In the 1950s and 1960s, Troy Donahue was a well-liked actor and musician who was mostly recognized for his attractive physique.
But the actor would experience constant stress from his popularity and followers for the majority of his life.
Sadly, his life and all of the misfortunes would eventually lead to an unexpected surprise.
Every time I hear the song “Summer Place,” which brings back memories of Troy Donahue, I consider how I saw the movie in the cinema as a young child. Wow, he impressed me with his appearance!
Troy Donahue, who was youthful, blond, blue-eyed, and attractive, was to many of us the epitome of American beauty in the 1950s and 1960s. The actor’s look drew innumerable young female followers.
Even though he was just a Hollywood star for a short while, most people are still familiar with his name, even though others may have forgotten him.
Despite his prominence, he appears to have received poor pay. His life began to spiral into disaster, only to be stopped when he met his adolescent son.
Merle Johnson gave birth to Donahue in New York City. The boy’s desire to be an actor started early due to his mother’s influence as a theatrical actress. In an interview he gave to People magazine in 1984, he revealed:
”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.’”
He eventually attended Columbia University for journalism but kept his passion alive by acting in stock productions. As he hit screens for the first time, he already had a new name, an agent, and studio executives.
”At first, they had Paris, the lover of Helen of Troy in mind. But I guess they thought they couldn’t name me Paris Donahue because there was already a Paris, France and Paris, Illinois,” he said.
Eventually, the actor made his film debut in Man Afraid. Only two years later, he signed on with Warner Bros – the company which saw his true potential.
”They’d asked me to light a cigarette, and when I did, they screamed and fell down,” Troy recalled.
In 1959, he starred in A Summer Place, the film that skyrocketed him into stardom and made him a hot commodity.
Often playing a good guy cast beside an attractive blonde female, Donohue experienced a fast transformation into a teen heartthrob. Despite this fame, he did not do well financially.
”I was living like a movie star but wasn’t being paid like one,” he revealed and added: “I lived way over my head and got into great trouble.”
In the late 1950s, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue were a wonderful romantic movie combination. Troy has four marriages over the course of his career.
His first union was with Suzanne Pleshette, and his subsequent unions with Valerie Allen, Alma Sharpe, and Vicky Taylor all ended in divorce.
As his love life continued to decline, he began to suffer and turned to several substances. His bad habits also hindered his acting career.
His life had become a complete mess by the end of the 1960s.
”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,” he shared.
But Donahue always maintained that his addiction never tainted any sets he worked on, claiming he was never drunk or otherwise impaired while working. His career was, according to the actor, not the reason he began drinking in the first place.
He started drinking while he was in the seventh grade and preparing for a test. With time, this turned into a habit that threatened to ruin his future.
He supposedly lived in the bushes at Central Park as a young man, keeping everything he owned in a bag.
His fourth failed marriage was the turning point for the addiction, which persisted throughout his entire career. The actor made the decision to quit drinking at this moment and sought medical assistance in May 1982.
He explained: ”I look upon my sobriety as a miracle. I simply do it one day at a time. The obsession to not drink has become as big as the obsession to drink. I was very fortunate.”
It was shortly after this sobriety journey began that Donahue ran into an old flame from Los Angeles. As they caught up, the woman pointed to a thirteen-year-old boy, telling the actor that his name was Sean and that Sean was his son.
Not only did Donahue believe her right away because the timeframe made sense, but he also did so because he instantly recognized the youngster as a juvenile version of himself.
Fortunately, the father and son hit it off right away. In order for Sean to get to know his father, the two parents set up visitations. Sean’s mother never requested child support. Donahue’s fight with drugs and alcohol taking over so much of his life had already caused him to be separated from his biological son.
His addictions also had an effect on his professional life. He stopped receiving offers for high-profile parts about this time and began appearing in movies like Cry-Baby, Bad Blood, and Assault of the Party Nerds.
Donahue stated in an interview from 1998 that he was unconcerned about this shift toward B-movies. Despite doubters, he believed himself to be a good actor and believed his career was about to end.
Donahue passed away from a heart attack in 2001, just a few years after this interview, at the age of 65.
He had maintained a healthy lifestyle and a close bond with the son he had only recently discovered since being sober.
Without a doubt, Troy was a really attractive young man, and he made for a great character on TV! I’m sorry to hear about all of his difficulties, but maybe we won’t forget him. Troy, thanks for all the memories!