Merle McHugh was a girl who had connection in Tinsel town, her father being a prominent newspaperman who was a friend of Hedda Hopper and other social columnists. She was pretty, not without talent and had some stage experience. What went wrong? It’s the million dollar question nobody knows the answer to, but bottom line is, Merle McHugh made only two very brief appearances in movies before sliding into total obscurity.
Merle McHugh was born in 1927 in New York to Eugene “Gene” McHugh and Merle Trillard. Her father was the managing editor of the New York Daily News, and her mother was born from an union of a Frenchman and an English lady. Merle was a beautiful child much loved by her parents and nicknamed Scoop.
Merle started working as a copyright girl at the New York Daily News, courtesy of her father. Yet, Merle was unhappy with the job and wanted to go to the stage. She took lessons in Shakespearean theater, but wisely pondered that maybe going to the chorus gave her better chances at reaching her ultimate goal, Hollywood. She modeled on the side to make extra money.
In late 1945, Merle was a Broadway newcomer at the Latin Quarter, vying for bigger and better things. She came to some prominence in 1946, when she was firts mentioned in Walter Winchell‘s column. Pretty soon, she was summoned to Hollywood to have a screen test with MGM. Unfortunate before the scheduled flight, she fell and dislocated her spinal vertebrae, resulting in a period of six weeks rest, wearing a neck brace. The injury was quite serious, as she went to consult a specialist in Norwalk, Connecticut, where she lived with her uncle and aunt, Edn and Jay Erman, (Edna was her mother’s sister), for a week. While there, Walter Pidgeon, famous actor, who who knew her from New York, send her flowers and a note wishing for a speedy recovery. Not a girl to be easily discouraged, she patiently waited until she was better and was off to Hollywood in May 1946.
Pretty slim in this department, Merle made only two appearances in movies, and both uncredited. As I said several times already, what a waste!
Copacabana is a Grouch Marx/Carmen Miranda movie that only works when Groucho is playing his usual Marx brothers persona, and when Miranda is doing her electric musical numbers. The rest – the story, supporting characters, and more or less everything else – falls flat like a deflated balloon. Merle plays one of the Copa girls, and, of course, she simply drowns in the sea of pretties.
In Living in a Big Way, we have all the right ingredients for a hit – Gregory LaCava in his last credit, Gene Kelly at the time when he did hit after hit, and Marie McDonald, no great actress but a vivacious, endearing presence in most of her movies, with a body to die for (hence her nickname, The Body). The end result is only barely passable, and considering who is involved in it, it’s pretty much downright bad. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad – it can hardy go into the Hall of Worst Movies Ever Made, but could have been so much better. Saving grace of the movie is definetly Kelly, always sensually elegant in his dancing and a true gentleman in his demeanor.
Merle found no further luck in Hollywood, and left the film world for good.
When Merle hit Hollywood, she was chaperoned everywhere by a family friend, Lieutenant Charles Sweeney, the man who dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Another man who liked her was composer Sam Coslow, who wanted to write a song especially for her in her firts feature, Copacabana. Of course, he did not, but at least he tried 🙂
Like many starlets of the day, Merle tried the “less clothes, more flesh” approach to achieve any level of recognition. As she told a TV presenter, “Nothing succeeds like excess”. Of course, this is for the most part a wrong way to gain fame and fortune, Merle ultimately failing a victim to it, getting a bit of newspaper publicity but making no lasting impression on nobody.
In 1952, long after her career was over, Merle made headlines by getting sick on a yacht owned by her then boyfriend, wealthy East coast socialite Eric Piper, and having to be rescued by the Coastal guard via a plane. The plane was flying at five feet over the waters, and a raft was dropped down that paddled to the Sandpiper. She was taken into the Salem Hospital. She was suffered internal hemorrhaging, but was said to have been fine later that same day. The Sandpiper, an auxiliary yacht (known as a ketch to the sea wolves), a 65 foot beauty, was sailing to Sciatuate, Masschusets.
Merle announced she would marry Piper as soon as she left the hospital. Piper was a good catch by anyone’s standards, not too old (he was 42 then), and a member of the Boston Brahmin. I found no traces of the union, so while it is possible it took place sometime, I highly doubt it.
In 1958, Merle married Jack Leon Medoff. Medoff was born on June 21, 1924, in Massachusetts to Katie and David Medoff.
The couple had two daughters, Marlene and Marilyn Susan Medoff. The family lived in New Yersey.
Medoff died on August 7, 2001.
Merle Medoff is very probably alive today and living in Closter, New Yersey.