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Dina Merrill, Actress, Heiress And Philanthropist, Dies At 93

Actress Dina Merrill poses at home in Hollywood, Calif., on Sept. 20, 1960. Merrill died on Monday at her home in East Hampton, N.Y.. She was 93.
Actress Dina Merrill poses at home in Hollywood, Calif., on Sept. 20, 1960. Merrill died on Monday at her home in East Hampton, N.Y.. She was 93.

Dina Merrill was born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton on Dec. 9, 1923, into a life of high society.

Her father was Wall Street broker E.F. Hutton and her mother was cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Her parents divorced when she was 10 years old.

A 2010 exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco showcased precious pieces that the French jeweler Cartier made for America's mega-rich.

One piece in the exhibit "Cartier and America" was an enormous pendant brooch that belonged to Merrill's mother.

A portrait hanging in Marjorie Merriweather Post's Washington, D.C., estate, Hillwood, shows her wearing this brooch — an 8-inch cascade of diamond and green glitter.

A young Merrill is also in the portrait.

The New York Timesreports:

"Although her father's investments had earned her a million dollars by the time she became an actress, against his wishes, Ms. Merrill supported herself by modeling clothes for Vogue at $10 an hour.

"It never occurred to me to ask my father or mother to pay for something they didn't believe in," she said in a 1979 interview. "My ambitions were my own — not exactly the ones they had for me."

"Her father wanted her to become a lawyer and then to run for Congress. Instead, Ms. Merrill made her Broadway debut — speaking three lines — in John Van Druten's "The Mermaids Singing" in 1945."

Before Merrill was acting on Broadway she had changed her name.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

On the advice of a brother-in-law, she changed her name. (The new last name was inspired by one of her father's Wall Street colleagues, Charles E. Merrill — the Merrill in Merrill Lynch).

Merrill starred in many movies including: Butterfield 8, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Young Savages and Operation Petticoat.

While younger generations may not immediately recognize her name or her films, there is one place connected to Merrill that has been in the news a lot.

When Merrill was a young girl, her family wintered at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

The 115-room estate was bought by Donald Trump in 1985 and converted into a private club.

Mar-a-Lago, sometimes referred to as the winter White House, is where President Trump has spent many weekends.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Doreen McCallister
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