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Dina Merrill (December 29, 1923 – May 22, 2017)
Born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton in New York City, Merrill was an American actress, heiress, socialite, businesswoman, and philanthropist. For many years, her date of birth was given as December 9, 1925. She was the only child of Post Cereals heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, Wall Street stockbroker Edward Francis Hutton, founder of E. F. Hutton & Co. Merrill had two older half-sisters, Adelaide Breevort (Close) Hutton and Eleanor Post (Close) Hutton, by her mother’s first marriage to Edward Bennett Close, grandfather of actress Glenn Close. Merrill attended George Washington University in Washington, DC, for one term, then dropped out and enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
On the advice from her half-sister’s (then) husband, she adopted the stage name Dina Merrill, borrowing from Charles E. Merrill, a famous stockbroker like her father. Merrill made her debut on the stage in the play The Mermaid Singing in 1945. During the late 1950s and 1960s, Merrill was believed to have intentionally been marketed as a replacement for Grace Kelly, and in 1959, she was proclaimed “Hollywood’s new Grace Kelly”. Merrill’s film credits included Desk Set (1957), A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed (1958), Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959), Operation Petticoat (1959, with Cary Grant, who had been married to her cousin, Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton), The Sundowners (1960), Butterfield 8 (1960), The Young Savages (1961), The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963), I’ll Take Sweden (1965), The Greatest (1977), A Wedding (1978), Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), Anna to the Infinite Power (1983), Twisted (1986), Caddyshack II (1988), Fear (1990), True Colors (1991), The Player (1992), Suture (1993), and Shade (2003). Merrill appeared in numerous television series in the 1960s, such as playing the villain, “Calamity Jan,” in two 1968 episodes of Batman alongside then-husband Cliff Robertson. She also made guest appearances on Bonanza, The Bold Ones, The Love Boat, Quincy, M.E., Murder, She Wrote, Roseanne, and The Nanny, as Maxwell Sheffield’s disapproving and distant British mother. In the 1960s and 1970s, Merrill was a recurring guest on several network television game and panel shows including The Match Game, To Tell the Truth, What’s My Line, and Hollywood Squares.
Merrill was married three times. In 1946, she wed Stanley M. Rumbough Jr., an heir to the Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste fortune and entrepreneur. They had three children, Nedenia Colgate Rumbough, David Post Rumbough, and Stanley Rumbough III before divorcing in 1966. Later that year, she wed Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson, with whom she had a daughter, Heather Robertson. The couple divorced in 1986. In 1989, she married producer Ted Hartley. On May 22, 2017, Merrill died at her home in East Hampton, New York at age 93. She had been suffering from dementia with Lewy bodies.
Admired for her tireless philanthropic contributions, she was a moderate Republican (vice chair of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition), and an active lobbyist for women’s health issues. Dina also devoted much time working for the disadvantaged, particularly for the New York City Mission Society.