as a dancehall girl or a gun-toting sharpshooter in Westerns, she won notoriety for her hour-glass figure and striking looks.

But in 1956, she veered away from her femme fatale image to play Moses' wife in Cecil B DeMille's biblical epic The Ten Commandments.

Later, she had a key role in Stephen Sondheim's landmark Broadway musical Follies.

TV success

But for TV viewers, she will be best remembered as Lily Munster, wife to the cranially-enhanced Herman Munster.

"She was the vampire mom to millions of baby boomers," said long-time friend and television producer Kevin Burns.

"But it would be a shame if that's the only way she is remembered. She was also one of the biggest beauty queens of the '40s and '50s.

"This was one of the great glamour queens of Hollywood, one of the last ones."

De Carlo married stuntman Bob Morgan in 1955 and had two sons, Bruce and Michael, as well as several highly-publicised separations and reconciliations.

In her 1987 autobiography, she claimed to have had 22 lovers, including Howard Hughes, Burt Lancaster, Billy Wilder and an Iranian prince.

In her later years, De Carlo lived in semi-retirement in California. Her son Michael died in 1997 and she suffered a stroke the following year.

She died of natural causes on Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's Retirement Home in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills.

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