THE WORLD was obsessed with Grace Kelly, later Princess of Monaco. I was smitten with a later arrival on the movie scene, Dina Merrill, who in 1959 was championed as “Hollywood’s new Grace Kelly.”
I remember being surprised to find out that she was the daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post, of the Post Cereals fortune, but I can’t imagine why: She carried herself with such grace and style; surely one was born to such stuff, no? Was she willing to play whores and drunks to be a “real” actress? Looking over her filmography, it doesn’t appear so. But she inhabited those roles that called for the poise she had in spades.
Merrill (born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton) was the last of Post’s daughters and had been a longtime board member and supporter of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, her mother’s grand estate in Washington DC.
In fact, in sharing news of her death, Hillwood officials pointed out that she was married to second husband actor Cliff Robertson in Hillwood’s French drawing room. The lunch that followed was served in the estate’s grand dining room, confirming her mother’s wisdom in collecting all that wonderful Sèvres and Russian Imperial porcelain.
Dina Merrill’s first marriage was to Colgate-Palmolive heir Stanley Rumbough Jr. She became Dina Merrill Hartley when she married her third husband, producer Ted Hartley in 1989. She died earlier this week at her home in East Hampton. She was 93.