Movie Stars Turned Into Television Icons; Yvonne De Carlo and Carolyn Jones by Mykki Newton

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

During the middle part of the turbulent 1960s, America was in a weird place. The television picture perfect image of a wholesome American family went from the "dad in a sweater and mom in pearls" of The Donna Reed Show to "ghouls in a coffin and the living dead driving hot rods", honey I'm home. It was an anti-establishment, let your freak flag fly, approach to the family situation comedy and it was embraced by viewers then and is still embraced in re-runs today.

The Munsters and The Addams Family both premiered in September of 1964 and both ended in 1966. The shows came and went in just two primetime television seasons, but their lasting popularity lives on because of their bizarre, yet all too familiar family members. The Munsters and the Addams families were led by two powerful matriarchs play by two unique acting veterans. Yvonne De Carlo and Carolyn Jones were movie stars long before they became television icons.

The Munsters (1964)

“They still have The Munsters on now and I’ll tell you what it’s really good for, the young people still know me. You don’t just disappear, because they see The Munsters every day, but they don’t understand what happened to my hair. Do I have to go around with a silver streak?”

-Yvonne De Carlo, 1982 interview, The Joe Franklin Show

Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis, The Munsters (1964)

“Yvonne De Carlo was a huge T&A movie star and for you kids out there, by T&A, I mean Television Antenna. Anyway, she was a sexy movie star and when those of us in the cast heard she was going to play Lily Munster, we all said there was no way she could play that part. We were all wrong.”

-Al Lewis, “Grandpa Munster”, Television Academy archival interview

The Addams Family (1964)

“It takes about two hours to get out of the costume because I have I to take the wig off and remove the makeup. It takes 20 minutes just to get out of the dress.”

-Carolyn Jones, Hollywood Backstage interview, 1965

Carolyn Jones and John Astin, The Addams Family (1964)

“Carolyn wanted to be billed first. My contract said I was to be billed first, but I said it was no problem and I’m glad I did because she was perfect. It worked because we liked each other and we both had a sense of humor. Carolyn had a great laugh. Just working with her when she’d laugh was a wonderful thing. We became friends for life. I still miss her.”

-John Astin, “Gomez Addams” Television Academy archival interview

Yvonne De Carlo, Salome, Where She Danced (1945)

Yvonne De Carlo began her film career in 1941 and was being groomed as a possible replacement for Dorothy Lamour at Paramount Pictures. By 1945, De Carlo wowed movie audiences in her breakout role in Salome, Where She Danced for Universal Pictures who gave her a five-year contract and called her “the most beautiful girl in the world.” For three years straight, the cameramen elected her the “Queen of Technicolor” as she set the screen ablaze with her many portrayals of exotic women. Not bad for woman born in Canada.

Yvonne De Carlo

“There was a great number of years of apprenticeship I call it at Paramount studying because it was getting used to the camera. It’s like a monster at first, but now to me it’s the most-friendliest creature in the world.”

-Yvonne De Carlo, 1982 interview, The Joe Franklin Show

De Carlo’s dreamily desirable exotic Technicolor royal status lead to typecasting. She broke free of those chains at least for a little while with a small role in the 1947 film noir Brute Force starring Burt Lancaster. It was her first film in glorious black and white and it was a hit with critics. It also led to a larger role as a femme fatale in another Burt Lancaster film noir, Criss Cross (1949).

Yvonne De Carlo and Howard Duff, Brute Force (1947)

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo, Criss Cross (1949))

De Carlo had proven herself to be more than just an exotic beauty. She was a powerful actress who starred alongside some of the greatest actors and top movie stars around the world…John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Alec Guiness, and Clark Cable to name a few. She was beloved in Israel where she became the first American film actor to visit that nation, and she performed sold out concerts there. She was after all, a popular singer and recording artists as well as a movie star.


When producer-director Cecil B. DeMille began casting for his biblical epic The Ten Commandments (1956), there was only one face and one actress he felt could play the mother of Moses.

“Cecil B. DeMille was marvelous. DeMille was looking for an actress to play the mother of Moses in The Ten Commandments and he saw me in another picture and said “That’s the face I want for Sephora.” and that’s how I got that part.”

