Dina Merrill, actress and heiress to two wealthy families, died on Monday at her home in East Hampton, N.Y. The former actress was 93. Merrill, born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, spent a lot of her childhood at her family’s famous estate, Mar-a-Lago.
Ted Hartley, Merrill’s husband, confirmed her death and reported that Merrill was suffering from Lewy Body dementia.
Here’s what you need to know about Merrill:
1. Merrill Had a Career as an Actress
After dropping out of George Washington University, Merrill enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She apprenticed in summer stock in the 1940’s, before reaching the Broadway boards with “The Mermaids Singing” (1945), according to IMDb. After nearly a decade of roles in the theater, and taking some time off to raise two children, Merrill made her film debut in “Desk Set” (1957) with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Merrill starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in “Butterfield 8″(1960) and was in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”(1963). She played Burt Lancaster’s socialite wife in “The Young Savages” (1961). Merill as starred with Tony Curtis in “Operation Petticoat” (1959).
Later in her career, Merill had TV roles on The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, The Nanny, Roseanne, and Vengeance Unlimited, according to IMDb.
Merrill starred with Christian Slater in “Twisted” (1986) and was in “Caddyshack II” (1988) with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. In 1990, she had a role in “Fear”, which also starred Ally Sheedy, Lauren Hutton and Michael O’Keefe. In 1991, she was in the James Spader and John Cusack flim “True Colors”.
2. Merrill Came From a Wealthy Family That Built Mar-a-Lago
Merrill was the daughter of financier E.F. Hutton, the founder of the Wall Street firm by the same name, and heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post of the Post cereal fortune. Post inherited $250 million in 1914 and at one time was the richest woman in the U.S., according to Variety.
In the early 1920’s, Marjorie Merriweather Post wanted to build a home in Palm Beach, because she felt a larger home would better suit her entertaining needs, according to Biography. She ended up choosing 17 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth, a setting that inspired the name Mar-a-Lago, Spanish for “sea to lake.”
Construction on Mar-a-Lago began in 1924. In the end, 600 workers built the 58 bedroom and 33 bathroom estate. The house featured antique Spanish tiles, stones from Italy, a 75-foot tower, golden bathroom fixtures and dinning room that was a copy of part of Rome’s Chigi Palace, according to Biography. Mar-a-Lago was completed in 1927.
Donald Trump purchased Mar-a-Lago from the Post Foundation in 1985 for $8 million.
3. Merrill Was a Philanthropist
Some of Merrill’s philanthropic pursuits include the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the New York Mission Society and director of the Paley Media Center.
The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF) is a major charitable organization dedicated to funding type 1 diabetes research. JDRF’s stated vision is “a world without type 1 diabetes.”
The Paley Media Center is committed to the idea that many television and radio programs are significant works that should be preserved. The Paley Center comprises mostly screening rooms, including two full-sized theaters. Nearly 160,000 television shows, commercials and radio programs are available at the Paley Center’s library.
4. Merrrill Married a Wealthy Heir and an Oscar-Winning Actor
Merrill’s first husband was Stanley M. Rumbough Jr., an heir to the Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste fortune. They married in 1946 and had three children, one of whom, David Post Rumbough, passed before her. The couple divorced in 1966.
Later that year, Merrill married Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson. Merrill and Robertson starred together as guest villains on Batman. The also starred together in “The Sunshine Patriot”(1968). They were divorced in 1989. Robertson died in 2011.
5. Survived By Husband Ted Hartley
Merrill married Ted Hartley, a former actor, in 1989. Together they created RKO Pictures, an entity that owns the copyright to the films of the RKO Radio Pictures movie studio.
Merrill and Hartley created the Hartley Merrill International Screenwriting Prize, for which they received a special prize at the Hamptons Film Festival in 1998 for their support of screen writters in developing nations.
She is also survived by her daughter, Nedenia Colgate Rumbough, and a son, Stanley Rumbough III, from her marraige to Rumbough.