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.
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.
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.
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 primary candidate.
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).
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.
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.
- This Is the Army (1943) - Backstage MP on Right (uncredited)
- Winged Victory (1944) - Capt. McIntyre
- Slattery's Hurricane (1949) - Cmdr. E.T. Kramer
- Twelve O'Clock High (1949) - Col. Davenport
- Mother Didn't Tell Me (1950) - Doctor Peter Roberts
- Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) - Tommy Scalise
- All About Eve (1950) - Bill Sampson (A typographical error in the film's credits lists the character's name as "Simpson.)
- Rawhide (1951) - Narrator (voice, uncredited)
- The Frogmen (1951) - Lt. Cmdr. Pete Vincent
- Another Man's Poison (1951) - George Bates
- Decision Before Dawn (1951) - Col. Devlin
- Phone Call from a Stranger (1952) - David Trask
- The Girl in White (1952) - Dr. Seth Pawling
- Night Without Sleep (1952) - Richard Morton
- A Blueprint for Murder (1953) - Fred Sargent
- Witness to Murder (1954) - Lawrence Mathews
- The Black Dakotas (1954) - Brock Marsh posing as Zachary Paige
- The Human Jungle (1954) - Police Capt. John Danforth
- Navy Wife (1956) - Jack Blain
- Bermuda Affair (1956) - Bob Scoffield
- The Missouri Traveler (1958) - Doyle Magee
- Crash Landing (1958) - Capt. Steve Williams
- The Wonderful Country (1959) - Maj. Stark Colton
- The Savage Eye (1960) - The poet
- The Great Impostor (1961) - Pa Demara
- The Pleasure of His Company (1961) - James Dougherty
- Mysterious Island (1961) - Gideon Spilitt
- A Girl Named Tamiko (1962) - Max Wilson
- Hong Kong un addio (1963)
- The Searching Eye (1964) - Narrator
- Catacombs (1965) - Raymond Garth
- Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966) - Dub Stokes
- Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) - Pentagon Chief of Staff (scenes deleted)
- Destination Inner Space (1966) - Dr. LaSatier
- Around the World Under the Sea (1966) - Dr. August 'Gus' Boren
- The Last Challenge (1967) - Squint Calloway
- Clambake (1967) - Sam
- The Incident (1967) - Douglas McCann
- The Power (1968) - Mark Corlane
- Più tardi, Claire, più tardi (1968) - George Dennison
- Amarsi male (1969)
- The Secret of the Sacred Forest (1970) - Mike Parks
- Earth II (1971) - Walter Dietrich
- Huckleberry Finn (1974) - Pap
- Thieves (1977) - Street Man
- The Seekers (1979) - Capt. Hull
- 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". https://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/07/obituaries/gary-merrill-actor-dies-at-74-worked-in-more-than-40-films.html. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
- Alex McNeil, Total Television, p. 444
- "Cimarron City". ctva.biz. http://ctva.biz/US/Western/CimarronCity.htm. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
- "Bette Davis, Gary Merrill Wed In Mexico". July 29, 1950. p. 5. https://www.newspapers.com/image/56349867/?terms=%22Gary%2BMerrill%22. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
- Kirby, Walter (March 9, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". p. 42. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/2477300/the_decatur_daily_review/. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
- Kirby, Walter (April 6, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". p. 52. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/2426009/the_decatur_daily_review/. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
- Kirby, Walter (January 4, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". p. 38. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/2648002/the_decatur_daily_review/. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- Gary Merrill at the Internet Movie Database
- Gary Merrill at the Internet Broadway Database
- Gary Merrill at Find a Grave
- New York Times biography
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