Ted Hartley has worked as an actor, producer, a fighter pilot and investment banker. He is currently the Chairman and CEO of RKO Pictures LLC, where his wife Dina Merrill serves as Vice Chairman. In recognition of their support of screenwriters in developing nations, the couple was awarded a Special Prize at the 1998 Hamptons International Film Festival.
Childhood and Family:
Born on November 6, 1935, in Omaha, Nebraska, Ted Hartley was raised on a farm in Iowa. When he was 5, his father passed away. Following this, his family faced financial difficulties. At age 14, Ted competed in a writing contest sponsored by Warner Bros. and his essay earned him flying lessons. Although attending Shattuck Military School in Minnesota, Ted received an assignment to the U.S. Naval Academy at the age of 16. After training, he served as a carrier based fighter pilot. He also spent two years as a congressional liaison for The Pentagon and toured as a Presidential White House Aide.
Ted married actress and socialite Dina Merrill on November 18, 1989. He has four stepchildren from Merrill's previous marriages to Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr. (3 children) and Cliff Robertson (1 child).
Ted Hartley began his career with the United States Navy, but was forced to quit after his back was broken in a flight accident in 1964. After leaving the military, he resumed his studies and eventually got his MBA degree from Pepperdine University. He then kicked off a career in financial services and was the Vice President for First Western Financial Corporation.
Hartley's career as an actor began in the mid 1960s when he was cast in the recurring role of Reverend Jerry Bedford in the prime time soap “Peyton Place.” He appeared in 12 episodes during 1965 and 1966. He made his feature film debut as Yuri Andreyovitch in “Walk Don't Run” (1966), a romantic comedy starring Cary Grant, Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton. He went on to support Dean Martin, Ann-Margret and Karl Malden in the action adventure film “Murderers' Row” (1966), Robert Redford, Jane Fonda and Charles Boyer in Gene Saks' “Barefoot in the Park” (1967) and Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine and Patrick McGoohan in the action movie “Ice Station Zebra” (1968). In 1969, he made a guest appearance in an episode of “The Bold Ones: The New Doctors.”
In the early 1970s, Hartley appeared in episodes of “The F.B.I.,” “Search,” “Banyon,” “Mannix,” “Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color” and “Ironside.” He made his TV film debut in “The Man” (1972) and returned to the big screen in Clint Eastwood's “High Plains Drifter” (1973), where he had a notable supporting role as Lewis Belding. In 1974, Hartley starred in the ABC series “Chopper One.” The show ran for 13 episodes in 1974. Also in 1974, Hartley was featured in the television film “The Missiles of October.”
After the cancellation of “Chopper One,” Hartley took a year off from acting and moved from Hollywood to Aspen, Colorado, where he volunteered as the Managing Artistic Director of a local theater. He later resumed his career as an investment banking full time.
In 1975, Hartley could be seen making guest appearances in such TV shows as “The Streets of San Francisco,” “McCloud” and “The Invisible Man.” During the following years, he portrayed roles in the film “Moving Violation” (1976), starring Stephen McHattie, Kay Lenz and Lonny Chapman, and the television film “The Amazing Howard Hughes” (1977). He next worked with Ernest Borgnine, Gary Lockwood and Tina Chen in the TV film “The Ghost of Flight 401” (1978), portrayed Payne Smith in the Daniel Mann directed comedy “Matilda” (1978) and was cast as Tsar Nicholas of Russia in the television film “The Wild Wild West Revisited” (1979). He also landed guest spots in “Gemini Man” (1976) and “Husbands, Wives & Lovers” (1978).
Hartley did not have as many acting projects in the 1980s. He guest starred as Frank Carlson in an episode of “Nero Wolfe” called “The Murder in Question” (1981), played Herman Lingwood in the TV film “Scruples” (1981), opposite Jessica Biscardi, Sean Allan and Priscilla Barnes, and appeared in the TV film “Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story” (1986), starring Martin Sheen, Roxanne Hart and Joe Seneca. He was also featured as a club member in Allan Arkush's film “Caddyshack II” (1988). In 1987, Hartley was involved with Pavilion Communications Inc. He and his wife, actress Dina Merrill, later bought 51% of RKO and in 1991, merged the company with Pavilion Communications to form RKO Pictures, Inc. He is the current CEO of RKO Pictures.
Since the 1990s, Hartley has focused more attention toward producing instead of acting. He has executive produced or produced such films as “False Identity” (1990), “Milk & Money” (1996), “Mighty Joe Young” (1998), “The Magnificent Ambersons” (2002, TV), “Ritual” (2002), “The Gin Game” (2003, TV), “Shade” (2003), “Laura Smiles” (2006), “Are We Done Yet” (2007) and “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” (2009). In 2009, he also portrayed a role in the film “Race to Witch Mountain,” starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino and AnnaSophia Robb. Hartley is currently the executive producer of the upcoming films “The Chosen” (short) and “A Late Quartet” (both 2011).
Hamptons International Film Festival: Special Prize, In recognition of their support of screenwriters in developing nations, 1998 (Shared with Dina Merrill, RKO Pictures)