May 4, 2011


New York Times


Marian Mercer, Actress With Zany Streak, Is Dead at 75

By Dennis Hevesi

Marian Mercer, a willowy actress with a comedic flair who won a Tony Award in 1969 for her performance in the hit musical Promises, Promises, died on April 27 in Newbury Park, Calif. She was 75 and lived in Agoura Hills, Calif.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her husband, Patrick Hogan, said.

Ms. Mercer, a 5-foot-9 blonde with green eyes and, when necessary, a sultry voice, won the Tony for best featured actress in a musical for her portrayal of Marge MacDougall, a pickup girl at Clancy’s Lounge.

“She’s giving one of the most delicious performances on Broadway, a B-girl who would rather die than have you think she’s cheap, as she deftly maneuvers herself into Jerry Orbach’s apartment, looking forward to bed,” The New York Times said.

But Ms. Mercer could handle more weighty characters. Among dozens of roles in repertory theaters around the country, she was Olivia in Twelfth Night, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

In the 1978 Broadway production of Stop the World — I Want to Get Off, Ms. Mercer starred with Sammy Davis Jr., playing the four different women in his life with a mix of song, comedy and even mime.

Ms. Mercer’s zany streak led to frequent television appearances with the likes of Johnny Carson, Jonathan Winters and Dom DeLuise. She was seen on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, “St. Elsewhere,” “Archie Bunker’s Place,” and “The Golden Girls,” among many other shows. And on ABC from 1980 through 1982 (and later in syndication) she played the humorless hostess, Nancy Beebe, on “It’s a Living,” a sitcom that followed the lives of waitresses working in an expensive restaurant atop a hotel in Los Angeles.

Marian Ethel Mercer was born in Akron, Ohio, on Nov. 26, 1935, one of five children of Samuel and Nellie Mercer.

Besides her husband of 31 years, she is survived by her sister, Marjorie Keith, and a daughter, Deidre Whitaker. Her first marriage, to Martin Cassidy, an actor she met soon after coming to New York in 1957, ended in divorce.

She was 8 when she began singing lessons, a passion she pursued at the University of Michigan. There she also began acting, taking roles in summer stock theater. She moved to New York in 1957 and, after stints as a model, a hostess at Schrafft’s restaurant and a file clerk, was cast in the choruses of Greenwillow and Fiorello!

Her big break came in 1961 when she took over the title role in Rick Besoyan‘s Off Broadway hit Little Mary Sunshine, a spoof of old-fashioned operettas and musicals.

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