-Yvonne De Carlo, 1982 interview, The Joe Franklin Show

Yvonne De Carlo, The Ten Commandments (1956)

"I sensed in her a depth, an emotional power, a womanly strength which the part of Sephora needed and which she gave it."

-Cecil B. DeMillie, The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille

Yvonne De Carlo had already been a movie star for three decades when Universal brought her star power to shine on a generation of new fans. She was reportedly in debt when she accepted the role of Lily Munster in 1964. If that is true, it was a blessing in disguise. Lily Munster made Yvonne De Carlo an icon of a new kind.

Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster (1964)

"I follow the directions I received on the first day of shooting: "Play her (Lily) just like Donna Reed.”

-Yvonne De Carlo

Carolyn Jones (1952)

Stricken with asthma as a child growing up in Texas, Carolyn Jones was limited in her outside activities, so she read Hollywood fan magazines. It instilled in young Carolyn the dream that one day she too could be a star. It didn’t take long for that dream to become a reality.

In 1947, at the age of 17 she moved to Hollywood and studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. That training paid off in 1951 when she was given a contract at Paramount Pictures. She made her film debut the following year with a small and uncredited role in The Turning Point, but from there her career and life began to move quickly. In 1953, she married a young actor who aspired to be a producer and screenwriter. His name was Aaron Spelling. Meanwhile, Carolyn Jones had plenty of steady work. She played five different roles during the original television run of Dragnet, and performances in films such as the horror classics House of Wax (1953) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and the film noir classics The Big Heat (1953) and Shield for Murder (1954).

Ben Alexander, Carolyn Jones, and Jack Webb, Dragnet (1955)

Roy Roberts and Carolyn Jones, House of Wax (1953)

Lee Marvin and Carolyn Jones, The Big Heat (1953)

Edmond O’Brien and Carolyn Jones, Shield for Murder (1954)

Dana Wynter, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, and Kevin McCarthy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) )

The Carolyn Jones star was on the rise and in the wake of all her success, she still desired to give more than just financial supported to her new husband. Apparently, the kick in the pants ultimatum she gave Aaron was exactly the kind of encouragement he needed. By 1956, he was a successful television producer and later a TV legend.

“I told him either he used his God-given talent as a writer to become a writer and anything else he wanted to be from then on, or I was going to leave him.”

-Carolyn Jones, 1959 interview, This Is Your Life

Aaron Spelling and Carolyn Jones wedding (1953)

It seemed everything was going Carolyn's way. Even the role of Lorena Burke in From Here to Eternity (1953) was written especially for Carolyn Jones, but pneumonia kept her from doing the film. The role and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress went to Donna Reed. Jones would receive her own Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination in 1958 for her role in The Bachelor Party.

1958 was a huge year in Carolyn's career. The Golden Globes gave her their Most Promising Newcomer Award, and she co-starred with the biggest name in show business, Elvis Presley in King Creole. She followed that up in 1959 with co-starring roles opposite Frank Sinatra in A Hole in the Head. Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine in Career, and Anthony Quinn and Kirk Douglas in one of the great Westerns, Last Train from Gun Hill.

“One of the nicest things I think happens to me in this business is I get to meet people and talk to people that I would never know otherwise.”

-Carolyn Jones, 1965 interview, Hollywood Backstage

Carolyn Jones and Elvis Presley, King Creole (1958)

Don Murray and Carolyn Jones, The Bachelor Party (1957)

Frank Sinatra and Carolyn Jones, A Hole in the Head (1959)

Kirk Douglas and Carolyn Jones, Last Train from Gun Hill (1959)

Throughout her career, Carolyn Jones successfully made the transition from the big screen to television. She appeared in numerous television series between 1953 and 1963, but in 1964 the role of Moricia Addams changed her life forever just as Lily Munster did for Yvonne De Carlo.

Because The Munster and The Addams Family occupied the television landscape during the same time period, Yvonne De Carlo and Carolyn Jones will forever be linked. Both were movie stars turned into television icons by two of the most unusual and unforgettable situation comedies ever produced.

“I'm in love with everything about show business. The only thing that ever came easy to me in life has been acting.”

-Carolyn Jones

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