FALMOUTH, MAINE -- Gary Merrill, 74, an actor known for his supporting roles in the movies "Twelve O'Clock High" and "All About Eve" and for his stormy marriage to actress Bette Davis, died of cancer March 5 at his home here.

His acting career spanned more than 40 years. His stage career began in 1937 and his movie career in 1944, with a part in "Winged Victory." He went on to "Twelve O'Clock High" in 1949 and "All About Eve," which starred Miss Davis and won the best picture Academy Award, in 1950.

He went on to appear in more than 40 movies, including "Phone Call from a Stranger" and "Blueprint for Murder" in 1953, "Bermuda Affair" in 1956, and "Around the World Under the Sea" in 1966.

On television, he played the gruff but understanding Dr. Gillespie in the "Young Dr. Kildare" series and narrated "The Valiant Years" series about Winston Churchill.

His last stage appearance was on Broadway in 1980, in a revival of "Mornings at Seven" with Maureen O'Sullivan. His trademark, a deep, rich voice, was heard in commercials after he quit acting.

He met Davis in "All About Eve" in 1950 and married her in July of that year, the same day his divorce from his first wife became final. The marriage to Davis ended in divorce in 1960. Davis ended a 15-year silence in 1985 by writing a note to Mr. Merrill after he paraded outside a bookstore with a sign urging shoppers not to buy "My Mother's Keeper," a critical biography of Davis by her daughter.

He said he didn't want the actress to be ridiculed by a daughter whom he called "greedy."

He also had been a longtime escort of actress Rita Hayworth.

Mr. Merrill moved to Maine in the mid-1960s and spent most of his time playing golf and reading poetry in schools. A colorful, spirited actor, his penchant for wearing skirts on hot days was known in the Portland area.

Mr. Merrill was a native of Hartford, Conn. His autobiography, "Bette, Rita and the Rest of My Life," was published in 1988. He insisted he had been only an "adequate actor" because he "never worked at it. I had no drive, really. I just like to get by and have fun," he said.

Survivors include a son, a daughter, a brother and two grandchildren.