Troy Donahue


Actor
Troy Donahue

About

Also Known As
Merle Johnson Jr.
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
January 27, 1936
Died
September 02, 2001
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

The status as a teen idol of this blond, blue-eyed heartthrob leading man of the 1960s lasted longer than the memory of many of his films. Troy Donahue is perhaps best recalled for his film role as Sandra Dee's beau in "A Summer Place" (1959) and for his starring roles as Sandy Winfield, one of the three sexy young detectives, on "Surfside Six" (ABC, 1960-62) and as Philip Barton, hotel ...

Photos & Videos

My Blood Runs Cold - Movie Poster
Rome Adventure - Movie Poster
The Tarnished Angels - Behind-the-Scenes Stills

Family & Companions

Suzanne Pleshette
Wife
Had four; survived her.
Suzanne Pleshette
Wife
Actor. Married on January 4, 1964; divorced on September 8, 1964.
Valerie Allen
Wife
Survived him.
Valerie Allen
Wife
Actor. Married in 1966; divorced in 1968.

Biography

The status as a teen idol of this blond, blue-eyed heartthrob leading man of the 1960s lasted longer than the memory of many of his films. Troy Donahue is perhaps best recalled for his film role as Sandra Dee's beau in "A Summer Place" (1959) and for his starring roles as Sandy Winfield, one of the three sexy young detectives, on "Surfside Six" (ABC, 1960-62) and as Philip Barton, hotel social director, of "Hawaiian Eye" (ABC, 1962-63). For all his many screen appearances, the most lasting will undoubtedly be one of his smallest--that of Merle Johnson (also Donahue's real name), prospective groom to Connie Corleone Rizzi in "The Godfather, Part II" (1974).

Donahue was studying journalism at Columbia University and pursuing an acting career in stock productions when he landed his first film role, a bit part in "Man Afraid" (1957). Later that year, he supported Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack in "The Tarnished Angels." Despite such foolishness as the low-budget "Monster on the Campus" (1958) and several other small roles in teen-oriented fare, Warner Bros. signed Donahue to a multi-year contract in 1959. His first film for the studio, the sudsy "A Summer Place," cast him as the son of booze-soaked Dorothy McGuire and Arthur Kennedy and boyfriend of the then-Number One female teen star, Sandra Dee. Their pairing was a popular one and briefly put Donahue on equal footing with Elvis Presley and Pat Boone as a teen idol. Warner Bros., eager to capitalize on Donahue's ability to sell tickets at drive-in theatres, cast the actor in such typical efforts as "Palm Springs Weekend" (1963), a predictable romp stocked with the popular faces of the moment.

