One Tall, Cool Blonde

 

She was a cool blonde, a socialite and she wanted to be a star. But she was not Grace Kelly.

She was born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, youngest daughter of Post cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and the only child of stockbroker EF Hutton. She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and as so not to capitalize on her parents she took her brother-in-law’s suggestion and changed her name to Dina Merrill, the latter picked from another famous stockbroker, Charles Merrill of Merrill-Lynch.

She went out and paid her dues in summer stock while she studied at AADA. She sewed costumes, painted scenery and played bit parts. She made her Broadway debut in 1945 but eventually bowed to family pressure and quit the stage, marrying her first husband Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr. A son of privilege himself, Rumbough was from the Colgate half of Colgate-Palmolive.

In the late 1950s Merrill received an invitation to return to acting on Dick Powell’s television show. Hollywood soon followed and she made her feature film debut in the Hepburn-Tracy comedy Desk Set, as one of a trio of researchers at a television network whose jobs are threatened by the rise of the computer.

Her agent tried to market her as the next Grace Kelly but she was never a star. What she became was a working actor making four to five appearances on television and in the movies every year through the late 1990s.

After her divorce from Rumbough in 1966, she entered into a 20-year marriage to fellow actor Cliff Robertson and then actor and movie producer Ted Hartley. She lately suffered from dementia and hadn’t been seen on screen since 2009 when she made an uncredited appearance in the Michael Douglas film, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

She passed on Monday at age 93.

There are 16 comments.

  1. Boss Mongo Member

    Thanks, EJ.

    • #1
    • May 23, 2017, at 6:39 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Oh! thanks, EJ…They are leaving us; and so few have come up behind them.

    • #2
    • May 23, 2017, at 6:45 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    God bless her.

    • #3
    • May 23, 2017, at 6:46 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. KatRose Inactive

    A small part but loved her in Desk Set.

    • #4
    • May 23, 2017, at 6:51 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. ST Inactive
    ST

    Enjoy reading your inside Hollywood posts. EJ, don’t be a stranger. You have been missed.

    She was a long cool woman in a black dress.

    • #5
    • May 23, 2017, at 6:51 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. MarciN Member

    Thank you for this great post. Her daughter was beautiful.

    • #6
    • May 23, 2017, at 7:01 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. tigerlily Member

    Thanks EJ. RIP.

    • #7
    • May 23, 2017, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Chuck Enfield Coolidge

    I just saw her in an episode of Batman about a week ago. She played Calamity Jan. (Yeah, I watched it. Who are you to judge?)

    She must have really loved the work to continue doing it for all those years. Good for her!

    • #8
    • May 23, 2017, at 7:29 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  9. TempTime Member

    Thanks EJ. I love your writing/story telling; it always has a lot to tell us — on first reading, and upon reflection. All sans lecture or sermon. So happy you are back on the Main Page.

    • #9
    • May 23, 2017, at 7:30 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer Member

    I had never even noted this woman prior to your tribute, you are doing yeoman’s work EJ.

    The dead are forgotten when we choose to forget them, recalling them keeps them alive in our minds and hearts.

    • #10
    • May 23, 2017, at 8:37 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    In the “It’s a small world among the monied” file: Her mother’s first husband, Edward Bennett Close would, after their divorce, become the paternal grandfather of another blonde actress, Glenn Close.

    And her mother also owned a little property in Florida called Mar-a-Lago.

    • #11
    • May 23, 2017, at 9:07 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  12. Chuck Enfield Coolidge

    EJHill (View Comment):
    In the “It’s a small world among the monied” file: Her mother’s first husband, Edward Bennett Close would, after their divorce, become the paternal grandfather of another blonde actress, Glenn Close.

    And her mother also owned a little property in Florida called Mar-a-Lago.

    It’s a small world among the fiscally-challenged as well. We all summer at Walmart.

    • #12
    • May 23, 2017, at 9:20 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  13. Chuck Enfield Coolidge

    As I scroll up and down the member feed, I keep pausing to take in her picture. She is very pleasing to look at.

    • #13
    • May 23, 2017, at 9:23 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Al Kennedy Member

    Thanks very much for the write up EJ. I remember her from Operation Petticoat, which was one of Blake Edwards’ classic comedies.

    • #14
    • May 24, 2017, at 12:23 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  15. Profile Photo Member

    She had a long life and a pretty good career. Not Grace Kelly but Hitchcock never found her. He loved blondes and made Kelly a star.

    • #15
    • May 24, 2017, at 9:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Al Kennedy Member

    Mike-K (View Comment):
    She had a long life and a pretty good career. Not Grace Kelly but Hitchcock never found her. He loved blondes and made Kelly a star.

    I wondered abut that too. She had that icy blonde appeal that so appealed to Hitchcock.

    • #16
    • May 25, 2017, at 4:15 AM PDT
    • 1 like