Society

Dina Merrill Passes Away At 93

| by Simone Stover

Actress and philanthropist Dina Merrill has passed away at the age of 93.

According to The New York Times, Merrill died on May 22 at her home in East Hampton, New York. Her son, Stanley H. Rumbough, confirmed her death and said that his mother had been suffering from Lewy body dementia.

Merrill was born as Nedenia Marjorie Hutton on Dec. 29, 1923, in New York City. The daughter of Wall Street broker E. F. Hutton and cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, she grew up living a life of luxury in American high-class society. Her family owned a yacht called the Sea Cloud, which was once visited by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In addition, the family owned the Mar-a-Lago estate (which was later purchased by President Donald Trump in 1985).

Merrill's father wanted her to become a lawyer and to later run for Congress. However, Merrill went against her father's wishes to become an actress. She attended George Washington University for a year before dropping out to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She made her acting debut on Broadway in 1945 with a three-line role in John Van Druten's "The Mermaid's Singing." 

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Merrill's first film appearance was in "Desk Set" (1957), in which she played a research assistant to Katherine Hepburn's character. Other movie credits included "The Sundowners" (1960), "Butterfield 8" (1960), and "The Young Savages" (1961), "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1963), and "Just Tell Me What You Want" (1980). In several of her film roles, she portrayed characters of a high station, mirroring her real life situation. 

According to her IMDb page, Merrill also boasted several television credits, appearing on the small screen in both TV shows and movies starting in the 1960s and all the way through the 2000s. Some notable appearances included roles in "Mission: Impossible" (1969), "The Love Boat" (1979), and "Murder, She Wrote" (1990, 1992). 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Guild Hall Academy of Arts awarded Merrill with its lifetime achievement award in 2011. In a commemorative video, actor Michael Douglas described the actress' appeal. 

"Dina became the icon for class and charm," Douglas said. "One famous casting director still orders her staff to 'Give me a Dina Merrill kind of actress.'"

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In addition to her acting, Merrill was known for her philanthropic work, which she funded with her inheritance of over $50 million. According to The New York Times, she was the vice chairman of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition and vice president of the New York City Mission Society. In addition, she created a yearly award for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in honor of her son, David, who had diabetes and passed away in a boating accident in 1973.

Merrill was married three times: to Stanley M. Rumbough Jr. from 1946-1966, to Cliff Robertson from 1966-1986, and to Ted Hartley from 1989 until her death. According to The New York Times, in addition to Hartley, Merrill is survived by two children, one stepchild, six grandchildren, four stepgrandchildren, and two stepgreat-grandchildren. 

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, The New York Times / Photo credit: Valerie Everett/Flickr

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