Aug 20, 2015

Remembering Batgirl: Yvonne Craig (1937-2015)

centerfieldmaz interrupts baseball with a sad note on one of his favorite actresses. Being a huge Batman (TV series) fan Yvonne Craig has been someone I adored since I was a child. 

As a boy I always hoped the Batgirl cycle would wiz by on the opening credits, meaning it would be a Batgirl episode. I didn't realize why until I got older & liked girls. For myself & millions of young boys of the 60's / 70's Batgirl was one of our first crushes. But her character also she added so much more than that to the final season of Batman. She was special in so many ways ... rest in peace Batgirl!

Yvonne Joyce Craig was born May 16th 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois. As a young girl she was a talented ballet dancer, getting accepted to the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She eventually moved to Los Angeles & began an acting career.


She landed a part in Gidget (1959) as one of Gidget's beach girl friends. Yvonne began dating Elvis Presley & landed roles in two Elvis films; It Happened At the Worlds Fair (1963) & Kissing Cousins (1964).


Other film roles include In Like Flint (1967) & Mars Needs Women (1966) Ski Part (1965).

She did guest parts on many television shows of the time including; 77 Sunset Strip (four episodes), The Many Loves of Dobbie Gillis (six episodes playing six different girlfriend of Gillis),

Man From U.N.C.L.E, McHale's Navy, Wagon Train, The Wild Wild West (where she does an exotic Arabian dance),  Dr. Kildare, Perry Mason, The Big Valley (with Lee Majors & Barbara Stanwyck), My Three Sons, My Favorite Martian, Ben Casey & The Dating Game.
  


In 1967 she landed the role that would make her the most famous, playing  Barbara Gordon & her alter ego Bat Girl in the Batman TV series.  Barbara Gordon was Police Commissioner Gordon's daughter who worked as a librarian at the Gotham City Public Library.

She turned into Batgirl in the secret room of her Gotham City luxury apartment & exited from an old unused elevator shaft, on her purple Batgirl Cycle, riding the streets of Gotham. She wore no helmet & had just a little wind shield to protect her from the elements.

 
 

On the set Yvonne did all her own stunts & all her own riding. Batman & Robin never knew her real identity, nor did her father. The only one who knew was Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler who of course was the only other person who knew of the dynamic Duo's real identities.

Yvonne once said: “ they needed someone who could encourage an over-40 male audience and a prepubescent female audience. That’s the real reason why they hired me!" The rest is history.......

Batgirl wore a sexy tight purple outfit, with purple go go boots & purple gloves. She also donned a yellow cape & had her own utility belt. She wore a wig under her purple cowl & just looked fabulous.

 
 
 

Batgirl bailed out Batman & Robin on many occasions. Her graceful ballet moves & high leg kicking helped knock out many a criminal.

There were some classic Batgirl episodes, one of the most popular- Catwoman's Dressed to Kill with Eartha Kitt. There were other great ones with great actors & actresses: with Egghead (Vincent Price & Ann Baxter) where the Russian Cossacks make he do a dance as they swing their swords at her while her arms are bound.

Then there's Victor Buono (King Tut) The Joker (Cesar Romero) The Penguin (Burgess Meredith)  where she jockeyed a race horse.

The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle) Shane (Cliff Robertson & Dina Merrill) Siren (Joan Collins) Nora Clavicle (Barbara Rush) Cassandra (Ida Lupino) & Minerva (Zsa Zsa Gabor).

One of the reasons she took the role was that she said she wanted people to attach a name to her face, since most of her other TV roles were just guest parts.

With Batgirl she defined the character forever & would become a legend for many generations of fans.  

A Batgirl pilot was filmed & included in the 2014 Batman DVD Box set, but the series never came to life. A Bat girl theme song was also done & used as she was introduced in 1967's Exit Penguin Enter Batgirl. It was also used in various later episodes.



She became one of the first crushes young boys have watching Batgirl in her tight purple suit, kicking ass just like the boys did. Being the swinging sixties, her role was a major step for girls as well as female super heroes.

Yvonne once said "I meet women today who tell me that they grew up viewing Batgirl as an important role model. If they choose to know me in that context, well, I'll take it."

After Batman she did TV roles on The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (playing a stranded bride to be), It Takes a Thief, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Land of the Giants (playing one half humanoid along side Bruce Dern) , Mod Squad, Mannix, Kojak, Emergency, Holmes & Yo Yo, Starsky & Hutch, Six Million Dollar Man, Fantasy Island, & Love American Style (four episodes).



One of her most famous post Batman episodes was on Star Trek (episode: Whom Gods Destroy -1969) as Marta, the seductive green slave girl at the Federation Asylum. When Captain Kirk is placed in a prison with her she tries to seduce him & when she fails tries to stab him.



Later in the seventies, as she got older, she found it a problem transitioning from sexy roles into mother roles, since she was not a mother & never had children. She eventually quit acting & began to sell Real Estate in Los Angeles. Her & her sister also ran a successful pre paid phone card business that were used in licensing.

She later ran her own web site, appeared at many Comic Conventions & did the voice of Grandma on the Nickelodeon series Olivia from 2009-2011. In 2000, she wrote a memoir, From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond.

 
 

Yvonne Craig was married twice. Although she had no children she did a lot of hands on tutoring & was involved in many charities.

Yvonne was battling breast cancer for the past two years. On August 17th 2015, she passed away, surrounded by her family in Pacific Palisades California, she was 78.

Her family said in a statement on her website: "She had been in chemo almost continuously for the past two plus years since being diagnosed and that had weakened her immune system. This didn't dampen her sense of humor or her spirit, she intended to fight and win this battle.In the end, her mind still wanted to fight but her body had given up."

 
 
 
 

1 comment:

Warren Zvon said...

Excellent post about my first ever crush.