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Merry Anders Profile

Merry Anders
Merry Anders
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(Merry Helen Anderson)
22 May 34 is born of Swedish-German-Irish extraction, in Chicago, Illinois, the only daughter of a successful pouring contractor
c. 45 moves approximately 60 miles northwest of Chicago to Crystal Lake, Illinois, where the young teenager earns money baby-sitting the son of Chicago Musicians Union leader James Caesar Petrillo
49 travels to Los Angeles with her mother, Helen, for a two-week stay with relatives; they both stay on, partly to care for a dying family member and partly to escape harsh Midwestern winters. Her father, Charles, stays behind in Chicago, never to join the two again.
while attending John Burroughs Junior High School in Los Angeles, she catches the eye of Rita LeRoy, owner of a small junior modeling agency, who convinces Helen to sign up her photogenic daughter for modeling lessons. LeRoy says, "Give me five dollars down and five dollars a week, and I'll get her working fast."
50 she quickly becomes a top junior model, replacing LeRoy's current top model, Tippi Hedren, who leaves for New York to do television modeling
51 she appears in full-page national ads for Catalina sweaters and Singer sewing machines, as well as being a top a billboard model for Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn in Las Vegas
earning $35.00 per hour as a junior model, she's accepted at the prestigious Ben Bard Theater for drama lessons, where fellow students include Mason Alan Dinehart III, who will soon play Bat Masterson on "The Lone Ranger"
the secretary of famed 20th Century-Fox talent scout Ivan Kahn spots her in a Ben Bard production of Little Women and is impressed enough to invite her to meet Kahn, who, in turn, signs her to a seven-year contract
52 - 53 she appears in bit parts for some of 20th Century-Fox's biggest films of the era such as Titanic and How To Marry A Millionaire, in which she plays a girl named "Tipsy"
54 after floundering for two years in studio-crafted hype and anonymous bit parts, she's given the axe by Fox second-in-command Lou Schriber. She goes home and cries for three days and nights before deciding to strike out on her own as a self-employed actress.
finding work almost immediately in the new medium of television, she replaces Ann Todd in the role of Joyce Erwin for the final season of "The New Stu Erwin Show" on CBS
25 March 55 after being chosen over 100 other filmland aspirants by casting director John Stephens for a key role in a Reader's Digest television film titled, Honeymoon In Mexico, she marries the 26-year-old executive. They honeymoon in Acapulco.
13 September 55 living with her new husband for just three months and seventeen days, she gives up hope of reconciliation after three attempts and files for divorce, charging Stephens with "extreme cruelty" and "physical violence"
14 March 56 she gives birth to a 5-pound, 9-ounce girl, Tina Beth Paige Anders, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital
21 May 56 her star begins to rise in earnest when, just eight weeks after the birth of her daughter, she opens in the lead role of Rita Marlow opposite Gene Raymond in the West Coast production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Receiving favorable reviews, the play opens at the Carthay Circle in Los Angeles and, later, at the Curran in San Francisco. The part was originally turned down by Mamie Van Doren, who, by the way, turned down the New York premier a year earlier, thus giving Jayne Mansfield and Merry Anders big breaks.
November 56 she wins a small but coveted role in the Tracy/Hepburn film Desk Set. The part includes a seven-page scene with Tracy, who, after "shotgunning" his lines with her in rehearsal, turns to director Walter Lang and says,"The artists are ready Mr. Lang, why aren't you?"
57 choosing not to be choosy, she signs multiple movie contracts to make no fewer than seven films in one year; these include the super-hyped Hal March vehicle, Hear Me Good, in which her acetate dress splits and shrinks with a stop-action camera trick. She also stars in the camp-Western classic, The Dalton Girls.
5 May 58 she arrives on Warner Brothers lot for the first time to start filming her first hour-long television guest shot, which is to be on the number-one-rated Western of 1958, "Cheyenne." After the first day of shooting on the Western set, she remarks to a reporter of her 6'-6" co-star, "I didn't think anyone could be as big as Clint Walker."
0ctober 58 she begins co-starring with Barbara Eden and Lori Nelson in the NTA Film Network show "How To Marry a Millionaire." Besides putting in grueling seventeen-hour days on the set, the trio embarks on a cross-country promotional tour, appearing on many regional television guides in the early months of 1959.
resenting the television medium, co-star Lori Nelson leaves the show after 39 episodes and is replaced by Lisa Gaye for the remaining 25 shows, when the popular syndicated show is canceled
59 a Western film she's working on in Brackettville, Texas, called Five Bold Women, runs $18,000 in the hole by the third day of shooting. Adding to the trouble, novice executives on the set assume the unprotected girls are up for grabs and reportedly get to all of them except Merry and Irish McCalla, who stick close to one another for protection throughout the duration of filming.
