Troy Donahue

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Troy Donahue
TROY donahue 1999.jpg
Donahue in 1999
BornMerle Johnson, Jr.
(1936-01-27)January 27, 1936
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 2, 2001(2001-09-02) (aged 65)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Alma materColumbia University
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1957–2000
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)
Partner(s)Zheng Cao
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Troy Donahue
TROY donahue 1999.jpg
Donahue in 1999
BornMerle Johnson, Jr.
(1936-01-27)January 27, 1936
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 2, 2001(2001-09-02) (aged 65)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Alma materColumbia University
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1957–2000
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)
Partner(s)Zheng Cao

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.

Early years[edit]

Born Merle Johnson, Jr. in New York City, Donahue was initially a journalism student at Columbia University in New York City before he decided to become an actor.[1] After moving to Hollywood at the age of 19, he was signed by Rock Hudson's agent, Henry Willson. It was Willson who changed Johnson's name to Troy Donahue.[2]


Donahue established himself with uncredited roles in The Monolith Monsters and Man Afraid in 1957, leading to larger parts in several films. Donahue starred in Monster on the Campus, Live Fast, Die Young, and The Tarnished Angels, all in 1958, and opposite fellow teen idol Sandra Dee in A Summer Place in 1959. His role in A Summer Place made him a major star, especially among teenaged audiences. 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. In 1963, exhibitors voted him the 20th most popular star in the USA.[3]

Donahue with show-girl Margarita Sierra in the ABC/Warner Brothers television series, Surfside 6 (1961)

From 1960 to 1962, Donahue starred with Van Williams, Lee Patterson, Diane McBain, and Margarita Sierra in the ABC/WB series, Surfside 6, set in Miami Beach, Florida.[2] 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.

Later years[edit]

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. 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. 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. 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.[4] In May 1982, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous which he credited for helping him achieve and maintain sobriety.[5]

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.[6] Donahue's final film role was in the 2000 comedy film The Boys Behind the Desk, directed by Sally Kirkland.

Personal life[edit]

Donahue was married four times and had one child. His first marriage was to actress Suzanne Pleshette whom he married on January 5, 1964 in Beverly Hills.[7] They divorced in September 1964.[5] On October 21, 1966, Donahue married actress Valerie Allen in Dublin, Ireland.[8] They separated in April 1967 and divorced in November 1968.[9]

Donahue's third marriage was to executive secretary Alma Sharpe. They married on November 15, 1969 in Roanoke, Virginia.[10] They divorced in 1972.[4] Donahue's fourth and final marriage was to land developer Vicki Taylor. They were married in 1979 and divorced in 1981.[4] 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.[6][2]

Donahue had one son, Sean, whom he had with a woman he had a brief relationship with in 1969.[4]


On August 30, 2001, Donahue suffered a heart attack and was admitted to Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. He died there on September 2 at the age of 65.[5][2]


