Dina Merrill died yesterday in her home in East Hampton, New York at the age of 93. Merrill pursued acting at a young age and remained a long-standing figure in New York’s social scene. The actress played in many films and television shows depicting well-bred women in high societal life.
Merrill, a philanthropist, was born into two of the richest families in America.
Ted Hartley, Merrill’s husband, states that his wife died from Lewy body dementia. Known for her fashion sense, she was often likened to Grace Kelly in appearance, but her high-profile life brought her much criticism in life. Executives asked why she didn’t buy her own casting studio rather than trying out for movies.
“Desk Set” was her first break in Hollywood, where she played a clerk. The film included Katharine Hepburn as a lead.
She would go on to act alongside Jerry Lewis in “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and was cast in several other roles, including “The Sundowners” and “Butterfield 8.” The aspiring actress played in lesser-known roles from 1961 onward.
Her career remained silent despite her appearance in “Caddyshack II” in 1988.
Merrill was born into the Post Cereals family on her mother’s side, and her father was Edward Francis Hutton, a former Wall Street stockbroker and co-founder of E. F. Hutton & Co. She would marry an heir to the Colgate-Palmolive fortune as well as marry Cliff Robertson and director Ted Hartley, her third and final husband.
The Huttons remained in the spotlight, with a 66 room Manhattan apartment and a 59-room retreat in Long Island. The family also owned Mar-a-Lago, the private club currently owned by Donald Trump.
Merrill’s private wealth was said to be over $50 million decades ago. She remained on the board of her father’s firm for years.
Her name, changed from Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, was inspired by Charles E Merrill, a Wall Street colleague of her father and part of Merrill Lynch.