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Troy Donahue Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (2)  | Trivia (27)  | Personal Quotes (6)  | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Born in New York City, New York, USA
Died in Santa Monica, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameMerle Johnson Jr.
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Troy Donahue was a journalism student at Columbia University when he began playing in stock productions. He made his film debut in Man Afraid (1957) and in 1959 signed as a contract player with Warner Bros., which promoted him to stardom with A Summer Place (1959) that year. He was soon a teenage heartthrob, his blond hair and blue eyes appearing frequently on the covers of movie magazines. His most successful film was Parrish (1961), in which he played the title character. A few years after that his career went into a decline; he made only a few television movies between the mid-'60s and his small role in The Godfather: Part II (1974) (in which his character's name, Merle Johnson, was actually his real name). His later films were almost entirely for the low-budget home video market, e.g., Sexpot (1990) and Nudity Required (1990).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Family (2)

Spouse Vicky Taylor (3 March 1979 - 1981)  (divorced)
Alma Sharpe (15 November 1969 - 1974)  (divorced)
Valerie Allen (21 October 1966 - 16 November 1968)  (divorced)
Suzanne Pleshette (4 January 1964 - 8 September 1964)  (divorced)
Parents Merle Johnson Sr
Edith Johnson

Trivia (27)

Used his real name, Merle Johnson, for his character in The Godfather: Part II (1974).
Taught acting classes on Holland America cruise ships.
At the time of his death he lived in Santa Monica with his fiancée, the mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao.
Survived by his daughter Janine, her husband and three grandchildren, as well as a son, Sean (born 1970).
Starting drinking alcohol in seventh grade (age 13). After being dropped by Warner Brothers in 1966 (age 30) he became an alcoholic. Admitted that he was addicted to pain killers, amphetamines, and cocaine, and used marijuana daily. Joined AA in 1982 (age 46) and turned his life around with his sobriety.
Received his movie name of "Troy Donahue" from the same person who invented the screen names of Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, Hollywood press agent Henry Willson.
He toured in a producton of "Bye Bye Birdie" toward the end of his life.
Suffered a heart attack on August 30, 2001. He never recovered and died at St. John's Hospital and Medical Center in Santa Monica, California three days later.
Former co-star and long-time friend Connie Stevens visited Donahue while he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack on the day before he died.
Son of Edith (Frederickson), a stage actress, and Merle Johnson Sr., a vice-president at General Motors. His mother was born in New York, to Swedish parents. His father was born in Illinois. Troy's paternal grandfather was English.
His admittedly limited talent was slightly chided in the smash Broadway musical "A Chorus Line." The lyric went: "If Troy Donahue could be a movie star, then I could be a movie star!"
After his father's death, at age 14 Troy was sent to military school. As a cadet, he became friends with a classmate, Francis Ford Coppola. This led to his being cast in The Godfather: Part II (1974).
Along with Doug McClure, was the inspiration for The Simpsons (1989) character "Troy McClure".
During the early 1980s, his personal and professional fortunes had sunk so low that he was literally homeless; sleeping on a bench in New York's Central Park.
Died just eleven days before his A Summer Place (1959) co-star, Dorothy McGuire.
1/23/05: Ranked #10 in TV Guide's list of "TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols".
His name was used in the lyrics for the song, "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" in the musical, Grease. ("As for you Troy Donahue...").
After suffering a heart attack on August 30, 2001, he underwent successful angioplasty surgery upon his arrival at the hospital, but then suffered a second heart attack the following day and was given a heart bypass operation.
Having migrated to Hollywood after dropping out of Columbia University, the sun-bleached blond was discovered and offered a Universal screen test by director William Asher while munching on a cheeseburger at a beachside diner.
Suffered from chronic arthritis later in life and was taking the arthritis painkiller Vioxx at the time of his death.
Talks about his early days at Universal, and the sci-fi movie Monster on the Campus (1958), in the book, "A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde" (McFarland, 2010), by Tom Weaver.
As a recurring guest on Ruth Lyons' The 50/50 Club (1949), which broadcast at noon from the powerful WLW-T in Cincinnati, in the late '40s through the '50s and '60s, Troy had a huge fan in Ruth's teenage daughter Candy Laird Newman, and gave her, as a surprise, a walk-on part in Palm Springs Weekend (1963). It was announced on Ruth's show by Candy, and everyone was very excited for her. She was only on for a few seconds, but it was a very big deal for Candy, who died of cancer in the early 1960s at age 20.
The December 1, 1971, issue of Variety, in the Hollywood Production Pulse section, reports the film Without Last Rights (or Rites) starring Troy Donahue, directed by Michael Meola, began filming Nov 12, 1971, in Paterson, NJ. No evidence the film was completed or released.
The January 5, 1972, issue of Variety lists a movie titled Without Last Rights, director Michael Meola, with cast Troy Donahue, Manchester Brooks, Caren Kaye, and others that started filming Nov. 12, 1971, in Paterson, NJ. No evidence the movie was ever finished or released.
In 1960, MGM toyed with the idea of doing an all-male remake of 1939's The Women which would have been entitled, Gentlemen's Club. Like the female version, this would have involved an all masculine cast and the plot would have involved a man (Jeffrey Hunter) who recently discovers among his comrades that his wife is having an affair with another man (Earl Holliman) and after going to Reno to file for divorce and begin a new life, he later finds himself doing what he can to rectify matters later on when he discovers that the other man is only interested in money and position and he decides to win his true love back again. Although nothing ever came of this, it would have consisted of the following ensemble had it did: Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Heal), Earl Holliman (Christopher Allen), Tab Hunter (Simon Fowler), Lew Ayres (Count Vancott), Robert Wagner (Mitchell Aarons), James Garner (Peter Day), Jerry Mathers (Little Martin), James Stewart (Mr. Heal), Ronald Reagan (Larry), Troy Donahue (Norman Blake), and Stuart Whitman (Oliver, the bartender who spills the beans about the illicit affair).
He was a lifelong Democrat.
The January 17, 1990, edition of Variety, in the New Film Starts column, announced the film "The Scan" began filming January 15, 1990. Filming sites were to be Los Angeles, California, and Mazatlan, Mexico, under the direction of Anthony Logan. Lead actors included Dennis Cole and Troy Donahue. No evidence the film was ever completed or released.

