Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Ethel and Yvonne

No amount of Shark Repellent Bat Spray could kill the shark over which Batman jumped entering its final TV season. The first sign of a toothy creature swimming toward the series was the addition of Batgirl. 11-year-old me realised in 1967 it was a ratings gimmick. The next sign were the villains that simply couldn’t be taken seriously. Milton Berle? Oh, come on. Ethel Merman? She wasn’t evil. Well, maybe she was to Ernie Borgnine. All you saw on the TV screen was Ethel Merman, not a character. The worst was the episode with the pied piper/mechanical mice. I had turned 12 by then and just rolled my eyes. Any sense of adventure or suspense to keep kids tuned had been tossed out by the producers, who just seemed to be amusing themselves.

Ethel and Batgirl were used as selling points for the coming season. Here’s a story from the National Enterprise Association from August 31, 1967 quoting the Merm and Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl. The columnist doesn’t have any idea who Batgirl’s character is. And Merman eventually did play Dolly Levi.
Ethel Merman Bids Broadway ‘Good-Bye’

Newspaper Enterprise Assn.
HOLLYWOOD — Batman, this coming season, has lost an episode but gained a daughter. The Caped Crusader — or, if you prefer, The Riotous Rodent — will only be on ABC once a week. But this year, there will be a Batgirl on the premises.
Not only that, but producer Howie Horwitz is going ahead snagging off unexpected guest stars to spice up the proceedings. One such is Ethel Merman, playing a character named Lola Lasagna. She did a two-parter, working with Burgess Meredith (The Penguin) and she had a batball.
“That’s what I want to do from now on,” Miss Merman said, still full of enthusiasm. “Just do different things. I did a Tarzan in Mexico and loved it. And I loved this.”
The greatest Broadway musical star of them all has turned her back on the Broadway musical stage. For good, she says.
“No more of those long runs for me.” Ethel says. “I wouldn’t do another Broadway musical for anything. I turned down ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Mame’— that ought to prove I’m serious about it.”
She wouldn’t mind a drama—something like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”—or perhaps a limited-engagement musical. But more than anything, she wants a television series. No more big musicals, though.
“I don’t think much of Broadway musicals these days,” she says. “They’ve changed. Why, some of the performers these days won’t even do matinees. Imagine that.”
A girl who would gladly do a Broadway musical is Yvonne Craig, the delightful young actress who is the new Batgirl. In fact, she’s Batgirling it this year in the hopes that this will lead to something — like perhaps a musical.
Yvonne Craig has two of the three talents needed for the musical stage—she is originally a ballet dancer and now an accomplished actress. As for the third, singing, she’s studying.
Actually, Yvonne took the Batgirl part for two reasons — she wanted recognition (“I’ve done many guest shots, but people never put the face and name together”) and credit cards.
As a free-lance actress,” she says, “I could never get a credit card. They figure that free-lance actresses are not good risks. The only way I got a gasoline credit card is because a friend let me put down that I was a part-time secretary with his company.”
Yvonne Craig spent three years with the Ballet Russe, so she knows what she's talking about, entrechat-wise. And if you have a daughter thinking about ballet — or if you're thinking about ballet for her — Yvonne’s ideas are worth considering.
Yvonne didn’t start studying dancing until she was 14, which runs counter to the old theory that the younger a girl starts the better.
“I think,” she says, “that it can be harmful to start too young. If I had a daughter and she was built right — loose — I wouldn’t start her until she was about 12, ten, perhaps. But no younger.”
She also has a theory that ballet schools should teach a course in anatomy along with dancing. A dancer, she believes, should know about the muscles in her body and how much punishment they can take.
So practice dancing, work hard, learn about muscles — and maybe you, too, can be a Batgirl.
Judging by that story, Yvonne was quite happy to get her name in print. We transcribed one interview she did in this post. Here’s another one, published September 19, 1967. I don’t know which syndicate employed the columnist who wrote it. Again, fame seems to be of great importance to her.
Batgirl Is a Lively Little Lady

NEW YORK — There are some people who are just too darned pretty in real life to be adequately captured by a camera.
Yvonne Craig is one of them.
The Lively little (5’4”) lady, who has launched a new phase of her career as Batman’s Batgirl (“they call me the Bat Broad on the set") really doesn't need the smooth delicate facial features, the unassuming teenage lips or the handsome mannerisms of the uncluttered mind, to be classified a true beauty.
These things serve mainly as a frame for the loveliest eyes since Elizabeth Taylor popped on the scene many a moon ago.
And surprisingly enough, behind those absorbing orbs, there is a brain to match.
“I have a pretty face,” Yvonne admitted, “but it is a face without a name.
“In television, you can work steadily on any number of shows and when you’re seen, you’re forgotten. I’ve had guest parts in a dozen or more series but I’m still unknown today.
“That’s what I like about the Batgirl role. After I’m seen in this, my face and my name will become associated and there’s nothing more important in show business.”
Yvonne was offered a series role in a show, The Mothers In-Law, dominated by two potent personalities, Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard.
“Of course I wanted to do it,” she admitted, “but I could see that it would be little more than an entrance and exit situation. In the end I would still be a face without a name.
“I think and hope the show will be a great success, but I also think my chances will be better with Batgirl.”
Yvonne has an added opinion for which the Girl Watchers of America should be grateful. She despises the modern fashions that have “made the bosom and the waist obsolete.”
“I think the women of America are so diet conscious today because we have gone through an era where waists have been practically unknown. “With all these tent dresses and straight up-and-down fashions, women haven’t had to worry about the lines of their figures. And the result is a waistless society.”
And that is another area in which Yvonne excels. For whatever else viewers will think of the new Batgirl, they must admit to a man that she cuts a striking figure on the show.
Craig did as well as she could with the Batgirl role. She’s more fondly remembered today, I suspect, than in 1967 because those 11-year-old boys that didn’t see a need for her on the show figured out the reason later in life.

1 comment:

  1. As an 8 year old boy when it was cancelled, I KNOW why they needed her....but werent
    t Catwoman and Pussycat for this purpose, too? :)(Pussycat:a surprise acting role for Lesley Gore, who DID act now and then but is well remembered as a SINGER, singing the catchy,sleek.."California Nights" on the show)