Society

Actress Dina Merrill Dies At 93

| by Michael Howard

Dina Merrill, the actress, heiress, philanthropist and RKO executive, has died at the age of 93.

Merrill died at her home in East Hampton, New York, on May 22. Her son, Stanley H. Rumbough, confirmed her death and stated that she had suffered from Lewy body dementia, according to The New York Times.

Merrill -- born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton -- was the daughter of Wall Street broker E.F. Hutton and cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who divorced when Merrill was 10 years old.

She made her silver screen debut in the 1957 comedy "Desk Set," starring Katharine Hepburn. In 1960 she appeared in "Butterfield 8," playing a woman whose husband cheats on her with Elizabeth Taylor's character.

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The following year, Merrill played the wife of Burt Lancaster's character in "The Young Savages."

She continued acting into the 21st century, appearing in various movies and television series.

Merrill had a glamorous upbringing, spending up to six months a year on her family's yacht. Named the Sea Cloud, the yacht included marble bathrooms, fireplaces, a wine cellar and a barber shop. The New York Times reports that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were once guests on the Sea Cloud.

Her winter home was the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, which has been owned by President Donald Trump since 1985, when he purchased the property and converted it into a private club.

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Born into wealth and upper class society, Merrill said she used to wish she could ride the bus to school "like the other kids" instead of being driven by the family chauffeur.

Although she had inherited more than $1 million from her father at a young age, Merrill insisted on working as a model for Vogue, where she earned $10 per hour.

"It never occurred to me to ask my father or mother to pay for something they didn't believe in," she said in 1979. "My ambitions were my own -- not exactly the ones they had for me."

Merrill's father reportedly wanted her to go to law school and eventually run for Congress. She went to George Washington University for a year before dropping out and enrolling at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.

Merrill was married three times. Her first husband was Stanley M. Rumbough Jr., heir to the Colgate-Palmolive fortune. They married in 1946 and had three children before divorcing in 1966.

She married her second husband, actor Cliff Robertson, the same year. The couple had one daughter and divorced in 1989, the same year Merrill married actor Ted Hartley.

Hartley would go on to become CEO of RKO Pictures when, in 1991, he and Merrill bought 51 percent of the company. Merrill served as the studio's vice chair, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She also acted in several RKO films from that era.

In addition to Hartley, Merrill is survived by her son, Stanley, and her daughter, Nina. Her son, David, was killed in a boating accident in 1973, while her daughter, Heather, died from ovarian cancer in 2007.

Sources: The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter / Photo credit: John Engstead/Helen Ferguson/Wikimedia Commons

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