Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Two Views of Yvonne Craig, 1937-2015

Her time in the sun was in 1968, when she was already 30 years old. Fortunately, she had that strain of Audrey Hepburn/Sally Field winsome good looks that last a while, especially if the woman in question takes care of herself, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink to excess, etc. Yvonne Craig was on top of all that.

Looking at the photo at right, one is reminded that it wasn’t until the late 1970s and into the 1980s, that being a “hardbody” with taut, toned skin and firm muscles was required in Hollywood. Actors and actresses today usually have a personal trainer to worry them into shape. And that’s fine; I’m all for toned bodies. But to behold Ms. Craig as she is here, with a little more body fat than would be permissible these days, a responsible adult who eats right and takes care of herself, it stirs an ache. 

Especially for middle-aged old coots like me who remember when women didn’t go out of their way to gross people out by way of being sexy. No manjaws. No cartoonishly exaggerated busts or rear ends. No weird piercings, or hair that looks like it was cut by a severely autistic blind child. As Archie and Edith once sang, “Those were the days.”

I don’t think anyone has really thought of her for years. Yvonne Craig was always a guest star, never the star. But she did all right for herself. After all, here we are talking about her, on the occasion of her death by breast cancer. We remember her more fondly than we do most former headliners—if we remember them at all.

Yvonne Craig’s best-remembered roles are that as Batgirl—brought on in a futile attempt to save a dying fad/show—and as Marta, seen above as the psychotic green-skinned Orion woman who tries to stab Capt. Kirk in the third season Star Trek episode, “Whom Gods Destroy.” 

The scene from which the above still was taken is notable as being one of the more brutal scenes in the entire series, as Marta is forcibly dragged out into the poisonous planetary atmosphere outside of an insane asylum’s dome. She’s then exploded via a high-explosive worked into the fabric of her dress, all for the satisfaction of that episode’s villain. 

The effects are stagey, and not at all gory like they would be today, for which I am actually grateful to NBC’s Bureau of Standards and Practices in 1968. Just knowing what was supposedly happening made enough of an impression on my nine-year-old self watching it for the first time without having a bucket of exploded green humanoid chum poured over my head. 

Yvonne Craig managed to score enough guesting roles here and there throughout the 1970s at a time in which, if you were an actress over 30, you were finished. She got little businesses going to support herself when those opportunities dried up, and was reportedly the epitome of graciousness at conventions. Dying at age 78 is thought of as young these days, but that’s cancer for you. Yvonne Craig lived well, and is sorely missed, no doubt as much for the lighter-hearted times she represents (grisly Star Trek death aside) as for the characters she brought to life.

The following clip was created by Paul Grisham for the Batgirl Access Channel, an unofficial Yvonne Craig fan page on Facebook, featuring scenes from Yvonne Craig’s busy years. As a Star Trek fan, I especially appreciated seeing the end-title credit with Susan Oliver and Yvonne Craig on the same card. Oliver and Craig were the only two women to portray the famous green-skinned Orion girls on the original series. I also thought it was interesting how many times Craig had to dance in her roles. She was extremely graceful. Sic transit gloria mundi.