Personal Quotes (6)

[Discussing his role in A Summer Place (1959), with Sandra Dee] What I did basically was knock up Gidget, and you just don't do that!
By 1968, I had to declare personal bankruptcy and lost my house. I was living like a movie star, but wasn't being paid like one. I lived way over my head and got into great trouble and lost everything. I went from a beautiful home, garden, swimming pool in Beverly Hills to living in shabby apartments in downtown Hollywood. By 1970, I was loaded all the time... I'd wake up about 6:30 in the morning, take three aspirins mixed with codeine, slug down half a pint of vodka and then do four lines of cocaine. That was just so I could get the front door open to peek out and see if I could face the day... I would lie, steal and cheat, all those wonderful things that drunks do to get money. I was crafty. Nobody knew how much I drank then. If a bottle was out on the counter, I'd take a swig when I passed it and quickly put it back.
I can remember always being exposed to Broadway and theater people. I can remember sitting with Gertrude Lawrence while she read her reviews in 'The King and I'.
In most of those early films I did for Universal pictures, if you went out for popcorn you missed me.
It took guts for me to walk out of Hollywood, but it would have been worse to stay. I had a house, seven black Cadillac convertibles, and two wrecked marriages. I already had my head turned; turning back was easy. It doesn't matter if I have a beard or a crew-cut. People respond to me because I have a human quality. I know I'll be put down by Hollywood, but I don't speak to anybody out there anyway... I smoke grass and ride cycles, my lifestyle is casual, but I'm not a dope fiend or a hippie freak. I've found strength in Jesus Christ and he's easier to follow than Zen Buddhism. I'm not strung out. I'm a very reasonable, professional actor.
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.

Salary (2)

Hawaiian Eye (1959) $3,000 /week
The Godfather: Part II (1974) $10,000

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