Wednesday 19 August 2015

How To Look Like Yvonne Craig

The great rage at school in 1966 was Batman. And it was a great bonding experience. Everyone in my Grade 4 class would watch it and then talk about it the next day. Then, we’d watch it again that evening and talk about it again the following day.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the producers crossed the line from “fun” into “way too campy.” Frank Gorshin’s Riddler was unhinged. Cesar Romero’s Joker was crazy but menacing when he had to be. What did we get the last season? Milton Berle? Rudy Vallee? Ida Lupino? Mice driven to suicide by a bat-flute? I’ll pass, thanks.

Yvonne Craig was in the cast that drab last season. At least she made sense. She was Commissioner Gordon’s previously unmentioned daughter. And I liked the irony of how Alfred knew her secret identity. But for a pre-teen boy, she really didn’t need to be in the series. How was I to know she wasn’t put there for pre-teen boys?

Still, she fit in pretty well and Batgirl will probably be the role those of us at a certain age will remember her for. Of course, she appeared in movies and other TV shows before Batman, but I don’t remember seeing any. Little did most people know that in 1957, she was getting $250 a week for The Young Land with options scaled up to $3,000 weekly by 1960 (well, columnist James Bacon knew. He wrote about it 1957).

Here’s a neat article from the “Youth Parade” section of the Binghamton Press of August 17, 1960, which makes a rather foolish case that kids can have a body like Yvonne Craig.

Actress Demonstrates Exercises
Special Press Writer
SUMMER styles focus attention on arms and shoulders. Abbreviated play clothes spotlight this area every time you move, whether you're carrying a doggie satchel or a bag of groceries. So here are some "sungestions," as demonstrated by Yvonne Craig, to firm and fill out these exposed areas.
A WONDER worker for arms is this push-and-pull exercise. Done slowly it builds up thin arms; quicken tempo and it firms flabby skin.
Yvonne, seen in the 20th Century-Fox film, "High Time," uses three-pound weights or their equivalent in books.
HOLLOWS in collarbones tend to fill out when this routine is practiced faithfully. Stand at arm's length facing a wall. Then, place palms on wall so fingertips touch. Gently lean chest to wall, then return to starting position. Keep back straight as you do this workout fifteen times.

When the producers of Batman decided to add Craig, the publicity machines did their jobs. Here are a couple of newspaper columns from that period. The first is from the Associated Press, July 18, 1967.

Dynamic Duo Will Become Terrific Trio
Editor's Note—One of the eternal problems of television is giving an established series a booster shot. ABC. “Batman,” no longer a nine-day camp wonder, has shaken down to its hard-core young audience now and will soon attempt to brighten its corner by introducing a third character, “Batgirl,” moving the Dynamic Duo to a Terrific Trio. The lucky girl is a former ballet dancer, Yvonne Craig, who will wear a mask, of course, a purple and gold cape, and a skin-tight purple suit so that, says the producer, “It will be impossible to mistake Batgirl for Batman.”
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — Batgirl, another character from the “Batman” comics, is really Barbara Gordon, the librarian-daughter of Commissioner Gordon. She has just returned from college, but an intellectual square she's not. She helps the Dynamic Duo in their fight against crime, but they have no idea who she is. For that matter, neither does she know who Batman and Robin are.
An actress likes to be noticed, and who could miss Batgirl? She comes screeching to the scene of the crime in a customized Batgirlcycle with purple Bat fins, white lace trim, a fringed seat and a large gold bow on the back.
Very Feminine
And while Batgirl is an active type, she's also very feminine None of that smacking people low with karate and gung-fu. In my opinion, three karate chops and you've lost your feminity. If a girl goes on a date and a fellow gets fresh, she can't very well give him a karate chop for a good-night. But if she ducks, she’s simply adept and feminine. Batgirl will be aiding and assisting Batman and Robin, not constantly rescuing them. I like that, too.
In fact I like “Batman,” period. It's wild and bizarre; while entertaining the youngsters with its action and costumes, it contains a lot of humor for adults. I recently met an important politician in Denver who told me “Batman” had produced some of the best political satire he had seen. The prospects are very exciting.
Big Break
When I was touring the country with the Ballet Russe and doing guest spots on television, I never dreamed that my first big break would be as a sort of sexy superheroine.
After doing a 15-minute presentation film as Batgirl for ABC, I still had to wait for some time for the decision that Batgirl would become a regular member of the "Batman" cast. I was given the news while attending a network function in Chicago. I suddenly realized that I was in the dream situation of every actress who aspires to a television series role. There was no worry about an audience—“Batman” is an established show— and there was no concern about whether it would sell because it’s already sold. As a veteran of four unsold television pilots I can appreciate that kind of security.