1957Man AfraidReporterUncredited
1957Man of a Thousand FacesAssistant Director in BullpenUncredited
1957The Tarnished AngelsFrank Burnham
1957The Monolith MonstersHank JacksonUncredited
1958Flood TideTeenager at BeachUncredited
1958Summer LoveSax Lewis
1958Live Fast, Die YoungArtie Sanders/Artie Smith
1958This Happy FeelingTony Manza
1958Voice in the MirrorPaul Cunningham
1958Wild HeritageJesse Bascomb
1958The Perfect FurloughSgt. Nickles
1958Monster on the CampusJimmy Flanders
1959Imitation of LifeFrankie
1959A Summer PlaceJohnny Hunter
1960The Crowded SkyMcVey
1961ParrishParrish McLean
1961Road to ZanzibarDonna Latour
1961Susan SladeHoyt Brecker
1962Rome AdventureDon Porter
1963Palm Springs WeekendJim Munroe
1964A Distant Trumpet2nd Lt. Matthew 'Matt' Hazard
1965My Blood Runs ColdBen Gunther
1967Come Spy with MePete Barker
1967Jules Verne's Rocket to the MoonGaylordAlternative title: Those Fantastic Flying Fools
1970The Phantom GunslingerBill
1971Sweet SaviorMoonAlternative title: Frenetic Party
1972The Last StopSheriff
1974SeizureMark Frost
1974CockfighterRandall Mansfield
1974South SeasSteve
1974The Godfather: Part IIMerle Johnson
1977The Legend of Frank WoodsSheriff John Baxom
1983Tin ManLester
1984Katy the CaterpillarWalla (Voice)English-dubbed version
1984Grandview, U.S.A.Donny Vinton
1986Low BlowJohn TempletonAlternative title: The Last Fight to Win: The Bloody End
1987Fight to WinRosenbergAlternative titles: Dangerous Passages
Eyes of the Dragon
1987CycloneBob Jenkins
1987Hyôryu kyôshitsuTaggartEnglish title: The Drifting Classroom
1987Hollywood CopLt. Maxwell
1987Deadly PreyDon Michaelson
1988Hard Rock NightmareUncle Gary
1988HawkeyeMayorAlternative title: Karate Cops
1989Blood NastyBarry Hefna
1989The ChillingDr. Miller
1989Deadly SpygamesPython
1989The Platinum TriangleHarold Farber
1989Assault of the Party NerdsSid WitherspoonDirect-to-video release
1989American RampagePolice Psychiatrist
1989Dr. AlienDr. Ackerman
1989Terminal ForceSlim
1989Sounds of SilenceLarry Haughton
1989Bad BloodJack Barnes
1989Hot Times at Montclair HighMr. Nichols
1990Click: The Calendar Girl KillerAlan
1990Cry-BabyHatchet's Father
1990Omega CopSlim
1990Nudity RequiredJackAlternative title: Young Starlet
1991Shock 'Em DeadRecord Exec
1991Deadly DiamondsMatt PlimptonDirect-to-video release
1992Double TroubleLeonard
1992The Pamela PrincipleTroy
1998Merchants of VenusFBI AgentAlternative title: A Dirty Little Business
2000The Boys Behind the Desk
1958Man Without a GunJanEpisode: "Night of Violence"
1958The CaliforniansEpisode: "A Girl Named Sue"
1959RawhideBuzz TravisEpisode: "Incident at Alabaster Plain"
1959Wagon TrainTed GarnerSegment: "The Hunter Malloy Story"
1959Tales of Wells FargoSmithEpisode: "The Rawhide Kid"
1959MaverickDan JamisonEpisode: "Pappy"
1959SugarfootKen SavageEpisode: "The Wild Bunch"
1959Colt .45James 'Jim' GibsonEpisode: "The Hothead"
1959BroncoRoy Parrott
Bart Bonner
2 episodes
1959The AlaskansTed AndrewsEpisode: "Heart of Gold"
1959-1963Hawaiian EyePhilip Barton26 episodes
1960LawmanDavid ManningEpisode: "The Payment"
1960-196177 Sunset StripStar Bright
Sandy Winfield I
2 episodes
1960-1962Surfside 6Sandy Winfield II71 episodes
1965The Patty Duke ShowDr. MorganEpisode: "Operation: Tonsils"
1968IronsideFather Dugan2 episodes
1968The Name of the GameNorman HoakEpisode: "Nightmare"
1969The VirginianBrackenEpisode: "Fox, Hound and the Widow McCloud"
1969The Lonely ProfessionJulian ThatcherTelevision movie
1970The Secret StormR.B. KeeferUnknown episodes
1976Ellery QueenGilbert MalloryEpisode: "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario"
1977The Godfather SagaMerle JohnsonMiniseries
1978The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew MysteriesAlan SummervilleEpisode: "Mystery on the Avalanche Express"
1978CHiPsBob NilesEpisode: "Peaks and Valleys"
1978Vega$Teddy HowardEpisode: "The Games Girls Play"
1978The Eddie Capra MysteriesEpisode: "Dying Declaration"
1978-1981Fantasy IslandJack Terry
Wallis Jaeger
2 episodes
1980The Love BoatMr. ClarkEpisode: "Tell Her She's Great..."
1982Matt HoustonWilliam 'Willie' HoytEpisode: "Joey's Here"
1983MalibuClint RedmanTelevision movie
1990MonstersEpisode: "Micro Minds"
1998LegionFlemmingTelevision movie
1999Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love StoryRob KamenMiniseries

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Ferguson, Michael S. (2003). Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies. STARbooks Press. p. 139. ISBN 1-891-85548-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bridges, Andrew (September 2, 2001). "Actor Troy Donahue dead of heart attack at ae 65". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 2A. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  3. ^ 'Doris Day Heads Top 10' The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] January 14, 1964: A27.
  4. ^ a b c d Stark, John (August 13, 1984). "After 20 Years Awash in Booze and Drugs, Troy Donahue Prizes His Sobering Discoveries". Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Music Sales Group. p. 215. ISBN 0-711-99512-5. 
  6. ^ a b Emory, Alan (August 30, 1997). "Troy Donahue at 61: still blonde, now sober". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. pp. C–7. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Troy Donahue, Actress Wed". The Pittsburgh Press. January 5, 1964. p. 16. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Hound Wedding Star". The Evening Independent. October 22, 1966. pp. 16–A. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Divorces Donahue". The Free Lance-Star. November 16, 1968. p. 2. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Actor Tory Donahue Marries T.V. Secretary". St. Petersburg Times. November 20, 1969. pp. 2–A. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  11. ^ The Simpsons Season 2 DVD, Episode: Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
  12. ^ a b 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. 

External links[edit]