Yvonne Craig, the actress who portrayed Batgirl on the cult series Batman, was an unlikely candidate for the role she made famous. She passed away August 17.
Growing up in Illinois, Craig was more interested in becoming a ballet dancer. Her dancing ability was discovered by the world-renowned ballerina and instructor Alexandra Danilova. Her skills were so impressive that she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and was featured as one of the youngest dancers. In 1957, Yvonne left the company over casting disputes.
To further pursue her dancing dream, Craig moved to Los Angeles. Instead of finding ballet shoes, the bright lights found her. She had parts in a few movies and had a supporting role in two Elvis Presley pictures. But the fame of Hollywood came when Yvonne was cast as Batgirl in the 1967-68 season of Batman.
Craig was still touring as a dancer, when the opportunity to act presented itself. According to an earlier interview with CNN, Yvonne was having dinner with a producer when the son of director John Ford, walked by and noticed her. When Craig attempted to say she wasn’t an actress, the producer interrupted and said she was.
“[Director] John Ford’s son walked by and asked ‘Excuse me, are you an actress?’ And as I shook my head and tried to swallow, [the producer said], ‘She is and I’m her manager. What can I do for you?’ Typical Hollywood.
“They were doing a movie with John Wayne’s son Patrick, and they were looking for a leading lady. And I became it.”
Years later, Yvonne Craig was cast as Batgirl.
The role of Batgirl involved stunts. As a trained ballerina, Craig was able to maneuver the screen with ease. Even scenes riding her trademark Batgirl cycle were done by her.
After the final season of Batman, Yvonne was seen in another cult classic. In a third season episode of Star Trek, Craig played Marta, an insane Green Orion Slave Girl, who wanted to kill Captain Kirk. The dance sequence Yvonne performs in the episode, “Whom Gods Destroy,” is a mesmerizing showcase of her dance skills. Before landing the role as Batgirl, Craig toured with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo for three years.
The show added Batgirl, Yvonne said, 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!”
Whatever the reason may have been, Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl graced the screen with poise and charisma. Who knew a young ballerina would become a bat the world would love?
[Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images]