Yvonne Craig was born in Taylorville, Illinois, and was raised in Columbus, Ohio. In 1951, her family moved 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”. After being discovered by Alexandra Danilova, a world-renowned ballerina and instructor, Craig joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as its youngest corps de ballet member. This training came in handy as she was able to perform 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 movies. She eventually moved into acting. In 1958 she appeared in an episode (“The Case of the Lazy Lover”) of the TV series Perry Mason alongside Neil Hamilton, who played her stepfather (coincidentally, Hamilton who would go on to play Gotham City police Commissioner James Gordon, Batgirl’s father, in Batman). In 1959 she appeared in three films—The Young Land, The Gene Krupa Story, and Gidget—and also guest-starred in TV series Mr. Lucky as Beverly Mills in the 1959 episode “Little Miss Wow”. In 1960, she appeared with Bing Crosby in High Time. In 1961, she appeared in Seven Women from Hell alongside Cesar Romero, who would later play the Joker in Batman. 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.
In the 1960s, she moved to television, appearing in several shows, including The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Death Valley Days, Hennesey, and My Three Sons. Craig appeared five times on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, portraying five separate girlfriends for the titular character between 1959 and 1962. In 1969 Craig appeared on Star Trek as Marta, a green-skinned Orion slave girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk in a Season 3 episode called “Whom Gods Destroy”. In a 1965 episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (“The Brain-Killer Affair”), she helps solve the mystery of a brain-endangering poison. In 1966, she appeared as an U.N.C.L.E. employee in a theatrical film, One Spy Too Many (expanded from an episode from Season Two called “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 of McHale’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.
In September 1967, Craig acted her highest-profile role—as Batgirl—for the third and last season of the 1960s ABC TV series Batman. 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 “add[ing] a scrappy girl-power element” to a TV series it described as “campy”. Craig reportedly felt some connection to the character and complained to DC Comics after Barbara Gordon was shot and paralyzed by the Joker in the 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke. After Batman, Craig continued to act sporadically in movies and television. Notably, 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. Craig died at her home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, on August 17, 2015, aged 78, from metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her liver. She is survived by her husband, Kenneth Aldrich, as well as by her sister, Meridel Carson. Her family requested that well-wishers wanting to send flowers or other gifts instead make donations to the Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to cancer treatment, research, and advocacy.
- May, 16, 1937
- Taylorville, Illinois
- August, 17, 2015
- Pacific Palisades, California
Cause of Death
- breast cancer