|Died||April 25, 2000 (aged 88)|
|Alma mater||Washington University|
Saint Louis University School of Law
Etan Aronson (twice)
David Merrick (born David Lee Margoulis; November 27, 1911 – April 25, 2000) was a prolific Tony Award-winning American theatrical producer.
Born David Lee Margulois to Jewish parents in St. Louis, Missouri, Merrick graduated from Washington University, then studied law at the Jesuit-run Saint Louis University School of Law. In 1940 he left his legal career to become a successful theatrical producer.
His first seven productions were hits, starting with Clutterbuck in 1949, which he produced in partnership with Irving Jacobs, and he set a precedent in 1958 of having four productions on Broadway simultaneously; all hits: Look Back in Anger, Romanoff and Juliet, Jamaica and The Entertainer. He often was his own competition for the Tony Award, and he frequently won multiple nominations and/or wins in the same season.
Merrick was known for his love of publicity stunts. In 1949, his comedy Clutterbuck was running out of steam, but along with discount tickets, he paged hotel bars and restaurants around Manhattan during cocktail hour for a "fictive Mr. Clutterbuck" as a way of generating name recognition for his production, and it helped his show keep alive for another few months. Another famous stunt promoted the poorly reviewed 1961 musical Subways Are For Sleeping. Merrick found seven New Yorkers who had the same names as the city's seven leading theater critics: Howard Taubman, Walter Kerr, John Chapman, John McClain, Richard Watts, Jr., Norman Nadel, and Robert Coleman. Merrick invited the seven namesakes to the musical and secured their permission to use their names and pictures in an advertisement alongside quotes such as "One of the few great musical comedies of the last thirty years" and "A fabulous musical. I love it." Merrick then prepared a newspaper ad featuring the namesakes' rave reviews under the heading 7 Out of 7 Are Ecstatically Unanimous About Subways Are For Sleeping. Only one newspaper, the New York Herald Tribune, published the ad, and only in one edition; however, the publicity that the ad garnered helped the musical remain open for 205 performances (almost six months). Merrick later revealed that he had conceived the ad several years previously, but had not been able to execute it until Brooks Atkinson retired as The New York Times theater critic in 1960 since he could not find anyone with the same name. Merrick joined The Lambs in 1950.
Merrick joined the board of directors of the Riviera, a hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, alongside Harvey Silbert and Harry A. Goodman in 1968. He also worked with director and choreographer Gower Champion, who directed Merrick's production of 42nd Street. But on the morning of August 25, 1980, Champion died of a rare blood cancer, and Merrick announced the news himself to both the cast and the audience at the opening night curtain call.
Merrick suffered a stroke in 1983, after which he spent most of his time in a wheelchair. He established the David Merrick Arts Foundation in 1998 to support the development of American musicals.
Merrick was married six times, to Lenore Beck, Jeanne Gibson, Etan Aronson (twice), Karen Prunczik, and Natalie Lloyd. He was married to Lloyd at the time of his death on April 25, 2000, in London; all of his previous marriages had ended in divorce. He had two daughters according to Peter Filichia, writing in the Newark Star-Ledger on April 27, two days after Merrick's death.
In 1965, Merrick received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
In 2001, Merrick was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
An unauthorized biography by Howard Kissel is titled David Merrick: The Abominable Showman (ISBN 978-1-55783-361-7).
In "What Does A Naked Lady Say to You?", a first-season episode of The Odd Couple, the director of the nude off-Broadway play Bathtub (itself based on Oh! Calcutta!) complains after police officer Murray Greschler (Al Molinaro) busts the production for indecency, "Murray, you wouldn't do this to me if I was David Merrick!"
In "We Closed in Minneapolis," a first-season episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary's character comments to the mailroom guy upon seeing his delivery to Murray's desk of what she assumes to be a rejection letter, "Oh, poor Murray. He's been writing this play for three years. You'd think Broadway producers would be sensitive enough to do more than just stick mimeographed rejection slips in when they send it back. You know, something like a nice, handwritten note saying, "Good work, Murray. Nice try. Love, David Merrick."
Merrick produced four films:
...Mr. Merrick kept it alive for six months with discount tickets and a publicity stunt: ...