Thanks to his high profile marriage and divorce to Academy Award-winning actress Bette Davis, a successful film acting career that saw him appear in over 50 feature films, and his outspokenness and activeness in politics in the 1960s, Gary Merrill was undoubtedly one of the better known Hollywood celebrities of his time. Read on to find out more about how his career began, his headline-making marriages, and other facts about him.
Gary Merrill – Bio
Merrill was welcomed into the world as Gary Fred Merrill on the 2nd of August 1915 in Hartford, Connecticut. Details about his family, including the identity and occupation of his parents are not known. It is however known that he had a brother named Jerry.
While growing up, he received his early education at private Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, before going ahead to enroll at Trinity College. Following the completion of his education, Gary enlisted in the United States Armed Forces. It was during his time in service that he began to take an interest in acting, first appearing in an uncredited role as a Backstage MP in the musical comedy play This is the Army (1943) and then as Capt. Mclntyre in Winged Victory (1944).
After his stint in the army, Gary Merrill began making active strides to launch a film acting career. Thanks to what has been described as a deep cultured voice, he was able to land a recurring role as Batman in the Superman radio series. By the late 1940s, his career got off to a flying start as he landed decent supporting roles in high profile films. His first appearances were in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), Mother Didn’t Tell Me (1950), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), and then All About Eve (1950).
In the 1950s, Gary Merrill became somewhat of a household name as he continued to appear in many films of different genres, while also making guest appearances in a number of television shows. Some of the notable film projects he worked on include The Frogmen (1951), Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), A Blueprint for Murder (1953), The Human Jungle (1954), Navy Wife (1956), The Missouri Traveler (1958), and The Wonderful Country (1959).
In regards to television shows, he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, General Electric Theater, Zane Grey Theater, 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, M.D., 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 how and when exactly the two met each other are not available. They remained married for about nine years, before separating in April 1950 and ultimately calling it quits in July of that year. Merrill and Leeds had no children, and according to reports, they amicably agreed upon an undisclosed property settlement.
As things would pan out, Merrill, who had already become romantically involved with Academy award-winning actress Bette Davis, his co-star on All About Eve, wedded her on the same day his divorce proceedings were completed, July 28, 1950. Davis was his second wife while he was her fourth husband. Earlier in that same month of July, she had completed her divorce from her third husband William Sherry.
Following the exchange of vows, Merrill adopted his wife’s child from her previous marriage, a daughter named Barbara. In the following years, the couple adopted two children; first a five-day-old baby girl they named Margot Mosher Merrill in January 1951, and then a baby boy named Michael in January 1952. Together, the family lived on an estate on the coast of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Like their previous marriages, Gary Merrill and Bette Davis’ union did not last as it came to an end in 1960 following a bitter divorce.
Other Facts About the Film Actor
1. Gary Merrill was very active in politics. In 1958, he actively campaigned to help elect Edmund Muskie as governor of Maine. A few years later, at the height of the American civil rights movement, he took part in the 54-mile (87 km) walk from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery to promote the desire for African-Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. He later also tried to run for a seat in the Maine legislature but was unsuccessful.
2. By the 1980s, Merrill practically retired from his acting career as he only took on narrating roles.
3. Following a battle with lung cancer, Merrill passed away on the 5th of March, 1990 in Falmouth, Maine. His remains were laid to rest in the Pine Grove Cemetery.