Question: Don't ask why, but I was thinking about what kind of monster each member of the Munster family was. Herman was Frankenstein, Grandpa was a vampire and Eddie was a werewolf, but what was Lily? Lauren A., Mason City, Iowa
Televisionary: First off, I'll be a stickler here and point out that The Munsters' Herman (Car 54's Fred Gwynne) looked like Frankenstein's monster rather than the good doctor himself, a distinction hammered into me by my dad whenever I made that mistake as a kid. And his beloved Lily (Yvonne DeCarlo) was a vampire like her dad (Al Lewis).
The fact that you even had to ask means poor DeCarlo went through two hours of makeup a day (heavy grease plus special hot wax for the fingernails) for naught, though I'm sure she considered it worth it since the role gave her career new life after an earlier run of eye-candy roles. "It's wearisome," the actress admitted to TV Guide in 1965, "but no worse than being made up as a glamour doll. They used to spend an hour on my hair alone."
And though it might not have been apparent when she was playing Lily, DeCarlo was quite the glamour doll in her day. Born to a father who left when she was 3 and a mother who put her through singing, dancing and drama schools by working as a waitress, DeCarlo was a Hollywood nightclub dancer by 19. From there she played minor roles in several movies before landing bigger parts that allowed her to catch the eye of such high-society fliers as an Iranian prince who took her hunting for bighorn sheep in the mountains of his country, an English lord who tossed a hunt ball in her honor and Howard Hughes, who gave her uncle, aunt and cousin an airplane ride.
DeCarlo married a movie stuntman and dropped out of the spotlight, choosing only to dabble in films while raising kids. But when her husband was badly injured in an accident while working on How the West Was Won, she went back to work, facing an industry not known for generosity to middle-aged beauties. However, to makeup artist Bud Westmore, who worked with the actress on The Munsters, she was one of the smart ones who were able to move past that barrier. "[T]hose who have developed something more than beauty are able to make a normal adjustment," he said at the time. "Yvonne DeCarlo doesn't want to be queen again. She's a sensible woman who has learned certain skills and wants to act her age."
Well, not quite her age Lily Munster was in her 150s, after all but DeCarlo was a good sport about the move from maiden to monster. "[S]he has picked up the idea wonderfully fast and has given the character... warmth and charm," Munsters producer Bob Mosher said of his star. "And to date she has been uncomplaining."
Not that DeCarlo had the good-sport market cornered, mind you. She put in as many hours in the makeup chair as her costar Gwynne, but his was definitely the more awkward getup. He endured a squared-off rubber skull cap that came all the way down to his eyebrows, layers of grease, rubber bolts and washers on his neck, a coat and pair of pants that were both padded with foam rubber, and a 10-lb. pair of boots with 5-inch heels. "For the first three weeks, my back, everything hurt," he said. "My body was not used to the costume and the high-heeled boots stretched my tendons. I could hardly walk at the end of the day."
Gwynne lost 10 pounds stomping around in the heavy kicks with the foam rubber on and suffered fatigue as well. He tried salt tablets to compensate for all the perspiring he did and hired Julie Andrews' masseur to make weekly visits for the soreness. "When I'm really sweating, I get so dry that I drink about a gallon of water," he said. "Water isn't that enjoyable and I can't drink vodka on the set, so I settled on lemonade without sugar."
And while you might think that all the Munsters merchandise sold Herman Munster dashboard figurines, hand puppets, ballpoint pens and talking dolls helped ease the pain with money, you need to keep in mind how Hollywood deals work. "I supposedly have a royalty arrangement on the dolls," Gwynne said. "But I had a royalty on Car 54, too. I got a check recently for 27 cents."
Still, it was DeCarlo who got more sympathy, especially from admirers who remembered her from her glamour days. Take the time, for instance, a Universal Studios cop stopped her at the gate. "It's criminal what they've done to you," he said with dark compassion." She just smiled and went to work.