Donahue in 1999
|Born||Merle Johnson, Jr.
January 27, 1936
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 2, 2001
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
|Spouse(s)||Suzanne Pleshette (m. 1964; div. 1964)
Valerie Allen (m. 1966; div. 1968)
Alma Sharpe (m. 1969; div. 1972)
Vicki Taylor (m. 1979; div. 1981)
Troy Donahue (January 27, 1936 – September 2, 2001) was an American film and television actor and singer. Donahue became a popular male sex symbol of the 1950s and 1960s.
Born Merle Johnson, Jr. in New York City, Donahue was the son of a retired stage actress and the manager of the motion picture department of General Motors. Donahue later recalled in a 1959 interview:
Acting is all I ever wanted. Ever since I can remember I've studied and read plays. My mother would help me but my parents didn't want me to become an actor. They preferred something more stable - doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, anything.
To please his parents he attended a New York military academy. He was going to attend West Point but suffered a damaged knee at a track meet. He volunteered for the army but they rejected him.
When he was 18 he moved to New York and got a job as a messenger in a film company founded by his father (who had died when he was 14). He was fired, he says, because he was too young to join the union.
He attended Columbia University and studied journalism, and acted in summer stock at Bucks County. He trained briefly with Ezra Stone then moved to Hollywood.
One evening producer William Asher and director James Sheldon spotted him in a diner at Malibu and arranged for a screen test with Columbia. It was unsuccessful, and Donahue was in a car accident where he drove off a road and plunged 40 feet down a canyon.
Actress Fran Bennett introduced him to Henry Willson, who represented Rock Hudson, among others. Wilson signed him and it was he who changed Johnson's name to Troy Donahue. "It took me five minutes to get used to it," said Donahue.
Donahue signed with Universal in 1956. He established himself with uncredited roles in The Monolith Monsters and Man Afraid in 1957, leading to larger parts in several films and on TV shows. Donahue starred in Monster on the Campus, Live Fast, Die Young, and The Tarnished Angels, all in 1958. He impressed in a small role in Imitation of Life.
The big break of Donahue's career came when cast opposite Sandra Dee in A Summer Place, made by Warner Bros in 1959. This role role made him a major star, especially among teenaged audiences. In 1960 he was named by Film Daily as one of the five "finds" of the year.
He signed a contract with Warner Bros. and played several successive leading roles in films such as Parrish, Susan Slade, Rome Adventure, Palm Springs Weekend, and A Distant Trumpet. Two of these films co-starred Suzanne Pleshette, whom he married in 1964, but divorced that same year.
After Surfside 6 was canceled, Donahue joined the cast of another ABC/WB detective series, Hawaiian Eye for its last season from 1962 to 1963 in the role of hotel director Philip Barton, with Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens in the series lead.
Donahue also had a brief tenure as a recording artist at the height of his fame in the early 1960s, releasing a handful of singles for Warner Bros. records, including "Live Young" and "Somebody Loves Me." However, none of his recordings entered the Billboard Hot 100 list.
In 1965, Donahue was cast as a psychopathic killer opposite Joey Heatherton in My Blood Runs Cold. While Donahue was happy to break type and play a different type of role, it was not well received by the public. His contract with Warner Bros. ended shortly thereafter - although it did not end until early 1968, Donahue asked to be released from it in January 1966. He later reflected on this period:
They pumped me til the well went dry. My image came out of Warner Bros and it was one that was on its way out. I think I'm a little deeper than the roles I was given to play.
In 1967 he said Parrish had been the most satisfactory of his movies:
I had the best script and the best opportunity as an actor. Not too many of those came my way. But I did get great exposure at Warners. Now I'm free to call my own shots. I've made more money in two years on my own than the whole time I was under contract.
In 1968 he signed a long term contract with Universal for films and TV. This lasted a year and saw him guest on a number of shows. However he declared bankruptcy. This saw him guest on a number of TV shows.
Donahue later admitted that he began abusing drugs and alcohol at the peak of his career and increased usage after his career began to wane. He also suffered from financial difficulties and lost his home.
