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Merill was born on April 1, 1912 in Winnipeg, Canada.
He performed in Lux Radio Theater as a utility supporting player in nearly every broadcast from 1937-1939 (notably as Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), and also served as an assistant director handling the crowd scenes during that time. He continued to work the show sporadically until 1953. His career in the 1930s also included roles in the children's Christmas series The Cinnamon Bear (as Santa Claus), the crime drama Big Town (as various gangsters and a stand-in for Edward G. Robinson as Steve Wilson), the soap opera Those We Love (as con man Ed Neely), and The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air. He later worked for Arch Oboler on Arch Oboler's Plays and Lights Out. As related by Mr. Oboler on the Speaking of Radio show (1976), in one dramatic real-life confrontation, Mr. Oboler broke his hand on Mr. Merrill's jaw when the former became incensed over the latter's offensive attitude. A mutual respect resulted from the incident.
In 1941, he starred as the Nemo-like Captain Craig McKenzie in the now mostly lost sci-fi radio series Latitude Zero (on which the 1969 film of the same name is based). 12 years later, he starred on the true crime anthology drama series Crime Classics. Merrill played Thomas Hyland, the host/narrator who was fascinated with crime, playing the role deadpan but with subtle humor. Radio comedy appearances included Point Sublime (a regular as jeweler Aaron Saul) and Abbott and Costello (guesting as Santa Claus) and the Life of Riley as Punchy (a punch drunk ex-prize fighter). He also appeared on Escape, The Man Called X, Suspense, NBC University Theater, On Stage, The CBS Radio Workshop, Rogue's Gallery, and The Six Shooter.
Merrill was the narrator for Retribution, a "psychological mystery series."
Merrill first appeared in film with the 1935 Columbia Pictures production The Black Room; he played the Story Teller in Trailer, though he was left uncredited. His formal debut in movies came in the 1939 Universal Studios production Tropic Fury. He appeared sporadically in films throughout the next three decades, often in small roles along with several uncredited appearances.
- Tropic Fury (1939)
- North West Mounted Police (film) (1940)
- Reap the Wild Wind (1942)
- The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
- Charge of the Lancers (1954)
- Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954)
- The Iron Glove (1954)
- Sabaka (1954)
- Duel on the Mississippi (1955)
- The Crooked Web (1955)
- The Giant Claw (1957)
- The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961)
In his later years, Merrill continued doing voice-over work, regularly doing film trailer narration work for American International Pictures. Merrill narrated trailers for films such as It Conquered the World, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, War of the Colossal Beast, Teenage Cave Man, Night of the Blood Beast, A Bucket of Blood, Horrors of the Black Museum, The Angry Red Planet, Master of the World, and Burn, Witch, Burn.
Merrill had two adopted daughters.
- West, Virginia (April 8, 1947). "KECA mike memos" (PDF). Radio Life. p. 10. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- "Merrill Makes Screen Debut". The Van Nuys News. September 25, 1939. p. 7. Retrieved June 15, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Not Bad". The Lincoln Star. March 19, 1944. p. 28. Retrieved June 15, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.