Heiress and actress Dina Merrill dead at 93

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NEW YORK (AP) — Dina Merrill, the rebellious heiress who defied her super-rich parents to become a movie star, often portraying stylish wives or “the other woman,” has died at age 93.

Merrill died Monday of heart failure at her home in East Hampton, N.Y., family spokeswoman Selena Albanese told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Starting in the 1950s, Merrill appeared in more than 100 films and television programs, her break coming after Katharine Hepburn recommended her for the 1957 Tracy-Hepburn comedy “The Desk Set.” Merrill, who had the poised, aristocratic beauty of fellow blonde Grace Kelly, co-starred with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in “Operation Petticoat,” Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr in “The Sundowners” and Oscar winner Elizabeth Taylor in “Butterfield 8.” More recently, she was part of Robert Altman’s ensemble cast for the Hollywood satire “The Player” and in television programs such as “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Nanny.”

But becoming an actress was not considered proper for someone of Merrill’s privileged status. Her mother was Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the nation’s richest women. Her father was E.F. Hutton, founder of the stockbroker firm that bore his name. Heiress Barbara Hutton was a cousin.

Merrill was involved in numerous charitable and artistic causes. Her son David’s diabetes inspired her to establish the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. She chaired the New York City Mission Society, which supports young people living in poverty. She was a trustee of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and served on the board of trustees for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Merrill had few acting credits in recent years, but never regretted her career.

“I loved the make-believe,” she commented in 1993, “and I still do. I love the part about it where you can be somebody else, and not be you all the time. It’s interesting to lead other people’s lives.”