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Merrill in the trailer for the film A Blueprint for Murder
|Born||Gary Fred Merrill
August 2, 1915
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||March 5, 1990
Falmouth, Maine, U.S.
Gary Fred Merrill (August 2, 1915 – March 5, 1990) was an American film and television character actor whose credits included more than fifty feature films, a half-dozen mostly short-lived TV series, and dozens of television guest appearances. Merrill starred in All About Eve and married his co-star, Bette Davis.
Life and career
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he attended private Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and Trinity College and began acting in 1944, while still in the United States Army Air Forces, in Winged Victory. Before entering films, Merrill's deep cultured voice won him a recurring role as Batman in the Superman radio series. His film career began promisingly, with roles in films like Twelve O'Clock High (1949) and All About Eve (1950), but he rarely moved beyond supporting roles in his many Westerns, war movies, and medical dramas. His television career was extensive, if not consistent. He appeared from 1954-1956 as Jason Tyler on the NBC crime drama Justice, about lawyers of the Legal Aid Society of New York. In that series, he was cast opposite Dane Clark and then William Prince in the role of Richard Adams.
Merrill's first marriage, to Barbara Leeds in 1941, ended in divorce in Mexico July 28, 1950. That same day, he married Bette Davis, his co-star from All About Eve, and adopted her daughter Barbara from a previous marriage. He and Davis adopted two more children, Margo and Michael, but they had a bitter divorce in 1960.
Often politically active, he campaigned in 1958 to elect the Democrat, Edmund Sixtus Muskie, as governor of Maine. Merrill also took part in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 to promote Black voter registration. In response to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson's Vietnam War policy, he unsuccessfully sought nomination to the Maine legislature as an anti-war, pro-environmentalist Democratic primary candidate.
Aside from an occasional role as narrator, Merrill had essentially retired from the entertainment business after 1980. Shortly before his death, he authored the autobiography Bette, Rita and the Rest of My Life (1989).
Merrill survived his second wife, Bette Davis, by only five months, dying of lung cancer in Falmouth, Maine on March 5, 1990. He is buried there in the Pine Grove Cemetery. He was survived by a son, Michael; a daughter, Margot; a brother, Jerry; and two grandchildren.
Merrill's television work spanned from 1953-1980. Most of his appearances were in guest-star roles in episodic and anthology series. Among the programs in which Merrill appeared are: The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Wagon Train, Studio 57, Studio One, Playhouse 90, Alcoa Theatre, Rawhide, Laramie, Sam Benedict, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the episode "Manacled" original air date 1957), Zane Grey Theater, The Twilight Zone (episode "Still Valley"), General Electric Theater, Ben Casey, Combat!, The Outer Limits, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Marcus Welby, M.D., Medical Center, Kung Fu, Cannon and Movin' On.
Theatrical film appearances
- Winged Victory (1944)
- Slattery's Hurricane (1949)
- Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
- Mother Didn't Tell Me (1950)
- Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
- All About Eve (1950)
- The Frogmen (1951)
- Decision Before Dawn (1951)
- Another Man's Poison (1952)
- Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)
- The Girl in White (1952)
- Night Without Sleep (1952)
- A Blueprint for Murder (1953)
- Witness to Murder (1954)
- The Black Dakotas (1954)
- The Human Jungle (1954)
- Navy Wife (1956)
- Bermuda Affair (1956)
- The Missouri Traveler (1958)
- Crash Landing (1958)
- The Wonderful Country (1959)
- The Savage Eye (1960)
- The Great Impostor (1961)
- The Pleasure of His Company (1961)
- Mysterious Island (1961)
- A Girl Named Tamiko (1963)
- The Searching Eye (1964)
- Catacombs (1965)
- Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966)
- Destination Inner Space (1966)
- Clambake (1967)
- The Incident (1967)
- The Last Challenge (1967)
- The Secret of the Sacred Forest (1970)
- The Power (1968)
- Più tardi, Claire, più tardi (1968)
- Amarsi male (1969)
- Huckleberry Finn (1974)
- Thieves (1977)
- The Seekers (1979)
- September Song (1984)
|1952||Lux Radio Theatre||Follow the Sun|
|1952||Hollywood Star Playhouse||"The Patient Stranger"|
|1953||Lux Radio Theatre||Phone Call from a Stranger|
- Yarrow, Andrew L. (March 7, 1990). "Gary Merrill, Actor, Dies at 74; Worked in More Than 40 Films". New York Times. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- Alex McNeil, Total Television, p. 444
- "Cimarron City". ctva.biz. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
- "Bette Davis, Gary Merrill Wed In Mexico". Dunkirk Evening Observer. July 29, 1950. p. 5. Retrieved May 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kirby, Walter (March 9, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 25, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kirby, Walter (April 6, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 52. Retrieved May 16, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kirby, Walter (January 4, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Gary Merrill at the Internet Movie Database
- Gary Merrill at the Internet Broadway Database
- Gary Merrill at Find a Grave
- New York Times biography