Actress and ballet dancer Yvonne Craig has died as a result of complications due to breast cancer. She was 78.
Craig was born in Taylorville, Illinois, but grew up in Columbus, Ohio. Trained as a ballet dancer—she was a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the ’50s—Craig moved into acting and appeared in Gidget, The Young Land, and The Gene Krupa Story in 1959. She began doing more television work in the ’60s, including an appearance on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well as portraying five different girlfriends to Dwayne Hickman’s Dobie Gillis on The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis. Craig also appeared in two films with Elvis Presley—It Happened At The World’s Fair and Kissin’ Cousins—and the two dated for a brief period.
Craig is perhaps best known, however, for her role as Barbara Gordon and her alter ego Batgirl on ABC’s Batman. Craig joined the campy take on the caped crusader during the show’s third and final season. Craig had done an unsold sitcom pilot for Batman producer William Dozier, who brought her into Gotham City. “When I got there,” Craig recalled in an interview, “He said, ‘We’re thinking of adding a new character to the Batman series—Batgirl. Would you be interested in doing it?’ I said, ‘Very.’”
Batgirl made her debut in a 1967 issue of Detective Comics; Dozier, looking to breathe new life in the show, suggested that the new character of Batgirl should be the daughter of Commissioner James Gordon and asked the comic book writers to expound upon on the character as a sort of cross-promotion. To get the ABC execs on board, a short film was shot featuring Yvonne Craig as Batgirl doing battle with Tim Herbert as Killer Moth. The former dancer enjoyed the physicality of portraying a superhero, saying in a 2002 interview, “When you are doing a show, it can get really dull. You are sitting so long while they set up the lights, then you say a couple lines, then they tear down the lights again. At least stunts are something that uses your physical energy a great deal.”
Batman was canceled in its third season, and even though Batgirl’s popularity almost resulted in her own spinoff, nothing materialized. Craig became so synonymous with the role that upon the publishing of 1988’s Alan Moore-penned The Killing Joke —which features a scene in which The Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon—Craig complained to DC about what she viewed as the character’s cruel fate.
Craig’s second most popular role was that of Marta, the sexy green-skinned Orion who attempts to seduce Captain Kirk in the 1969 Star Trek episode Whom Gods Destroy. The actress was no stranger to sci-fi fans, having appeared in 1967’s Mars Needs Women, and was originally considered for the role of Vina in the Star Trek pilot The Cage due to her ballet and dancing skills.
Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Craig continued working in TV, making guest appearances on The Six Million Dollar Man, Emergency!, The Mod Squad, and Fantasy Island. She eventually settled into a career in real estate making a brief return to the entertainment industry as the voice of Grandma on the animated children’s show Olivia. Craig also penned a memoir titled From Ballet To The Batcave And Beyond in 2000.
Craig is survived by her husband Kenneth Aldrich, her sister Meridel Carson, and nephews Christopher and Todd Carson. The family asks that donations be made to The Angeles Clinic Foundation by clicking here.