When his contract with Warner Bros. ended, Donahue was cast by Raoul Walsh in "A Distant Trumpet" (1964) as a fighting cowboy matched with Suzanne Pleshette, to whom he was briefly married. As the teen audience matured and tastes changed, Donahue found himself starring in such forgettable efforts as the murder mystery "Come Spy With Me" (1967). He had not worked in films for three years when Francis Ford Coppola hired him for "The Godfather, Part II." After the film's release there were a lot of "Wasn't that Troy Donahue?" remarks on TV talk shows and in the press, and columnists seemed to be wishing him well, but perhaps soured on Hollywood "promises," Donahue plunged into low-budget films with gay abandon. Some, such as "Cockfighter" (1975), had an artistic, interesting bent, but most were on the order of "Deadly Prey" (1987), "Sexpot" (1988), and "Attack of the Party Nerds" (1989). He did make cameos, along with other teen favorites of the 50s and 60s, in such films as "Back to the Beach" (1987), and John Waters' "Cry Baby" (1990), but Donahue seemed to disappear from mainstream fare. He could be seen in the 90s signing autographs at $10 per 8x10 glossy at Hollywood memorabilia collector shows alongside many other faces used and discarded by Hollywood.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Legion (1998)
Merchants of Venus (1997)
Showdown (1993)
The Pamela Principle (1992)
Eddie
The Chilling (1992)
Double Trouble (1991)
Leonard Stewart
Deadly Diamonds (1991)
Escape From Rio (1991)
Click (1990)
Shock 'Em Dead (1990)
Record Executive
Omega Cop (1990)
Slim
Cry Baby (1990)
Sounds of Silence (1989)
Deadly Spygames (1989)
Python
Assault Of The Party Nerds (1989)
Sid Witherspoon
A Platinum Triangle (1989)
Bad Blood (1989)
South Seas Massacre (1989)
Steve
American Rampage (1988)
Sexpot (1988)
Nudity Required (1988)
Jack
Dr Alien (1988)
Dr Ackerman
Terminal Force (1987)
Cyclone (1987)
Bob Jenkins
Hollywood Cop (1987)
Lieutenant Maxwell
Deadly Prey (1987)
Don Michaelson
Low Blow (1986)
Templeton
Grandview, U.S.A. (1984)
Tin Man (1983)
Seizure (1974)
Mark
The Godfather Part II (1974)
Cockfighter (1974)
Sweet Saviour (1971)
Moon
Come Spy With Me (1967)
Pete Barker
Those Fantastic Flying Fools (1967)
Gaylord Sullivan
My Blood Runs Cold (1965)
Ben Gunther
A Distant Trumpet (1964)
2d Lieut. Matthew Hazard
Palm Springs Weekend (1963)
Jim Munroe
Rome Adventure (1962)
Don Porter
Parrish (1961)
Parrish McLean
Susan Slade (1961)
Hoyt Brecker
The Crowded Sky (1960)
McVey
Imitation of Life (1959)
Frankie
The Perfect Furlough (1959)
Sgt. Nickles
A Summer Place (1959)
John Hunter
Voice in the Mirror (1958)
Paul Cunningham
Monster on the Campus (1958)
Jimmy Flanders
Live Fast, Die Young (1958)
Artie Sanders
Flood Tide (1958)
Young man who knocks on Steve's door
The Tarnished Angels (1958)
Frank Burnham
Wild Heritage (1958)
Jesse Bascomb
This Happy Feeling (1958)
Tony Manza
Summer Love (1958)
"Sax" Lewis
Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)
Assistant director
Man Afraid (1957)
Reporter

Cast (Special)

1998 Creative Arts Emmy Awards (1998)
Presenter

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Shake, Rattle & Roll (1999)
Malibu (1983)
Clint Redman

Life Events

1957

Film acting debut, "Man Afraid"

1959

Co-starred with Sandra Dee in "A Summer Place"

1959

Made seven films under contract to Warner Bros.

1959

TV acting debut in an episode of "Wagon Train" (NBC)

1968

Made first TV-movie, "Ironside: Split Second to an Epitaph" (NBC)

1970

Appeared as regular on "The Secret Storm" (CBS)

1974

Played character called 'Merle Johnson' in "The Godfather, Part II"

1986

Feature career reached low point with "Assault of the Party Nerds"

1990

Cast by John Waters in a cameo role in "Cry Baby"

1997

Co-starred in low budget films "S.O.S", "Forever More", "Hard Rock Nightmare" and "Escape Rio"

1998

Appeared onstage in a touring production of "Bye Bye Birdie", playing Mr. McAfee

Photo Collections

My Blood Runs Cold - Movie Poster
My Blood Runs Cold - Movie Poster
Rome Adventure - Movie Poster
Rome Adventure - Movie Poster
The Tarnished Angels - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are some photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Universal Pictures' The Tarnished Angels (1957), directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone.