"I spent a lot of time judging beauty contests and opening banks," Donahue said of this period. He also wrote TV screenplays under a pseudonym.
In 1969, Donahue moved from Los Angeles to New York City. There, he appeared in the daytime CBS drama The Secret Storm for six months. He later called the role "the best part I ever had". By this time, Donahue's drug addiction and alcoholism had ruined him financially. One summer, he was homeless and lived in Central Park.
In 1974, Francis Ford Coppola cast him in a small part in The Godfather Part II as the fiancé of Connie Corleone. His character was name Merle Johnson, a nod to Donahue's real name. Donahue was paid $10,000 for the role.
He moved back to Los Angeles where he married for a fourth time. Donahue acted in occasional television guest spots and appeared in whiskey commercials for the Japanese television market. After his fourth marriage ended in 1981, Donahue decided to seek help for his drinking and drug use. In May 1982, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous which he credited for helping him achieve and maintain sobriety.
Donahue continued to act in films throughout the 1980s and into the late 1990s but never obtained the recognition that he had in the earlier years of his career. Donahue's final film role was in the 2000 comedy film The Boys Behind the Desk, directed by Sally Kirkland.
On October 21, 1966, Donahue married actress Valerie Allen in Dublin, Ireland. They separated in April 1967, and she filed for divorce in April 1968, charging him with cruelty, divorcing in November 1968. She miscarried during their marriage.
Donahue's fourth and final marriage was to land developer Vicki Taylor. They were married in 1979 and divorced in 1981. In his final years, Donahue was in a long-term relationship with mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao to whom he was engaged and lived with in Santa Monica, California.
Donahue had one son, Sean, whom he had with a woman he had a brief relationship with in 1969.
|1957||Man of a Thousand Faces||Assistant Director in Bullpen||Uncredited|
|1957||The Tarnished Angels||Frank Burnham|
|1957||The Monolith Monsters||Hank Jackson||Uncredited|
|1958||Flood Tide||Teenager at Beach||Uncredited|
|1958||Summer Love||Sax Lewis|
|1958||Live Fast, Die Young||Artie Sanders/Artie Smith|
|1958||This Happy Feeling||Tony Manza|
|1958||Voice in the Mirror||Paul Cunningham|
|1958||Wild Heritage||Jesse Bascomb|
|1958||The Perfect Furlough||Sgt. Nickles|
|1958||Monster on the Campus||Jimmy Flanders|
|1959||Imitation of Life||Frankie|
|1959||A Summer Place||Johnny Hunter|
|1960||The Crowded Sky||McVey|
|1961||Susan Slade||Hoyt Brecker|
|1962||Rome Adventure||Don Porter|
|1963||Palm Springs Weekend||Jim Munroe|
|1964||A Distant Trumpet||2nd Lt. Matthew 'Matt' Hazard|
|1965||My Blood Runs Cold||Ben Gunther|
|1967||Come Spy with Me||Pete Barker|
|1967||Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon||Gaylord||Alternative title: Those Fantastic Flying Fools|
|1970||The Phantom Gunslinger||Bill|
|1971||Sweet Savior||Moon||Alternative title: Frenetic Party|
|1972||The Last Stop||Sheriff|
|1974||The Godfather: Part II||Merle Johnson|
|1977||The Legend of Frank Woods||Sheriff John Baxom|
|1984||Katy the Caterpillar||Walla (Voice)||English-dubbed version|
|1984||Grandview, U.S.A.||Donny Vinton|
|1986||Low Blow||John Templeton||Alternative title: The Last Fight to Win: The Bloody End|
|1987||Fight to Win||Rosenberg||Alternative titles: Dangerous Passages
Eyes of the Dragon
|1987||Hyôryu kyôshitsu||Taggart||English title: The Drifting Classroom|
|1987||Hollywood Cop||Lt. Maxwell|
|1987||Deadly Prey||Don Michaelson|
