Jan Merlin

Jan Merlin (April 3, 1925 – September 20, 2019)[1] was an American character actor, television writer, and author.

Jan Merlin
Jan Merlin on November 15, 2013
Jan Wasylewski

(1925-04-03)April 3, 1925
DiedSeptember 20, 2019(2019-09-20) (aged 94)
OccupationActor, author, screenwriter
Years active1946–2019
Spouse(s)Patricia Ann Datz (married 1951–1986, her death); Barbara Doyle (married 1988–2019, his death)
AwardsGolden Halo Award, 2009 (from Southern California Motion Picture Council)

Early years

Born Jan Wasylewski and reared in New York City, Merlin was of Polish ancestry. He attended the Grace Church School for Boys before dropping out to join the Navy.[2]

He was a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.[3]

During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy and became a torpedoman.[2] He served on three successive ships in the North Atlantic and Pacific fleets and accumulated ten battle stars, before he entered Japan's Inland Sea with the first group of occupation forces following Japan's surrender.


After Merlin's discharge, he worked in summer stock beginning in 1946, and then enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, making his Broadway debut in 1949 in Mister Roberts starring Henry Fonda.[4]

His professional acting career, which spanned more than five decades, included performances in stage plays on and off Broadway, radio dramas, live and filmed episodes of television series, and more than 30 feature motion pictures. His most recent performances were in live radio dramas broadcast in June 2010. In his film and television work, Merlin was frequently cast as the heavy, and consequently his character very often died onscreen. In 1960, Merlin played Travers in Hell Bent for Leather, and his other film credits include roles in Guns of Diablo (1965), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), Take the Money and Run (1969), The Twilight People (1972), I Escaped from Devil's Island (1973), The Slams (1973), The Hindenburg (1975) and Time Trackers (1989).

Merlin had co-starring roles in two television series: from 1950 to 1953 as Cadet Roger Manning in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet,[5]:1091-1092 and in 1959 as Lieutenant Colin Kirby in the ABC western series The Rough Riders.[5]:912 In 1958, he played Kenneth on the NBC drama Kitty Foyle.[5]

In 1960, he was cast as Mick Norton in the episode "Hostage Island" of the ABC adventure series The Islanders, set in the South Pacific. He also appeared as Hendry Grant in the 1961 episode "First Blood" of the NBC western series The Tall Man. He made two guest appearances on Perry Mason: in 1958, as Tony Davis in "The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde", and in 1961 as Ralph Quentin in "The Case of the Jealous Journalist." Merlin played a villain in three episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: "No Way Out", "The X Factor" and "Death From The Past". In 1957, he appeared in Season 1 Episode 21 of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre opposite Ernest Borgnine, also a former US Navy man. In 1966, he co-starred in the Combat! Season 4 episode “One At A Time” as a German sniper, Sgt. Erich and again in 1966 in the season 5 episode "Headcount" as Lt. Geiben.

Merlin received a Daytime Emmy Award in 1975 for Outstanding Writing for a Daytime Drama Series as part of the NBC Daytime soap opera Another World.[6] He was nominated again in 1976. His first novel was published in 1982. He currently has a number of novels in print, including Gunbearer, Part I, Gunbearer, Part II, Ainoko, Gypsies Don't Lie, Crackpots, and Shooting Montezuma. He has also self-published several works of fiction and non-fiction with co-author William Russo, including The Paid Companion of J. Wilkes Booth, Troubles in a Golden Eye, MGM Makes Boys' Town, Hanging with Billy Budd, and Frankie Thomas: the Eternal Cadet.

Merlin received a Golden Halo Award in 2009 from the Southern California Motion Picture Council for his work as an actor and a writer..

Personal life & death

Merlin married his first wife Patricia Datz in 1951.[2]

They had a son, Peter William Merlin (born 1964). Patricia died in 1986.

Two years after his wife's death, Merlin married his second wife Barbara Doyle, and remained married until Merlin's death on September 20, 2019. He was 94.[7][8]


Year Title Role Notes
1954Them!Radio Man on the SS VikingUncredited
1955Six Bridges to CrossAndy Norris
1955Big House, U.S.A.Tommy, Accomplice on Fishing BoatUncredited
1955IllegalAndy Garth
1955Running WildScotty Cluett
1956A Day of FuryBilly Brand
1956Screaming EaglesLt. Pauling
1956A Strange AdventureAl Kutner
1956The PeacemakerViggo Tomlin
1957Woman and the HunterRobert Gifford
1958Cole Younger, GunfighterFrank Wittrock
1960Hell Bent for LeatherTravers
1963The List of Adrian MessengerThe Whistling Man / The Clergyman / The Workman / The ShepherdUncredited
1963Gunfight at Comanche CreekNielsen
1965Guns of DiabloRance Macklin
1966The OscarActor Frankie Pulls Knife onUncredited
1967The St. Valentine's Day MassacreWillie Marks
1969Strategy of TerrorJon
1969Take the Money and RunAl - Bank Robber
1972The Twilight PeopleSteinman
1973The SlamsSaddler
1973I Escaped from Devil's IslandRosenquist
1975The HindenburgSpeck
1988Permanent RecordMinister
1989Nowhere to RunMr. Groker
1989Time TrackersMax Barker
1989Silk 2Hancock Gish
1990False IdentityPotter - Pete


  1. Magers, Donna. "Jan Merlin". www.westernclippings.com. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  2. "Co-Star Role in 'Rough Riders' Series Caps Long Career for Actor Jan Merlin". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Hawaii, Honolulu. June 13, 1959. p. 59. Retrieved January 11, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  3. "TV Star to Appear at Little League Opening". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. May 14, 1961. p. 18. Retrieved January 11, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  4. "Jan Merlin". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 12 January 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  5. Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 568. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  6. "IMDB Daytime Emmy Awards 1975". Retrieved 2019-09-23.
  7. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jan-merlin-dead-actor-emmy-winning-writer-was-94-1242626
  8. "Jan Merlin Obituary - Burbank, California | Legacy.com".
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