I grew up watching these two elder character actors. I did a post on Burt Mustin earlier but I always liked Merie Earle also. I’m going to cover both in this one. If you are a child of the 60s, 70s, and 80s you probably know these two. I first remembered Merie on the Waltons as a character named Maude but she was on a lot of things.
To my immense disappointment…Burt and Merie never appeared together on screen from what I can find. They were in some of the same tv programs but not the same episode.
Merie Earl was one of the cutest older ladies I’ve ever seen. She didn’t start acting till she was 77 years young. She was born Goldie Merie Ireland on May 13, 1889. She grew up in Columbus Ohio. She got married in 1909 and moved to New York because of her husband’s job as an engineer.
After her husband retired they moved to California to be near their daughter. Her husband Lawrence Nathan Earls passed away in 1954. Marie was later discovered by an agent while performing in a play at a Methodist church. In 1967 she started to do print ads for Polaroid. In 1967 she took the jump to motion pictures. Her first film role was in Fitzwilly starring Dick Van Dyke.
She went on to perform on television and TV movies in the 60s, 70s, and yes into the 80s! She was on tv shows such as Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, All In The Family, Alice, Whiz Kids, etc. Merie worked until she passed away in 1984 at the age of 95. What an incredible woman…Burt Mustin had more credits but he was a bit younger than Merie. She had no formal training and she said she was sometimes snubbed in auditions.
Merie Earle on going to auditions: “They’re old-timers in show business, so they just kind of snort and recite all their Broadway credits and film credits and things like that, that doesn’t bother me, though, and sometimes I even beat them out for the parts. But if I don’t, that doesn’t bother me too much either. It doesn’t take much money for me to live, anyway.”
On her acting style… “Oh dear, I guess I don’t have any acting style, All I try to do is just to be myself.”
What a life Burt Mustin lived. He didn’t start acting until he was 67 and he appeared in over 150 film and television productions. I first remembered him as Gus in Leave it to Beaver, Judd in The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, The Monkees, Gomer Pyle…the list is too long. He was also at the first World Series in 1903 to root on his hometown team, The Pittsburgh Pirates playing against the Boston Red Sox.
Burt was born on February 8, 1884, in Pittsburgh. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Military College in 1903 with a degree in engineering, Mustin became a car salesman. It was a rather new profession. He also worked for the Better Business Bureau, Mustin dabbled in amateur acting and singing. He belonged to the Barbershop Harmony Society and popped up in productions by the Pittsburgh Opera.
Mustin and his wife eventually retired to Arizona. In Tucson, the retiree took in a role in a local production of the play Detective Story. William Wyler — who would go on to direct Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday and Funny Girl — happened to catch the show and offered Mustin a role in his screen adaptation of Detective Story.
Thus, Burt Mustin made his screen debut at the age of 67 in 1951 and acted until he died in 1977 at the age of 92.
Below is Burt… on the Johnny Carson show talking about being at the first World Series.