Troy Donahue (1936 - 2001)

A photo of Troy Donahue
Troy Donahue
1936 - 2001
updated November 14, 2019
Troy Donahue was born on January 27, 1936 in New York, New York. He died on September 2, 2001 in Santa Monica, California at 65 years old.

Born January 27, 1936 in New York City, New York, USA
Died September 2, 2001 in Santa Monica, California, USA (heart attack)
Birth Name Merle Johnson Jr.
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)
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).

Spouse (4)
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)
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 with his fiancée, the mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao.
Survived by daughter Janine & 3 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, & 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.
8/30/01: Suffered a heart attack. He never recovered and died at St. John's Hospital and Medical Center in Santa Monica, CA, 9/2/01.
Former co-star and long-time friend Connie Stevens visited Donahue 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 living on a bench in New York's Central Park.
Died just eleven days before his A Summer Place (1959) costar, 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...").
Underwent successful angioplasty surgery upon his arrival in hospital, but then suffered a second heart attack and was given a heart bypass.
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 arthritis and was taking the arthritis painkiller Vioxx at the time he died of a heart attack.
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 (1)
[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!
Salary (1)
Hawaiian Eye (1959) $3,000 /week

Troy Donahue Biography

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Troy Donahue

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Last Name(s)

Nickname(s) or aliases

Merle Johnson Jr.




Troy Donahue was born on in New York, New York United States


Troy Donahue died on in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California United States

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Jornalism at Columbia University in New York City.


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Personal life
Donahue was married four times and had one child, Sean.[30][31] His first marriage was to actress Suzanne Pleshette, with whom he had twice co-starred in films. They wed on January 5, 1964, in Beverly Hills,[32] and divorced nine months later.[28][33] On October 21, 1966, Donahue married actress Valerie Allen in Dublin, Ireland.[34] They separated in April 1967, and she filed for divorce in April 1968, charging him with cruelty, divorcing in November 1968.[35][36] Donahue's third marriage was to executive secretary Alma Sharpe. They married on November 15, 1969, in Roanoke, Virginia.[37][38] "I couldn't take care of myself, and I knew this friend would take me under her wing," he says. They divorced in 1972.[3] Donahue's fourth and final marriage was to land developer Vicki Taylor. They were married in 1979 and divorced in 1981.[3] In his final years, Donahue was in a long-term relationship with mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao, to whom he was engaged and with whom he lived in Santa Monica, California.[5][29] Donahue had a son, Sean, by a woman with whom he had a brief relationship in 1969. He only found out about the son in the early 1980s when he ran into the woman again. As he recalled in 1984:

She walked over and introduced herself and I remembered that we had been together four or five times in L.A. in 1969. Nothing serious. Just fun and games. She said, "I'm glad I saw you. I've always wanted to tell you about something. Look over there, Troy." I looked and across the room I saw a 13-year-old spitting image of what I looked like when I was young. "This is your son, Sean," she said. "He's known all his life that you are his father."... I see him every couple of weeks now.[3]

In 1958, Donahue was jailed for 15 days for speeding.[39] In 1961, his one-time fiancée Lili Kardell sued him for damages, claiming he had hit her without provocation.[40]

On August 30, 2001, Donahue suffered a heart attack and was admitted to Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. He died three days later on September 2 at the age of 65.[41]

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1936 - 2001 World Events

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In 1936, in the year that Troy Donahue was born, on November 3rd, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was reelected to a second term. He ran against Republican Governor Alf Landon (Kansas), defeating Landon in the popular vote by 60.8% to 36.5%. Vermont and Maine were the only two states in which Landon won. John Nance Garner IV became the Vice-President in this election.

In 1942, by the time he was merely 6 years old, from January 7th through April 9th, the Battle of Bataan was fought in the Philippines. At the end of the battle, the U.S. and Filipino forces surrendered and a three-year occupation of the Philippines by Japan began. Between 60,000 and 80,000 American and Filipino soldiers surrendered and were marched around 60 to 69 miles - most were beaten, abused, or killed. Named the Bataan Death March, it was later declared to be a war crime.

In 1963, by the time he was 27 years old, on November 22nd, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became the 36th President of the United States when President John Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Johnson was sworn in on the plane carrying Kennedy's body back to Washington D.C.

In 1974, by the time he was 38 years old, on July 30th, the House Judiciary Committee adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon. He was charged with obstruction of justice, failure to uphold laws, and the refusal to produce material subpoenaed by the committee. In order to avoid impeachment, Richard M. Nixon announced that he would resign on August 8th, the first President to do so.

In 1989, by the time he was 53 years old, on March 24th, the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker, struck a reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound and oil began spilling out of the hold. The oil would eventually contaminate more than a thousand miles of coastline. It is estimated that over 10.8 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Sound - killing 100,000 to 250,000 seabirds, over 2,800 sea otters, about 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas - as well as an unknown number of salmon and herring.

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