Videos

Movie Clip

Summer Place, A (1959) - I've Been A Good Girl! Rescued teens Molly (Sandra Dee) and John (Troy Donahue) return from their night stranded on a coastal island, her mother Helen (Constance Ford) assuming they have sinned, in Delmer Daves' A Summer Place, 1959.
Summer Place, A (1959) - Waiting To Be Kissed A version of the giant hit theme song by Max Steiner accompanies Johnny (Troy Donahue), son of the troubled couple that owns the resort, escorting Sandra Dee (as Molly), daughter of the VIP guests, with provocative talk and shots from writer-producer-director Delmer Daves in A Summer Place, 1959, from the novel by Sloan Wilson.
Summer Place, A (1959) - We've Spoiled Two Lives Critical revelations as well-to-do Ken (Richard Egan), visiting the island inn owned by Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire) and her useless boozy husband Bart, steps in to fix the roof and revisit their implied but so-far not confirmed old romance, a big moment in Delmer Davis’ hit melodrama A Summer Place, 1959, also starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.
My Blood Runs Cold (1965) - Now Do You Believe Me? Mysterious Ben (Troy Donahue) and mystified Julie (Joey Heatherton), whom he calls Barbara, get disrobed on his yacht and swim to a cave where he produces further evidence that they’re reincarnated lovers, a money-scene from producer-director William Conrad (TV’s “Cannon”), in Warner Bros. My Blood Runs Cold, 1965.
My Blood Runs Cold (1965) - I'd Know You Anywhere Immediately following the credits, we meet Joey Heatherton (as “Julie,” though called “Barbara” in the period prologue), with boyfriend Harry (Nicholas Coster), bombing down a coastal highway before encountering motorcyclist Ben (Troy Donahue), in My Blood Runs Cold, 1965.
Rome Adventure (1962) - To Show Him I Have A Lover Don (Troy Donahue), American studying architecture in Rome, after another joyful date with his new, also-American girlfriend Prudence (Suzanne Pleshette), confronted by his cynical ex Lyda (Angie Dickinson), who, though she is using him, remains hard to resist, in Delmer Daves’ melodrama Rome Adventure, 1962.
Rome Adventure (1962) - Couple Of Stregas Experienced ex-pat architecture student Don (Troy Donahue) in Rome is now friendlier with his new American co-lodger Prudence (Suzanne Pleshette), who’s landed a new job, and director Delmer Daves takes the opportunity to resume his travelogue mode, in Rome Adventure, 1962.
Rome Adventure (1962) - From The Caesars To Mussolini Fresh off the boat, American Prudence (Suzanne Pleshette) with companions Albert (Hampton Fancher) and Roman Alberto (Rossano Brazzi), who has arranged lodgings, meeting the countess (Iphigenie Castiglione), then leading man Troy Donahue, as distracted Don, in Rome Adventure, 1962.
My Blood Runs Cold (1965) - And Wilt Thou Weep When I Am Low? Producer, director and future TV star William Conrad recites from Byron’s And Wilt Thou Weep When I Am Low? in the opening, then introduces Joey Heatherton in period garb, her name “Barbara” on the wind, all before credits, in My Blood Runs Cold, 1965, starring Troy Donahue.
My Blood Runs Cold (1965) - I Come From A Lot Of Places Rich siblings Sarah (Jeanette Nolan) and Julian (Barry Sullivan) discuss his footloose daughter Julie (Joey Heatherton), who’s inside with boyfriend Harry (Nicholas Coster) and mysterious Ben (Troy Donahue), invited for drinks after she wrecked his motorbike, in My Blood Runs Cold, 1965.
Parrish (1961) - Flirt With Strange Boys New on the Connecticut tobacco farm scene is bicycling Paige (Sharon Hugueny), who visits with hunky new hand Parrish (Troy Donahue), then returns home where her father Judd (Karl Malden) is busy abusing her brothers (Hampton Fancher, David Knapp), in Delmer Daves' Parrish, 1961.
Parrish (1961) - We Just Smoke It Opening in which we learn the title is the given name of the protagonist (Troy Donahue), who does some exposition with "Skipper" (John McGovern), then travels with his mother (Claudette Colbert), met by "Teet" (Dub Taylor), from Delmer Daves' Parrish, 1961.

Trailer

Family

Merle Johnson
Father
Had two; survived her.
Merle Johnson
Father
Businessman. Had been a vice president at General Motors; died of ALS in 1950.
Edith Johnson
Mother
Survived her.
Edith Johnson
Mother
Actor.
Janine
Daughter
Survived him.
Janine
Daughter
Jewish immigrants from Russia; worked in garment industry.
Sean
Son
Survived him.
Sean
Son
Had 10 siblings; only four survived to adulthood; Harburg was youngest; had two older brothers (Max was oldest) and a sister (Anna).

Companions

Suzanne Pleshette
Wife
Had four; survived her.
Suzanne Pleshette
Wife
Actor. Married on January 4, 1964; divorced on September 8, 1964.
Valerie Allen
Wife
Survived him.
Valerie Allen
Wife
Actor. Married in 1966; divorced in 1968.
Zheng Cao
Companion
Survived him.
Zheng Cao
Companion
Opera singer. Born in 1966; met in 1991; became engaged in 1999.

Bibliography