Yvonne Craig, TV's Sexy Batgirl of the 1960s, Dies at 78

Yvonne Craig as Batgirl on the TV series 'Batman.'
Reverie Productions

She joined ABC’s 'Batman' for its third and final season after appearing in a pair of films starring Elvis Presley, whom she dated.

Yvonne Craig, the actress who originated the role as the high-kicking crime fighter Batgirl on the iconic 1960s ABC series Batman, has died. She was 78.

A former ballerina, Craig died Monday night at her home in Pacific Palisades, her nephew, Christopher Carson, announced. The cause was breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver, he said.
 
Craig also was known for playing Marta, an insane green Orion Slave Girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk (William Shatner) in a 1969, third-season Star Trek episode, “Whom Gods Destroy.”
 
 
Craig joined Batman for its third and final season (1967-68) as Batgirl/librarian Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon (Neil Hamilton).
 
Batman producer William Dozier, for whom she had done an unsold sitcom pilot years earlier, called and asked her if she would come in for an interview, she once recalled.
 
“When I got there, 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!’ ”
 
Craig said they put her character on the show “because they needed someone who could encourage an over-40 male audience and a prepubescent female audience. That’s the real reason why they hired me!"
 
Craig did all of her own stunts and all of her motorcycle riding on the show. Her leatherette-clad character accessed her sleek Batgirl Cycle from an old, unused elevator that was hidden behind a revolving wall in her apartment and led to the street below.
 
On the series, only the Wayne butler Alfred (Alan Napier) knew her secret identity  — not even Batman (Adam West) or Robin (Burt Ward)!
 
Batman was an immediate sensation when it debuted in January 1966 but had run out of steam by the time Craig joined the series for its final 26 episodes.
 
The dark-haired beauty, a native of Taylorville, Ill., began her theatrical career at age 17 as the youngest member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She traveled the U.S. and was with the troupe for three years when she was discovered by director John Ford’s agent son Patrick and cast for the lead in the movie The Young Land (1959). 
 
She then starred opposite Elvis Presley in the films It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). The two dated for a spell.
 
Her film résumé also included The Gene Krupa Story (1959), John Sturges By Love Possessed (1961), 7 Women From Hell (1961) — with future Joker villain Cesar Romero — Ski Party (1965) and Mars Needs Women (1967).
 
On television, she appeared on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Fantasy Island, The Six Million Dollar Man, Kojak, Land of the Giants, Mod Squad, The Wild Wild West, Emergency! and many other shows. 
 
Most recently, she provided the voice of Grandma in the 2009 cartoon series Olivia for Nickelodeon, served as executive producer for the documentary feature BIRTH and worked as a real estate broker.
 
Yvonne and her sister, Meridel, went into the prepaid phone card business at its inception, producing phone cards as fundraisers for many charitable organizations as well as promotional phone cards for the 1995 Paramount film Clueless — starring Alicia Silverstone, who played Batgirl in 1997's Batman & Robin. They also did Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny cards for Warner Bros. stores, her nephew noted.
 
In 2000, she wrote a memoir, From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond.
 
In addition to her sister and nephew, survivors include her husband, Kenneth, and another nephew, Todd.
 
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Angeles Clinic Foundation.
 
Twitter: @mikebarnes4
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