|1988||Hard Rock Nightmare||Uncle Gary|
|1988||Hawkeye||Mayor||Alternative title: Karate Cops|
|1989||Blood Nasty||Barry Hefna|
|1989||The Chilling||Dr. Miller|
|1989||The Platinum Triangle||Harold Farber|
|1989||Assault of the Party Nerds||Sid Witherspoon||Direct-to-video release|
|1989||American Rampage||Police Psychiatrist|
|1989||Dr. Alien||Dr. Ackerman|
|1989||Sounds of Silence||Larry Haughton|
|1989||Bad Blood||Jack Barnes|
|1989||Hot Times at Montclair High||Mr. Nichols|
|1990||Click: The Calendar Girl Killer||Alan|
|1990||Nudity Required||Jack||Alternative title: Young Starlet|
|1991||Shock 'Em Dead||Record Exec|
|1991||Deadly Diamonds||Matt Plimpton||Direct-to-video release|
|1992||The Pamela Principle||Troy|
|1998||Merchants of Venus||FBI Agent||Alternative title: A Dirty Little Business|
|2000||The Boys Behind the Desk|
|1958||Man Without a Gun||Jan||Episode: "Night of Violence"|
|1958||The Californians||Episode: "A Girl Named Sue"|
|1959||Rawhide||Buzz Travis||Episode: "Incident at Alabaster Plain"|
|1959||Wagon Train||Ted Garner||Segment: "The Hunter Malloy Story"|
|1959||Tales of Wells Fargo||Smith||Episode: "The Rawhide Kid"|
|1959||Maverick||Dan Jamison||Episode: "Pappy"|
|1959||Sugarfoot||Ken Savage||Episode: "The Wild Bunch"|
|1959||Colt .45||James 'Jim' Gibson||Episode: "The Hothead"|
|1959||The Alaskans||Ted Andrews||Episode: "Heart of Gold"|
|1959-1963||Hawaiian Eye||Philip Barton||26 episodes|
|1960||Lawman||David Manning||Episode: "The Payment"|
|1960-1961||77 Sunset Strip||Star Bright
Sandy Winfield I
|1960-1962||Surfside 6||Sandy Winfield II||71 episodes|
|1965||The Patty Duke Show||Dr. Morgan||Episode: "Operation: Tonsils"|
|1968||Ironside||Father Dugan||2 episodes|
|1968||The Name of the Game||Norman Hoak||Episode: "Nightmare"|
|1969||The Virginian||Bracken||Episode: "Fox, Hound and the Widow McCloud"|
|1969||The Lonely Profession||Julian Thatcher||Television movie|
|1970||The Secret Storm||R.B. Keefer||Unknown episodes|
|1976||Ellery Queen||Gilbert Mallory||Episode: "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario"|
|1977||The Godfather Saga||Merle Johnson||Miniseries|
|1978||The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries||Alan Summerville||Episode: "Mystery on the Avalanche Express"|
|1978||CHiPs||Bob Niles||Episode: "Peaks and Valleys"|
|1978||Vega$||Teddy Howard||Episode: "The Games Girls Play"|
|1978||The Eddie Capra Mysteries||Episode: "Dying Declaration"|
|1978-1981||Fantasy Island||Jack Terry
|1980||The Love Boat||Mr. Clark||Episode: "Tell Her She's Great..."|
|1982||Matt Houston||William 'Willie' Hoyt||Episode: "Joey's Here"|
|1983||Malibu||Clint Redman||Television movie|
|1990||Monsters||Episode: "Micro Minds"|
|1999||Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story||Rob Kamen||Miniseries|
In popular culture
- Troy Donahue was one of the inspirations for The Simpsons character Troy McClure, along with Doug McClure and a measure of the character's voice actor Phil Hartman.
- Donahue is mentioned in the song "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee", from the 1971 musical Grease, reflecting his status as a teen idol at the time in which the action is set. The line, which is performed by Stockard Channing in the 1978 film version, is as follows: "As for you, Troy Donahue, I know what you want to do."
- Donahue is also mentioned in the song "Mother" in the musical A Chorus Line, when the character Bobby sings, "If Troy Donahue could be a movie star, then I could be a movie star."
- Ferguson, Michael S. (2003). Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies. STARbooks Press. p. 139. ISBN 1-891-85548-4.
