Thanks to his distinguished marriage and divorce to Academy Award-winning actress Bette Davis, a successful film acting career in which he appeared in over 50 feature films, and for his outspokenness and political involvement in the 1960s, Gary Merrill was undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s best-known stars of his time. Read on to learn more about how his career began, how he made the headlines, and more facts about him.
Gary Merrill- Bio
Merrill was born as Gary FredMerrill on August 2, 1915 in Hartford, Connecticut. Details of his family, including the identity and occupation of his parents, are unknown. However, it is known that he had a brother named Jerry.
During his childhood he received his early education at Bowdoin Private College in Brunswick, Maine before enrolling at Trinity College. After completing his education, Gary enlisted in the United States Armed Forces. During his service he became interested in acting, first appearing as a backstage deputy in the musical comedy That’s the Army (1943) and then as Capt. Mclntyre in Winged Victory (1944).
After his military service, Gary Merrill began taking active steps to pursue a career as a film actor. Thanks to what has been described as a deeply cultured voice, he landed a recurring role as Batman on the Superman radio series. In the late 1940s his career took off at a rapid pace as he landed decent supporting roles in high profile films. His first appearances were in High Twelve (1949), Mother Didn’t Tell Me (1950), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) and then All About Eve (1950).
During the 1950s, Gary Merrill became something of a household name as he continued to appear in many films of various genres and also guest-starred in a number of television shows. Some of the notable film projects he has worked on are: The Frogmen (1951), Call from a Stranger (1952), A Blueprint for Murder (1953), The Human Jungle (1954), Marine Woman (1956), The Missouri Travelers (1958) and The Wonderful Land (1959).
In terms of television shows, he has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents the 20th Century-FoxHour, General Electric Theatre, Zane Gray Theatre, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel , and Marcus Welby, MD , among many others.
Gary Merrill’s family – spouse, children
On an unknown date in 1941, Gary Merrill married his first wife, actress Barbara Leeds, in New York. Details on exactly how and when the two met are not available. They remained married for about nine years before separating in April 1950 and eventually calling it quits in July of the same year. Merrill and Leeds had no children, and they reportedly mutually agreed on a secret settlement.
As it would turn out, Merrill, who had already the same day his divorce proceedings were finalized on July 28, 1950, married Academy Award-winning actress Bette Davis. Davis was his second wife while he was her fourth husband. At the beginning of July she had completed her divorce from her third husband William Sherry.
After the vows exchange, Merrill adopted his wife’s child from their previous marriage, a daughter named Barbara. In the years that followed, the couple adopted two children; first a five-day-old girl whom they named Margot Mosher Merrill in January 1951, and then a boy named Michael in January 1952. The family lived together on a country estate on the coast of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Gary Merrill and Bette Davis, like their previous marriages, ended after a bitter divorce in 1960.
More facts about the movie actor
1. Gary Merrill was very active in politics. In 1958 he actively campaigned for Edmund Muskie to be elected governor of Maine. A few years later, at the height of the American civil rights movement, he participated in the 55-mile hike from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery, to encourage African Americans’ desire to exercise their constitutional rights to vote. He also later attempted to secure a seat in the Maine legislature, but was unsuccessful.
2. In the 1980s, Merrill practically retired from acting as he only took on storytelling roles.
3. After a battle with lung cancer, Merrill passed away on March 5, 1990 in Falmouth, Maine. His remains were buried in Pine Grove Cemetery.