Born in Emporia, Virginia, Merritt appeared in many theatrical productions but gained fame later in life when she starred in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Tony Award nomination) and The Wiz (she replaced Mabel King as Evelline, and although the demanding role was a highly visible one for her she left it, citing its deleterious effect on her voice) and the television series That's My Mama.
Her most notable film roles were Aunt Em in the 1978 film version of The Wiz, Mrs. Crosby in the 1977 film adaptation of Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl and Juanita in the Adam Sandler comedy Billy Madison. She also appeared alongside Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton in the film adaptation of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Personal Life and DeathEdit
Merritt was married to Benjamin Hines; they had four children. Merritt died of skin cancer on June 12, 1998 in The Bronx.
|1971||They Might Be Giants||Peggy|
|1977||Proof of the Man||Peggy|
|The Goodbye Girl||Mrs. Crosby|
|1978||The Wiz||Aunt Emma|
|1979||The Great Santini||Arrabella Smalls|
|All That Jazz||Cast of NY/LA|
|1982||The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas||Jewel|
|The Serpent and the Rainbow||Simone|
|1989||Zwei Frauen||Nurse Wilson|
|1991||Voodoo Dawn||Madame Daslay|
|Home Fries||Mrs. Vaughan|
|1973||The Furst Family of Washington||Eloise "Mama" Furst|
|1974-1975||That's My Mama||Eloise "Mama" Curtis|
|1975||Police Story||Mrs. Johnson|
|1980||NBC Special Treat|
|1983||The Love Boat||Faye Pillips|
|1984||Concealed Enemies||Clytie Catlett|
|1988||Miracle at Beekman's Place||Sarag Coleman|
|1997||Law & Order||Ruth Titus|