Dina Merrill died peacefully at home on Monday

By Dan Heching
May 23, 2017 02:51 PM
Dina Merrill, US actress and socialite, wearing a white sleeveless dress while sitting on a chair with two arm rests but no back, circa 1955. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Dina Merrill, an American actress, businesswoman, and philanthropist known for often playing society women on screen, has died.

Merrill died peacefully at home on Monday, according to her family. She was 93.

Born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton in New York City on Dec. 29, 1923, Merrill was the only child of Post Cereals heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, Wall Street investment broker Edward Francis “E.F.” Hutton. Post oversaw construction of Mar-a-Lago in the ’20s, and Merrill spent part of her childhood at the famed Palm Beach, Florida, estate now owned by President Donald Trump.

After deciding to pursue a career in entertainment, the young Merrill spent World War II as part of the Moss Hart USO troupe, performing throughout the Pacific Theatre of Operations. Immediately after the war, Merrill made her Broadway debut in The Mermaids Singing in 1945, going on to appear in regional and Broadway theater into the 1990s.

Merrill was also a prolific film actress, appearing in more than 25 feature films. After making her film debut in the Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy vehicle Desk Set in 1957, Merrill went on to appear in BUtterfield 8 in 1960, which starred Elizabeth Taylor in an Oscar-winning role. Later film credits include Operation Petticoat, The Young Savages, Caddyshack II, A Wedding, and Robert’s Altman’s The Player.

Merrill also appeared in more than 100 television shows, from What’s My Line to Murder, She Wrote to Roseanne.

In addition to her acting work, Merrill was devoted to a number of philanthropic causes including the New York City Mission Society, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and supporting screenwriters in developing countries. She also served as a board member of the Population Resource Council and the pro-choice Republican Majority for Choice Committee and was a founding vice chairman of the Pro-Choice Coalition.

In the 1990s, Merrill and her third husband, Ted Hartley, merged their Pavilion Communications company with the famed RKO to form RKO Pictures, which made a number of feature films including Disney’s Mighty Joe Young.

Merrill is survived by her husband Ted Hartley, son Stanley Hutton Rumbough, daughter Nedenia Rumbough Roosenburg, and six grandchildren.