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Jan Merlin in 2013
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 City USA, Merlin is of Ukrainian ancestry. During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy and became a torpedoman. 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 forces following Japan's surrender. After his discharge, he worked in summer stock beginning in 1946, and then enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, making his Broadway debut in 1949 in Mister Roberts starring Henry Fonda.
His professional acting career, which spans more than five decades, has included performances in stage plays on and off Broadway, radio dramas, live and filmed episodes of television series, and more than 30 feature motion pictures. 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. In 1960, Merlin played Travers in Hell Bent for Leather, and his other film credits include roles in Guns of Diablo (1965), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), Take the Money and Run (1969), The Twilight People (1972), I Escaped from Devil's Island (1973), The Slams (1973), The Hindenburg (1975) and Time Trackers (1989).
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. Merlin played a villain in three episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea : "No Way Out", "The X Factor" and "Death From The Past".
Merlin received an Emmy Award in 1975 for scripting 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 self-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, Hanging with Billy Budd, and Frankie Thomas: the Eternal Cadet.
Merlin received a Golden Halo Award in 2009 from the Southern California Motion Picture Council for his work as an actor and a writer. He has a son, Peter William Merlin (born 1964), by his first wife.