Another pop culture icon of the sixties, Yvonne Craig has the distinction of being remembered for her participation in the cult TV hit Batman. Joining the cast in the show’s final season, she created a memorable character that had endured in the imagination of fans even if she really played in an handful of episodes. A remarkable achievement.
Yvonne Joyce Craig, daughter of Maurice and Pauline Craig, was born in Taylorville, Illinois, on May 16th, 1937. The family moved to Columbus, Ohio, around 1940. Yvonne started studying ballet at the age of ten. Interested in dance, the young girl began to show promise in this art form. So, when another move occurred, this time to Dallas, Yvonne was enrolled in the famed Edith James School. Her passion for dance was on its way to becoming fulfilled, as she turned out to be a most promising student. Starring in a Christmas show at the School, she caught the expert eye of a major figure of the dance world of the times: prima ballerina Alexandra Danilova.
Danilova was so impressed that she arranged auditions for Yvonne before the august presence of George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet and Fergei J. Denham of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, nothing less. Amazingly, both were impressed and accepted Yvonne in their respective ranks. Yvonne opted for the Ballet Russe, beginning training in 1954, as one of their youngest pupils. She stayed for the next three years, leaving after a major disagreement with Danilova.
Back in the United States, Yvonne found herself in Los Angeles to pursue her dance studies at the Eugene Loring School. She entered the movie world as a simple way to increase her income and to pay for dancing classes, after she was approached by a movie producer from Columbia. She had a brief role in Eighteen and Anxious. Her next film was The Young Land, but it would not get on cinema screens for two more years. This western starred a young Dennis Hopper and John Wayne’s son, Patrick.
At this point, Yvonne began alternating minor roles between movies and TV work. Her television credits are actually more imposing, as she made her first appearance on the Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, on April 4, 1958. Yvonne married singer Jimmy Boyd in 1960, but this union only lasted two years. She would have liaisons with humorist Mort Sahl and actor Bill Bixby in the future.
A big step movie-wise was co-starring in two Elvis Presley movies in the early sixties. The first, It Happened at the World’s Fair, was actually the movie debut of a young Kurt Russell. The second, Kissin’ Cousins, proposed Elvis in dual roles, playing cousins (what else?), with one wearing a blonde wig that the King of Rock’n’Roll positively hated. After this, Yvonne was seen in light spy fluff like One Spy Too Many and One of Our Spies is Missing, the high point being In Like Flint with James Coburn, Mr. Cool 1967. She played a Russian ballet dancer. All through this, Yvonne’s characters showed enthusiasm, high spirits and pixie-like charm.
For unfathomable reasons, Yvonne agreed to be in the awful sci-fi film Mars Needs Women, the brainchild of director-author Larry Buchanan. Playing a mix of sex expert/astronomer, Yvonne here has a relationship with a Martian named Dop visiting Earth as his planet is having the misfortune of lacking female counterparts to the males. The Martians wear goofy, scuba-like clothing and silly antennae headpieces. Even with that title and script, it is amazingly dull, not even good for a few laughs. At least Yvonne looks very good indeed, even when wearing curious, brainy-type sunglasses. At 5’4″ and supposed measurements of 37-23-35, how could she go wrong?
Go wrong she did not, as she joined the cast of the hit series Batman for its last season. The show needed an female injection in the arm to remain popular. Yvonne Craig was then cast as librarian Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon. Of course, she’s also secretly known as Batgirl by night, fighting crime alongside Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. Yvonne shot a eight-minute promotional featurette that was shown to ABC executives, with the goal of impressing them into officially hiring Yvonne. It worked, needless to say. The costume worn in the short was abandoned and a new version was created for the show.
This was another piece of great casting for this series. Yvonne could move and hold her own in the action scenes, since her dancing experience turned out to be a great help. She had become more versatile and natural as an actress and this silly TV show actually gave her a welcome acting stretch. With some motorcycling lessons, as a bonus. Her character’s independence is still regarded as the high point of her appeal to the fans. Not every day, in these times, could you witness a sexy female kicking major butt around on prime-time television. So: Yvonne Craig/Batgirl became a role model for young women. A spin-off series for Batgirl never came to be, as plans were to have two different shows enjoying cross-over plots. Batgirl’s first appearance was in the opener of the third season, Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin, which aired on September 14, 1967.
Oddly, her acting career was mostly devoted to guest appearances on other TV shows for the future. She was a fetching green lass in a memorable Star Trek episode, Whom Gods Destroy. She could then be seen in such popular hits as Mannix, Land of the Giants, Kojak, Emergency!, The Six Million Dollar Man, Starsky and Hutch and Fantasy Island, among others. Seems that Yvonne was not too fond of only showing her bikini-clad figure in motion pictures, as pleasant to the eyes as it was. Afraid of typecasting? She began to be an acting coach and produced some industrial shows. This led her to the world of real estate business, a second career that proved to be equally successful as the first. She married long-time boyfriend Kenneth Aldrich, a real estate developer, in 1988.
Yvonne was still recently involved as a guest in many sci-fi conventions. She published an autobiography in 2000, titled From Ballet to Batcave and Beyond. Merchandise and autographed pictures are available at her official site. Of course, the Batgirl role was reprised by Alicia Silverstone in Joel Schumacher’s ill-fated Batman and Robin, but did you know that a Turkish sort-of-version came to the screens in 1972? Ah, international cinema…
With a bubbly and energetic personality, Yvonne remain a key cult figure of the sixties, with her short hair, cute face, smashing figure and shiny Batgirl cape. Like many other Sirens, she became legendary for one major role, an extraordinary accomplishment, as how many actresses remain mere footnotes even after a more meaty filmography?
1956 Eighteen and Anxious 1959 The Young Land; Gidget; The Gene Krupa Story 1960 High Time 1961 By Love Possessed; The Seven Women from Hell 1963 It Happened at the World’s Fair 1964 Kissin’ Cousins; Advance to the Rear; Quick Before It Melts 1965 Ski Party 1966 One Spy Too Many; One of Our Spies Is Missing 1967 In Like Flint; Mars Needs Women 1971 How to Frame a Figg 1990 Diggin’ Up Business
Rest in peace Yvonne Joyce Craig. We love and honor you, and will forever pay tribute to your legacy here at CultSirens.
May 16, 1937 – August 17, 2015
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