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Gary Merrill
Merrill in the trailer for A Blueprint for Murder (1953)
Born Gary Fred Merrill
(1915-08-02)August 2, 1915
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Died March 5, 1990(1990-03-05) (aged 74)
Falmouth, Maine, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1943–1980
Spouse(s) Barbara Leeds
(m. 1941–50)

Bette Davis
(m. 1950–60)
Children 2

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[edit | edit source]

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he attended private Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and Trinity College[1] 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.[2]

In 1958, Merrill guest starred with June Lockhart in the roles of Joshua and Emily Newton in the episode "Medicine Man" of NBC's western series Cimarron City.[3]

Merrill had recurring roles in Then Came Bronson with Michael Parks and Young Doctor Kildare, both of which lasted less than a season.

In 1964, he starred as city editor Lou Sheldon, in the short-lived CBS drama about the fictitious New York Globe, The Reporter, with Harry Guardino in the title role as journalist Danny Taylor.

In 1967, he starred in the Elvis Presley film Clambake, with co-star James Gregory.

Merrill's first marriage, to Barbara Leeds in 1941, ended in divorce in Mexico July 28, 1950. That same day, he married Bette Davis,[4] 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,[1] 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 primary candidate.[1]

Aside from an occasional role as narrator, Merrill 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).

Death[edit | edit source]

Merrill survived his second ex-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.[1]

Television[edit | edit source]

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 "Man With A Problem" 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.

Merrill also served as narrator of the 1972–73 syndicated TV series The American Adventure.

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Radio appearances[edit | edit source]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Follow the Sun[5]
1952 Hollywood Star Playhouse "The Patient Stranger"[6]
1953 Lux Radio Theatre Phone Call from a Stranger[7]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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