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Thursday, August 20, 2015

FAREWELL TO THE DOMINOED DARE-DOLL: R.I.P. YVONNE CRAIG, TV'S BATGIRL

 For many of my age/generation, Yvonne Craig's portrayal of Batgirl in the 1960's classic hit TV series BATMAN can be directly pointed to as one of the moments in which they first felt confusing stirring in their private regions, and that kind of impact is powerful indeed. Batgirl was lithe, sexy, brave, glamorous, and possessed of a game sense of humor and joy in fighting crime that the Caped Crusaders lacked (thanks to their intentional and over-the-top whitebread squareness), so she was pretty much destined to own a considerable piece of real estate in the hearts and minds of her fans.

Craig in costume as Batgirl.

Craig got her start as a ballet dancer and her training in that art was evident in her every graceful movement, captivating the eye and leading one to marvel at the seeming effortlessness of her physicality. And while boys across the nation tuned in to drool over her luscious figure clad in shiny purple spandex (or whatever the stretchy stuff was called back in the days), girls also avidly watched and thrilled to Batgirl's exploits, with many going so far as to emulate her ballet-influenced high-kick fighting moves on the playground. What a lot of people didn't realize back then was that girls also needed superheroes and that female examples of such were quite rare. Fortunately, the 1960's were an era of change across the social and cultural landscape, so the likes of Honey West, Cathy Gale, Cinnamon Carter, and Emma Peel burst forth on the TV screen to engage in wild adventures and kick unprecedented truckloads of ass alongside their male colleagues and did so with a distinctly feminine flavor. And though she took the stage toward the end of the decade, it is perhaps Batgirl who stands out most prominently as the all-ages icon of distaff heroism for the era, with only Emma Peel giving giving her any real competition in the pop culture immortality/name-recognition department.

Craig as the cheeky Maude Waverly, in added footage shot for ONE SPY TOO MANY (1966), the theatrical version of the two-part installment from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., "The Alexander the Greater Affair" (1965).

That said, Craig's presence in 1960's pop culture was not limited to Batgirl. Among numerous other projects, she starred opposite Elvis Presley in two features, IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR (1963) and KISSIN' COUSINS (1964), my favorite of the many idiotic Elvis flicks, but it was her portrayal of the dangerously insane Marta in STAR TREK's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969) that may be her most remembered part not involving a cape, cowl, and bitchin' motorcycle.

As Marta in STAR TREK's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969).

One of '60's TREK's infamous "green chicks," Marta was light years away from Batgirl's fun sunniness, possessed as she was of outright criminal insanity. Marta fairly radiated raw sexuality and serpentine madness, and it was that "adult" sensibility coming from the woman who brought Batgirl to life that forever branded the character into two generations of young minds.

Yvonne Craig met her fate after a two-year battle with breast cancer that metastasized in her liver, perhaps the cruelest possible demise for an artist who excelled in roles requiring terpsichorean fluidity and expressiveness. Thankfully, Craig's beauty, youth, and lissomeness were captured forever on film and will live on to entertain, thrill, and enthrall audiences for as long as home entertainment survives. Rest well, Yvonne Craig, and know that your influence is undying.

3 comments:

liquidlen said...

Well written as always sir.

Fabian Nicieza said...

great article, steve!

Ed Laz said...

Hear hear!