April 3, 1925
New York City, New York, USA
|Spouse(s)||Patricia Ann Datz (married 1951–1986, her death); Barbara Doyle (married 1988–present)|
|Awards||Golden Halo Award, 2009 (from Southern California Motion Picture Council)|
Born and reared in New York USA, during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served on three successive ships in the North Atlantic and Pacific fleets and accumulated ten battle stars before he entered Japan's Inland Sea with the first group of occupation Ffrces. Upon returning to civilian life, the former torpedoman worked in summer stock beginning in 1946, and enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, making his Broadway debut in 1949 in Mister Roberts starring Henry Fonda.
His professional career as an actor spans more than five decades and has included performances in stage plays on and off Broadway, radio dramas, several hundreds of live and filmed episodes of television series, and more than thirty feature motion pictures made in the United States and abroad. His most recent performances were in live radio dramas broadcast in June 2010. In his film and television work, Merlin was frequently cast as the heavy, and consequently his character very often died onscreen. For example, in 1960, Merlin played Travers in Hell Bent for Leather (film).
Merlin had co-starring roles in two television series: from 1950 to 1953 as Cadet Roger Manning in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and in 1959 as Lieutenant Colin Kirby in the ABC western series, The Rough Riders. In 1960, he was cast as Mick Norton in the episode "Hostage Island" of the ABC adventure series, The Islanders, set in the South Pacific. He also appeared as Hendry Grant in the 1961 episode, "First Blood" of the NBC western series, The Tall Man, starring Barry Sullivan and Clu Gulager. He made two guest appearances on Perry Mason. In 1958 he played Tony Davis in "The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde," and in 1961 he played Ralph Quentin in "The Case of the Jealous Journalist." Actress Irene Hervey also appeared in both episodes, playing Tony Davis' mother in the 1958 broadcast.
In the 1961 episode "Stolen Tribute" of the NBC western series, Laramie, Merlin played Clint Wade, a released former prisoner who forces at gunpoint series character Jess Harper, played by Robert Fuller, to travel into desert country in the Utah Territory in search of $80,000 in stolen gold coins. Jess had killed and buried Wade's brother five years earlier at an abandoned Spanish mission but without finding the whereabouts of the buried gold. Soon Wade's former cellmate, Deke Beldon, played by Dennis Patrick, joins them with plans to take the money for himself. At the outpost, the three come upon crusty recluse Tully Casper, played by Edgar Buchanan, who also has his eyes on the gold. Ultimately, Jess Harper forces Casper to turn over the gold to authorities after Casper has already spent some $200 in a saloon.
On February 12, 1963, Merlin appeared again on Laramie as Joel Greevy in the episode "The Fugitives". Series character Slim Sherman (John Smith) is shot and left for dead while in the pursuit of robbers. With temperatures dropping rapidly, his ranch partner, Jess Harper, must find Slim quickly. Jess breaks Greevy from jail so that he can direct Jess to Slim's whereabouts. Jess recaptures Greevy and his partners, but Greevy is killed in the process. Phyllis Avery plays Greevy's older sister, Myra, who had been a surrogate mother to the young outlaw.
As an author, Merlin received an Emmy Award in 1975 for his scripting of the NBC Daytime soap opera Another World. He was nominated again in 1976. His first novel was published in 1982. He currently has a number of novels in print, including Gunbearer, Part I, Gunbearer, Part II, Ainoko, Gypsies Don't Lie, Crackpots and Shooting Montezuma. He has also published several works of fiction and non-fiction with co-author William Russo, including The Paid Companion of J. Wilkes Booth, Troubles in a Golden Eye, MGM Makes Boys' Town, and Hanging with Billy Budd.
In 2009, Merlin received a Golden Halo Award, for his work as actor and writer, from the Southern California Motion Picture Council. Merlin has one child, by his first wife, a son, Peter William Merlin (born 1964).
- Jan Merlin at the Internet Movie Database
- Brief biography of Jan Merlin
- Autobiographical account by Jan Merlin
- I Talked with a Zombie: interviews with 23 veterans of horror and sci-fi, by Tom Weaver.