Howard Merrill, child actor who as an adult became a longtime TV-radio writer with credits including “The Andy Griffith Show,” died April 20 of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Beverly Hills resident was 85.
New York native, who helped develop “I’ve Got a Secret,” got into show business at age 3 thanks to his mother, Fannie, an assistant to actress Gertrude Berg. By the time he was 11, he had appeared in dozens of silents before age 11, and by age 14 had been on many radio broadcasts. As a teen, he wrote a newspaper column, “This Minute,” syndicated to more than 100 papers.
After graduating from the Ethical Culture School and Columbia U., he wrote for radio in 1940s (including the “Sherlock Holmes” series) and made the transition to TV during the 1950s.
Other TV credits included “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Get Smart,” “The Invaders,” “Bridget Loves Bernie,” “The Odd Couple,” “Gilligan’s Island” and earlier on, CBS docudrama series “You Are There” as well as “Newsweek Views the News” and with Allan Sherman developed “I’ve Got a Secret.” Additional stints included “The March of Time.”
He produced the Broadway musical “Oh Captain!,” starring Tony Randall in 1958.
He is survived by his wife, broadcaster-columnist Toni Gilbert, and a daughter.