Lifestyle & Culture

Dina Merrill Hartley (1923-2017)

Dina Merrill Hartley, photographed at Hillwood, around the time of the estate museum’s 2001 reopening. / Photo courtesy Hillwood Museum.

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.

—Nancy McKeon

7 thoughts on “Dina Merrill Hartley (1923-2017)

  1. Iris Wutzke says:

    Dina Merrill had a similar beauty to Grace Kelley’s, but she also exhibited more warmth than Grace. I liked both women, but considering Dina Merrill’s upbringing in a family that had vast wealth, her smile was so ready & gave one the impression that she could enjoy a good joke & laugh heartily. I always enjoyed movies that both women appeared in. Grace had a bit more reserve. I would feel more intimidated by Miss Kelly if I were to meet either woman, and feel more comfortable with Miss Merrill.

    Both were gorgeous ladies. Too bad we don’t have more actresses today with their beauty & demeanor.

  2. Amy says:

    Such a beautiful person inside and out. With such beauty, elegance, grace, style and smarts, it does feel like in today’s world she is the last of the greats.

  3. Nichole noel says:

    Did she have a sister? Was she actually Posts grand daughter she raised. Was Durant her real last name?

  4. Kitty Richmond says:

    I’m trying to think of a prominent woman in today’s world who has Ms Merrill’s grace, beauty, brains and style. Have we lost them all? Please say no and give lots of examples! Many have beauty, brains and style but grace seems to be lacking.

  5. Violette Capelluto-Schor says:

    Merci Nancy, je ne connaissais pas cette Merril Hutton ! R.I.P. Ms Merrill Hartley et mes sincères condoléances à la famille et à ses ami(e)s. Que son âme repose en paix.

  6. Andrea Rouda says:

    I always liked her too!

  7. Bob McCormick says:

    Lovely, graceful and a joyous presence, she was an unforgettable lady whose kindness and sense of humor were like sunshine on a beautiful bouquet.

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