Today is the birthday of the late Yvonne De Carlo (Margaret Yvonne Middleton, 1922-2007). Now,there are many posts I’d love to write about her:
* She was a beauty queen, pin-up, dancer and show girl in her early years: runner up for Miss Venice Beach (1938), dancer at the Florentine Gardens, chorus girl for Earl Carroll. After a few years of struggle, she broke into films and gradually worked her way up to starring parts.
* Her break-out role was the title character in Salome Where She Danced (1945). We have written about many of the notable stage and screen Salomes over the years here at Travalanche and de Carlo makes a wow-wow-worthy successor.
She was cast against type in one of my favorite movies, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 The Ten Commandments. The hot sex pot in the film is Anne Baxter. De Carlo plays Sephora, the dutiful wife of Moses. But look at the picture above. I think she wants to put the Salome costume back on, or maybe I’m reading too much into it.
Ah, that’s more like it! As Lily Munster on The Munsters 1966-1968. To my mind, De Carlo was one of those women (like Lana Turner, Anne Bancroft, and others) who got more interesting and even sexier when she got older. A little known secret is that Al Lewis (Grandpa) was actually younger than De Carlo when The Munsters was made.
Anyway, like I said, being the lowdown character I am, I’m not going to write about any of those things and will instead celebrate Blazing Stewardesses (1975).
We like things to be superlative don’t we? We like hyperbole and exclamation points. At least I do. Not for me, all those middling, unremarkable (boring) films the woman made for decades. Blazing Stewardesses sets a benchmark. For what I hesitate to say.
The film concerns three porn-refugee stewardesses who help a bordello madam (De Carlo) and two cow pokes (B movie western stars Bob Livingston and Red Barry) save their dude ranch.
Along the way they are helped (hindered) by the two surviving Ritz Brothers, Harry and Jimmy (Al died in 1965). Their roles were originally to have been played by the remaining Three Stooges, but Larry Fine and Moe Howard both died in 1975, and no one wants Curly Joe de Rita. The film’s title was a craven and rather pathetic attempt to capitalize on the recent success of Blazing Saddles, which is as a Himalaya next to this ant hill of a comedy. Naughty Stewardesses, which features some of the same creative personnel, had come out a few months earlier, though this is technically not a sequel. Seeing two Ritz Brothers in their mid 70s cut up as though they were still in their 30s is quite a spectacle. Seeing the low budget tribute to western serials of the 30s is kind of interesting. And de Carlo, at age 48, still has it as you can witness here:
To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.