|Yvonne Joyce Craig|
May 16, 1937 – August 17, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
A pioneer of female superheroes" for television
Yvonne Craig was born in Taylorville, Illinois, and was raised in Columbus, Ohio. In 1951, her family moved to the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, where she attended WH Adamson High School and then Sunset High School, from which she did not technically graduate due to the lack of "a single PE credit".
Alexandra Danilova, a ballerina and instructor, Craig joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as its youngest corps de ballet member. This training was helpful when she performed stunts while playing Batgirl. She left the ballet company in 1957 "over a disagreement on casting changes" and moved to Los Angeles in the hopes of continuing her dancing career but found herself cast in film roles.
One of her earliest television roles was in an episode of the TV series Perry Mason ("The Case of the Lazy Lover", 1958) alongside Neil Hamilton, who played her stepfather (later Hamilton played police Commissioner James Gordon, Batgirl's father). Shortly afterwards, she appeared in three films—The Young Land, The Gene Krupa Story, and Gidget (all 1959)—and also guest-starred in TV series Mr. Lucky as Beverly Mills in the episode "Little Miss Wow" (also 1959). Craig appeared with Bing Crosby in High Time (1960) and in Seven Women from Hell (1961) featured alongside Cesar Romero.
Craig starred in roles with Elvis Presley in two films: It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) and Kissin' Cousins (1964). She also starred in the 1966 cult sci-fi film Mars Needs Women and appeared in In Like Flint (1967) as a Russian ballet dancer opposite James Coburn.
During the the 1960s, Craig regularly appeared in television drama series. Craig appeared five times on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, portraying five separate girlfriends for the titular character between 1959 and 1962.
Craig appeared on Star Trek as Marta, a green-skinned Orion slave girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk in the episode "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969).
In an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("The Brain-Killer Affair", 1965), she helps solve the mystery of a brain-endangering poison. Craig appeared as an U.N.C.L.E. employee in a theatrical film, One Spy Too Many (1966) expanded from the episode "The Alexander the Greater Affair"). In a 1966 episode of The Wild Wild West ("The Night of the Grand Emir"), she played an assassin who performs an exotic Arabian dance. She also played a nurse in the U.S. Navy with exotic Arabian dance skills in an episode ofMcHale's Navy ("Pumpkin Takes Over", 1965). She appeared in an episode of The Big Valley with Lee Majors and Barbara Stanwyck. In a 1968 episode of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir ("Haunted Honeymoon"), she played a bride-to-be stranded overnight at Gull Cottage. In a 1970 episode of Land of the Giants ("Wild Journey"), she played one-half of a humanoid, time-observing duo (alongside Bruce Dern) who chase two of the Earth castaways (series stars Gary Conway and Don Marshall) into the past, ultimately forcing them to relive the flight that sent them to the giants' planet.
From September 1967, Craig appeared in her highest-profile role—as Batgirl—for the third and last season of the 1960s ABC TV seriesBatman. As Batgirl she wore a purple and yellow outfit and rode a "purple motorcycle with white lace trim", whereas as her alter ego Barbara Gordon she played the librarian daughter of Commissioner Gordon. The New York Times praised her for "adding a scrappy girl-power element" to a TV series it described as "campy".
After Batman, Craig continued to act sporadically in movies and television. She appeared in guest roles in Love, American Style (the first episode), Kentucky Jones, The Big Valley, It Takes a Thief, The Mod Squad, Kojak and Emergency!. From 1969 to 1972, she appeared in four episodes of the comedy series Love, American Style. In 1973 she appeared in a season 1 episode of Kojak called "Dark Sunday" and in 1977 made a guest appearance in The Six Million Dollar Man. She also made appearances as herself on some celebrity editions of Family Feud (1976-1985 version).
When her Hollywood career ended, she ventured into private business. She was briefly a co-producer of industrial shows, before starting a new career as a real estate broker. From 2009 to 2011, she voiced "Grandma" on the animated children's show Olivia. Craig published an autobiography called From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond in 2000. She appeared in the documentary film Ballets Russes.