Who Is Margot Merrill? Bette Davis' Daughter Was Kept Out Of The Spotlight
Various subplots of Ryan Murphy's sweeping new FX period drama Feud: Bette and Joan involve its titular co-stars' relationships with their families, almost all of which were tumultuous. Both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis married four times each and had multiple children. But all of those relationships suffered under the weight of their stardom and numerous mental health struggles. Kiernan Shipka plays B.D., Davis' only biological daughter. But her adopted daughter Margot Merrill is also referenced in the show. So who is Bette Davis' daughter Margot Merrill? She spent most of her life away from the family, which was probably for the best.
Margot was adopted by Davis and her fourth husband, Gary Merrill, when she was five days old. Her birth mother was an alcoholic who put her up for adoption immediately, and Margot was adopted by Davis and Merrill when B.D. was four-years-old so that she wouldn't grow up an only child. (They would adopt Davis' third child, an infant named Michael, the next year.) Although Margot seemed like a happy and healthy baby, as she began to enter toddlerhood, her behavior grew increasingly worrisome. According to the book Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis, when Margot was three, she began to pull out her brother Michael's hair, and was once found having broken all the family's barware, with Michael's hands bleeding from playing with the broken glass.
Fearing for their youngest son's safety, Davis and Merrill took Margot to Presbyterian Hospital in New York for diagnostic testing. After a week, doctors determined that she had suffered brain damage, probably due to an injury during or shortly after birth, and that she would be developmentally disabled for the rest of her life. They suggested Davis enroll her in the Lochland School, a home for developmentally disabled children, but Davis couldn't bear the idea of sending her daughter away. The family tried to make it work on their own, but, eventually, Margot was sent to Lochland.
While the school provided her with much needed stability and she was said to be very happy there, Davis would frequently attempt to take her out for extended visits home, trips to New York, and to try bouncing her around different caretakers. Unfortunately, Davis was ill-equipped to care for Margot and her teachers reported that Margot would often return to school crushed by how her mother had treated her. Although when Margot was first enrolled at Lochland, it only housed girls until age 16, the home eventually expanded its services to adults, so she remained there for the rest of her life.
Merrill continued to pay for her stay at the facility until his death, at which point a trust he had set up for her, overseen by her brother Michael, continued to cover her expenses. Neither B.D. nor Margot were included in Davis' will when she died. Although she sadly spent most of her life separated from her family, by all accounts, Margot enjoyed life in her supported care-taking facility.