Composer, lyricist, screenwriter had smash Broadway scores and dozens of pop hits
UK's top songwriter of 1950s
While Bob Merrill's songwriting credits speak for themselves, his talents are diverse including successful endeavors in screenplay writing, acting and teaching.
Born in Atlantic City in the city's pre-casino period, he did most of his growing up in the nearby Philadelphia area, graduating from high school there. Following his discharge from the Army at the end of World War II, Merrill took a job as a dialog director with Columbia Pictures in Hollywood where he stayed for seven years. During this time, he was also on the CBS-TV inaugurate team.
While working on a film for the company he met a woman named Dorothy Shay, a popular performer and singer known as the "Park Avenue Hillbilly," for whom he wrote several songs at her invitation. These later proved a popular part of her million-seller albums and the success encouraged Merrill to expand his songwriting activity.
The result was a highly successful career as a writer of both individual popular songs as well as Broadway show scores. One of his earliest songs was the novelty song “If I’d Known You Were Comin’, I’d ’Ve Baked a Cake,” which was recorded by Ilene Barton. This success was followed by other successes including “Honeycomb,” recorded by Jimmie Rodgers; “How Much Is That Doggie In the Window,” recorded by Patti Page; “Love Makes the World Go ’Round,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Pittsburgh Pennsylvania,” “Mambo Italiano” and “Make Yourself Comfortable.”
1961 produced the Merrill-Styne score for the smash Broadway hit Funny Girl. The show included one of the great stage standards “People (Who Need People)”.
Merrill enjoyed a number of other Broadway successes as well. These included Take Me Along, with Jackie Gleason and Walter Pidgeon; Carnival with Anna Marie Alberghetti; New Girl in Town with Gwen Verdon and Thelma Ritter; and Sugar with Cyril Ritchard and Bobby Morse.
In his work with screenplays, Merrill authored the Diana Ross Paramount film, Mahogany, WC Fields and Me, a Universal release with Rod Steiger; Chu Chu and the Philly Flash starring Carol Burnett and Alan Arkin; and Portrait of a Showgirl a CBS movie of the week, starring Rita Moreno, Leslie Ann Warren and Tony Curtis.
Merrill also created for television several Christmas specials including The Wonderful Christmas of Red Riding Hood, with Liza Minnelli and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, with an all-star cast.
As an actor, during an earlier phase of his career, Merrill appeared in The Story of GI Joe and in his own words, "a dozen B films and westerns."
After a series of health problems, Bob Merrill took his own life on February 17, 1998 in Hollywood, California.