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John Merton

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John Merton
Merton in Zorro's Fighting Legion, 1939
Myrtland F. LaVarre

(1901-02-18)February 18, 1901
Seattle, Washington, United States
DiedSeptember 19, 1959(1959-09-19) (aged 58)
Years active1927–1959
Spouse(s)Esther (divorced)

John Merton (born Myrtland F. LaVarre; February 18, 1901 – September 19, 1959) was an American film actor.[1][2] He appeared in more than 250 films between 1927 and 1959, mostly as a villain.


Born and raised in Seattle with two other brothers, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War I.

He joined the New York Theatre Guild in 1919 and appeared in a variety of shows. He made his film debut as a police officer in Running Wild (1927) filmed in Long Island's Astoria Studios. He travelled to Hollywood in 1932 and began a long career of small parts in major films and villain roles in B-movies and film serials. He met Cecil B. DeMille who cast him as a Roman guard in Cleopatra (1934) that led to him appearing in all of DeMille's films up to and including The Ten Commandments (1956). It was DeMille who suggested he change his name to a more masculine John Merton.[3]

Merton's wife, Esther, sued him for divorce in 1940. They had six children.[4]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ Magers, Donna. "John Merton". Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  2. ^ "John Merton". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2014. Archived from the original on December 13, 2014. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  3. ^ p. 206 Mayer, Geoff Encyclopedia of American Film Serials McFarland, 9 Feb 2017
  4. ^ "Wife Sues Actor". The Salt Lake Telegram. Utah, Salt Lake City. United Press. October 23, 1940. p. 16. Retrieved December 21, 2017 – via open access

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John Merton
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