And the Buffalo Courier-Express did this promo piece, published August 20, 1967. It seems rather tacky publishing Craig’s measurements, but in this day of pictures of a Kardashian shoving a greased butt at the camera, it’s comparatively quaint.

Batgirl and Batcycle Join Dynamic Duo
Yvonne Craig Having Grand Time on ABC Series

HOLLYWOOD — Pow! Zap! Va-va voom! Batgirl is here, and quicker than you can flash a batsignal, Gotham City's dynamic duo has become the terrific trio.
In the illusory TV world of Gotham City, Batgirl's true identity is Barbara Gordon, the just returned from college daughter of unsuspecting Commissioner Gordon. And in the illusory world of show business, Barbara Gordon's true identity is Yvonne Craig, a luscious ballet dancer-turned-actress.
So far, Yvonne has been having a great time as a dedicated crime fighter in the ABC series.
“I HAD NEVER seen anything like it,” she remarked the other day, referring to the first time she had seen Batman and Robin in her TV screen.
“I didn't quite know what to think then,” she admitted, “but now I love the show; there are so many fun things about it.
“IT'S WILD AND bizarre; while thrilling the kids with its action and costumes, its humor gets through to the adults who are watching with them. In fact, a politician recently told me he thinks Batman has produced some of the best political satire he has ever seen.”
Yvonne was outside the studio soundstage watching the crew shoot an exterior scene.
“There it is,” she smiled, pointing to an outlandishly purple motorcycle bedecked with bat wings, trimmed in lace and sporting a white bow on its rear fender. “It's the batgirl cycle.”
“OH, I CAN RIDE it all right,” she boasted. “I just have trouble when it's stopped; it's so heavy I can't hold it up. It fell over the other day and I decided to try talking to it.
“ ‘Come on,’ I said nicely, ‘you can get up, can't you?’ It didn't, so I kicked it.”
Then she recalled with a laugh how the thing nearly wiped out Vincent Price, who was guest villain Egghead.
“IN THE SCENE I race in on the batgirl cycle and make a panic stop at the curb, where Vincent is standing. Well, it stopped; but then — Voom! Voom!—It went after him a second time.
“He ended up straight-arming it and cut his hand on the bat wing. It ran over his foot, too.
“I thought I was going to kill him; that would have been the end of art in Los Angeles.”
REPORTEDLY, PRICE had the urge to shout, “ole!” Producer Howie Horwitz offered him two ears and an organdie bow.
“Let's go see Barbara Gordon's apartment,” she suggested. On the way, we detoured to her dressing room, where the wardrobe department's Pat Barto was looking over Rome row acquisitions for Barbara Gordon.
“How are you in stretch jeans?” asked Pat.
“Not too great,” she replied modestly. Those who have seen her in the form-fitting Batgirl costume might take exception to that statement. Although the outfit looks like a shapeless skindiving suit while on a hanger, on Yvonne it is rather stunning. (She confessed, somewhat reluctantly, her dimensions are 35½-21-34½).
“BUT LET'S SEE the apartment,” Yvonne urged.
The apartment was dark. The bright studio lights were turned off, and the only illumination on the set came from the open studio doors.
“I'd like to move in here,” she said. “That would be kicky. I really like that bedroom.”
The living room of Barbara Gordon's apartment is contemporary in design, reflecting the tastes of a swinger. But the bedroom is very feminine, with ruffles and antique furniture.
Behind her vanity table lies her secret room: Barbara Gordon's answer to the batcave. It is replete with flashing lights and an Iris-like exit leading to the batgirl cycle.

On the same page as this story is a photo of Eddie Albert and Arnold the Pig. It reminded me that television seemed an awful lot more fun in 1967. And Yvonne Craig was part of it. Farewell, Yvonne.


  1. Yvonne also had the honor of being the first image anyone saw in the original pilot for Dobie Gillis back in 1959. She also gets the most lines, along with Tuesday Weld, in the closing segment with the entire cast.