- Teens Pick Our Movie Stars: Donahue Buildup an Example Beck, Joan. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 22 Oct 1959: c3.
- GOLDEN BOY TROY: Tall, Talented, and Terrific, He Has Attained the Fame Hedda Predicted for Him Last January Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 29 May 1960: b16.
- Bridges, Andrew (September 2, 2001). "Actor Troy Donahue dead of heart attack at ae 65". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 2A. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- PRODUCERS STUDY NEW CAMERA IDEA: Film and TV Officials View Electronicam, Du Mont's Dual Purpose Instrument Welles to Direct at M-G-M By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 03 Oct 1956: 29.
- ' A SUMMER PLACE' ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST By PAINE KNICKERBOCKERSAN FRANCISCO.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Apr 1959: X7.
- Film Daily Announces Winners in Latest Poll The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 26 Dec 1960: A25
- Screen Executive Enthused Over Coming Films Tinee, Mae. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 22 Nov 1959: f13.
- Troy Donahue Goes to Class: How Chicago Teens Hailed Film Idol Schulz, Barbara. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 29 Mar 1962: c3.
- 'Doris Day Heads Top 10' The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] January 14, 1964: A27.
- The Hazards Of Hitting It Big TROY DONAHUE:. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 21 June 1964: h9.
- Man With the Fans Korman, Seymour. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 10 June 1961: b3.
- ROUTE 66 MAKES A DETOUR AROUND WORLD'S FAIR Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 28 Apr 1962: c8.
- LETTERS: Statements Denied Warner, Jack L. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 Aug 1971: n14.
- Troy Donahue Newest Film 'Kid You' Clifford, Terry. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 08 Jan 1967: g12.
- Donahue Walks Out Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 Nov 1967: c16.
- Schedule 'Voice of the Turtle' Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 07 Nov 1967: b3.
- Imogene Coca, Donovan Return to Drury Lane Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 19 Nov 1967: f10.
- MOVIE CALL SHEET: Brennan Set for Western Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Feb 1968: c14.
- Personal Finance: Debtors Should Weigh Bankruptcy Ills Carefully to Avoid Adding to Troubles Personal Finance: Bankruptcy Ills By ROBERT J. COLE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 03 Oct 1968: 69.
- Stark, John (August 13, 1984). "After 20 Years Awash in Booze and Drugs, Troy Donahue Prizes His Sobering Discoveries". people.com. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Music Sales Group. p. 215. ISBN 0-711-99512-5.
- Emory, Alan (August 30, 1997). "Troy Donahue at 61: still blonde, now sober". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. pp. C–7. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- "Troy Donahue, Actress Wed". The Pittsburgh Press. January 5, 1964. p. 16. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- Troy Donahue Divorced by Suzanne Pleshette Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Sep 1964: A2.
- "Hound Wedding Star". The Evening Independent. October 22, 1966. pp. 16–A. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- "Divorces Donahue". The Free Lance-Star. November 16, 1968. p. 2. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- Troy Donahue's Wife Files Divorce Action Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Apr 1968: b5.
- Valerie Allen Iill The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 26 Dec 1966: A14.
- "Actor Tory Donahue Marries T.V. Secretary". St. Petersburg Times. November 20, 1969. pp. 2–A. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- Donahue and Secretary Say Vows Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Nov 1969: f22.
- Actor Jailed for Speeding Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 17 Apr 1958: B1.
- Sues Actor Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 24 Nov 1961: 3.
- Nina Wayne Signed for 'Luv' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Aug 1966: c13.
- The Simpsons Season 2 DVD, Episode: Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
- Filichia, Peter (2010). Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and the Biggest Flop of the Season, 1959 to 2009. p. 98. ISBN 1-423-49562-4.
- Troy Donahue at the Internet Movie Database
- Troy Donahue at AllMovie
- Troy Donahue at the TCM Movie Database
- Troy Donahue at Brian's Drive-In Theater
- Troy Donahue at Encore4.net
- Actor Troy Donahue dead at 65 at CNN.com
- Troy Donahue at Find a Grave