60 working at a dizzying pace, she makes the black-and-white film noir quickie Walking Target and stars in veteran director Bernard B. Ray's final film, Spring Affair. Around this time she also begins a run as popular guest star on almost every detective show of the era.
she proves particularly popular on the hottest Warner Brothers show of the era, "77 Sunset Strip"
9 July 60 in a two-page article in TV Guide titled, "Merry Anders - Queen Of The Pilots," she explains her method of working the fast pace of weekly television guest shots: "I come on the set with my lines learned and then I read them like Merry Anders," she says. She added, "Usually that's enough. But if the director wants something more, then we go to work. After that, the lines come out like Merry Anders working."
61 continues in a string of black-and-white second features for Zenith Productions, as well as the critically praised second feature, 20,000 Eyes. Filmed in six days for a mere $60,000, it runs in many theaters with Return To Peyton Place. She appears in the exploitation horror film Hypnotic Eye, which is banned in Finland for being too gruesome.
62 she films what's intended to be the first made-for-television movie, a drama with fellow Warner stablemates Ray Danton, Andrew Duggan, and Kathleen Crowley, only to see it shelved and reappear two years later in theaters as FBI Code 98
64 she gains 12 pounds in four days by eating avocados and bananas in order to play the part of Estelle Penfield, the food-crazy guest on a fat farm, in the Elvis musical Tickle Me. She brings her mother and daughter on the set for the last day of shooting, where Elvis spends time with them, even giving daughter Tina a tour of the set.
65 she raises toy poodles and drives a pink Ford Thunderbird with the licence plate "ICE 7-11," which she says describes her penchant for liking to wear green emeralds. She remains unmarried, too busy working and raising her daughter to be interested in dating men.
playing the part of mean "Auntie Alice" on the new daytime soap "Never Too Young," she forgets her lines with fellow actress Patrice Wymore, and, with the video camera still rolling, she ad-libs her way out of it
67 she's signed by Jack Webb to be a semi-regular on the hit show "Dragnet," where Webb insists on her changing from her usual platinum blonde to a less coiffured brunette. Webb starts showing up with her at the many civic engagements she routinely volunteers for in her Mission Hills neighborhood, much to the delight of surprised fans.
68 her phone suddenly stops ringing with offers as the television industry goes through a cultural change in the late Sixties. Desperate for work, she takes the job of a "glorified extra" in the movie Airport, while her name does not appear in the credits.
69 with her mother ill and bills to pay, she walks into a Los Angeles unemployment office seeking to be retrained to do something other than acting in movies or television. Nobody there believes her at first.
70 she takes a job as a receptionist at Litton Industries, who allow her to take time off if she gets an acting assignment
71 she does her last work in front of a camera with a guest shot on a two-part episode of "Gunsmoke." Co-starring with her is newcomer Ellen Burstyn and old friend Jeremy Slate. She also makes her swan song movie appearance in Legacy of Blood, a film that is filled with other fine Fifties performers who have fallen into neglect by the early Seventies.
86 after remaining single for thirty-one years following her divorce from her first husband, producer John Stephens, she marries a Litton engineer named Richard Benedict. Ironically, she is introduced to Benedict by her former husband.
94 she retires from her job as a receptionist at Litton Industries. In her spare time she enjoys doing calligraphy and making pin money on the side by doing small announcements and cards for people. Although she's become a very private person after her acting career, she's recognized from time to time, even being chastised by a total stranger once for being so mean as "Auntie Alice" on the short-lived daytime soap "Never Too Young."
05 as Merry A. Benedict, she resides in Encino, California
28 October 12 as Merry A. Benedict, she dies at age 78 in California
Author: Paul Woodbine
Sources:
Recommended Books:
Western Women by Boyd Magers and Michael G. Fitzgerald
Attack of the Monster Movie Makers by Tom Weaver
Fifties Blondes by Richard Koper
Links:
Filmography
Brian's Drive-In Theater: Merry Anders
Spooky Tom's Nightmare Mansion
Wanted Cowgirls: Merry Anders