Troy Donahue

Troy Donahue

  • Highest Rated: 100% Cockfighter (1974)
  • Lowest Rated: 50% A Distant Trumpet (1964)
  • Birthday: Jan 27, 1936
  • Birthplace: New York, New York, USA
  • Troy Donahue was, in name and screen image, an emblem of the late-'50s teen male movie heartthrob, cinematic cousin to the "teen idol" recording star. Born Merle Johnson Jr. in New York City, he was the son of a General Motors executive. While attending Columbia University in the mid-'50s, he happened to play some roles in summer stock when he was spotted by a talent agent. This was just at a time when performers such as James Dean, Tab Hunter, and Robert Wagner had established an audience -- mostly among adolescent and post-adolescent girls -- for young male teen (and post-teenage) romantic leads, and he was brought out to Hollywood. Merle Johnson Jr. was renamed Troy Donahue by Harry Wilson, the same studio executive who had suggested that a certain Roy Fitzgerald adopt the name Rock Hudson, and he was initially signed to Universal Studios. Donahue appeared in small, uncredited roles in such pictures as Man Afraid, Man of a Thousand Faces, and The Monolith Monsters before getting his first major role in Douglas Sirk's The Tarnished Angels, and he also worked on such television shows as Tales of Wells Fargo and Wagon Train. By 1959, Donahue -- then 23 years old but still looking barely out of his teens --was appearing in major productions consistently, most notably Sirk's glossy, big-budget remake of Imitation of Life, and while he was getting good parts and scenes, he wasn't getting leading roles. His big break came when he was signed to Warner Bros. that same year. The studio immediately paired Donahue opposite its major female ingénue star, Sandra Dee in Delmer Daves' A Summer Place. This seemingly trashy soap opera of a movie, based on Sloan Wilson's bestselling novel about love and infidelity among the wealthy on a resort island off the coast of New England, proved to be a monster hit, the two young stars pulling teenagers in by the hundreds of thousands, even as their parents came to see the parallel romance in the film between Richard Egan and Dorothy McGuire -- even the score by Max Steiner yielded a huge hit single in the form of "Theme From a Summer Place," which was actually a cue called "Young Love" and associated with Donahue's and Dee's characters. Donahue later admitted in an interview done for a television biographical portrait of Sandra Dee that A Summer Place also made him sort of notorious. "I had impregnated Gidget," he recalled in the 1990s of his role in the film, referring to Dee's most familiar screen role, as the virginally innocent, free-spirited surf enthusiast; he added that in an era in which the public often tied actors and actresses closely to their screen roles, it took a little while for that murmur of pop culture disapproval to die down. Warner Bros. kept him busy in good dramatic roles in cast-heavy movies such as The Crowded Sky; both the studio and director/producer Daves were sufficiently impressed with his work to cast Donahue in a series of lead parts in major films, including the title role of the drama Parrish (1961) and in Rome Adventure the following year, in which Donahue worked opposite Suzanne Pleshette, to whom he was married for a time. Amid these film roles, Donahue also co-starred in the Warner Bros.-produced detective series Surfside Six and Hawaiian Eye. He moved into more challenging period roles in 1964 when the studio cast him as the hero of A Distant Trumpet, a tale of the conflicts between the United States cavalry and Native Americans, directed by Raoul Walsh. By that time, however, the teenagers who had comprised most of Donahue's original core fandom were of college age or older, getting married and starting families of their own, and no longer attended movies the same way that they once had. Additionally, his name and image seemed passé to the generation coming up behind them, who were busy discovering pop culture icons along the lines of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and others. He increasingly found himself playing the lead in poorer films, or portr

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

Movies

Rating

Title

Credit

Box
Office

Year

No Score Yet A Dirty Little Business Actor 1998
No Score Yet Legion Flemming 1998
No Score Yet Showdown Actor 1993
No Score Yet Double Trouble Leonard Stewart 1992
No Score Yet The Pamela Principle Troy 1991
No Score Yet Omega Cop Slim 1990
No Score Yet Shock 'Em Dead Record Executive 1990
72% Cry-Baby Hatchet's Father 1990
No Score Yet Nudity Required Jack 1990
No Score Yet Click: The Calendar Girl Killer Actor 1990
No Score Yet Assault of the Party Nerds Sid Witherspoon 1989
No Score Yet Bad Blood Jack Barnes 1989
No Score Yet The Chilling Actor 1989
No Score Yet Dr. Alien Dr. Ackerman 1988
No Score Yet Hawkeye Actor 1988
No Score Yet Terminal Force Slim 1988
No Score Yet Sexpot Phillip 1988
No Score Yet Karate Cops Actor 1988
No Score Yet Hollywood Cop Lt. Maxwell 1987
No Score Yet Deadly Prey Don Michaelson 1987
No Score Yet The Drifting Classroom Actor 1987
No Score Yet Cyclone Bob Jenkins 1987
No Score Yet Low Blow John Templeton 1986
No Score Yet Grandview U.S.A. Donny Vinton 1984
No Score Yet Tin Man Lester 1983
No Score Yet The Legend of Frank Woods Sheriff John Baxom 1977
No Score Yet South Seas Massacre Actor 1976
100% Cockfighter Randall Mansfield 1974
97% The Godfather, Part II Merle Johnson 1974
No Score Yet Seizure (Queen of Evil) (Tango macabre) Mark 1974
No Score Yet The Love Thrill Murders Moon 1971
No Score Yet Love Thrill Murders Actor 1971
No Score Yet Those Fantastic Flying Fools (Rocket to the Moon) Gaylord Sullivan 1967
No Score Yet My Blood Runs Cold Ben Gunther 1964
50% A Distant Trumpet 2nd Lt. Matthew 'Matt' Hazard 1964
No Score Yet Palm Springs Weekend Jim Munroe 1963
No Score Yet Rome Adventure Don Porter 1962
No Score Yet Susan Slade Hoyt Brecker 1961
No Score Yet Parrish Parrish McLean 1961
No Score Yet The Crowded Sky McVey 1960
83% A Summer Place Johnny Hunter 1959
84% Imitation of Life Frankie 1959
No Score Yet Monster on the Campus Jimmy Flanders 1958
No Score Yet The Perfect Furlough (Strictly for Pleasure) Sgt. Nickles 1958
100% The Tarnished Angels Frank Burnham 1958
No Score Yet This Happy Feeling Tony Manza 1958

TV

Rating

Title

Credit

Year

No Score Yet Laverne & Shirley
1976-1983
Himself
  • 1980
No Score Yet CHiPs
1977-1983
Bob Niles
  • 1978
No Score Yet Ironside
1967-1975
Father Dugan
  • 1968
No Score Yet Rawhide
1959-1965
Travis
  • 1963
  • 1959
No Score Yet Maverick
1957-1962
Dan Jamison
  • 1959

QUOTES FROM Troy Donahue CHARACTERS

Don Michaelson
I'm a business man, not a fool
Don Michaelson
I'm a business man, not a fool.