Troy Donahue Biography

Troy Donahue was an American actor known for his role in the drama ‘Surfside 6.’ Check out this biography to know about his birthday, childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about him.

Quick Facts

Birthday: January 27, 1936

Nationality: American

Famous: Actors American Men

Died At Age: 65

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Merle Johnson Jr.

Born in: New York City, New York

Famous as: Actor


Spouse/Ex-: Alma Sharpem (m. 1969 – div. 1972), Suzanne Pleshette (m. 1964 – div. 1964), Valerie Allen (m. 1966 – div. 1968), Vicky Taylorm (m. 1979 – div. 1981)

father: Merle Johnson Sr.

mother: Edith Johnson

children: Janine Donahue, Sean Donahue

Partner: engaged from 1999)

Died on: September 2, 2001

place of death: Providence Saint John's Health Center Emergency Room, Santa Monica, California

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

City: New York City

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Columbia University

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Troy Donahue, born as Merle Johnson, Jr., was an American actor and singer. He was known for his roles in the drama series ‘Surfside 6’ and ‘Hawaiian Eye’ as well as in the flick ‘Parrish’. Born to a retired stage actress, Donahue harboured dreams of entering the acting field himself as a little boy. However, he attended a military academy to please his parents who never wanted him to become an actor. Following his rejection from the army, he went on to study journalism and eventually moved to Hollywood to pursue his dream career. He made his film debut in 1957 and soon went on to become a teenage heartthrob, appearing frequently on the covers of various magazines. During the 1950s and 1960s, Donahue was a popular male sex symbol and one of the favourites of millions of women, including a number of actresses. Despite his popularity, life was not always beautiful for the blue-eyed actor who struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. On a personal note, he was married four times and fathered a child. Donahue died three days after suffering a heart attack at the age of 65.

Childhood & Early Life
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  • Troy Donahue initially played minor roles in movies, such as ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’, ‘Man Afraid’, ‘The Tarnished Angels’, ‘The Monolith Monsters’ and ‘Above All Things’.
  • In 1958, he appeared in the crime flick ‘Live Fast, Die Young’. This was followed by roles in the films ‘This Happy Feeling’, ‘Voice in the Mirror’, ‘Wild Heritage’, ‘Monster on the Campus’ and ‘The Perfect Furlough’.
  • In the 1950s, the actor also appeared in a number of TV programs including ‘The Californians’, ‘Wagon Train’ and ‘Rawhide’.
  • He received good reviews for a small but effective role in the 1959 drama film ‘Imitation of Life’, playing a guy who beats up his lady love after he discovers she is part black. That year, he also got his big break when cast in Warner Bros’ ‘A Summer Place’.
  • Donahue also had a brief tenure as a singer in the early 1960s and released a handful of songs including "Somebody Loves Me" and "Live Young" during this time.
  • In the year 1960, he featured in the disaster film ‘The Crowded Sky’. Two years later, he starred in the melodrama ‘Susan Slade’ as well as in the romantic film ‘Rome Adventure’.
  • Troy Donahue signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1968 and went on to appear in ‘Ironside’, ‘The Name of the Game’ and ‘The Virginian’ in the ensuing years. He had a role in the CBS drama series ‘The Secret Storm’ in 1970.
  • During the 1970s, he appeared in many low-budget movies including ‘The Last Stop’ and ‘Sweet Savior’. In 1974, the actor had a minor part in ‘The Godfather Part II’. He continued to appear in movies throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His final movie role was in the 2000 comedy ‘The Boys Behind the Desk’.
Major Works
  • From 1960 to 1962, Troy Donahue starred alongside Lee Patterson, Van Williams and Diane McBain in Warner Bros’ TV series ‘Surfside 6.’ During this time, he also played Parrish McLean in Delmer Daves' 'Parrish', a film about a young, independent-minded guy and his stepfather, a brutal tobacco tycoon.
  • In 1962-63, Donahue starred in the detective drama ‘Hawaiian Eye’, as a hotel director named Philip Barton. The show, which also starred Mel Prestidge, Robert Conrad, and Anthony Eisley in important roles, was a hit with the audiences.
Family & Personal Life
  • Troy Donahue was married four times in his lifetime. His first marriage was to Suzanne Pleshette, an actress. The couple married in January 1964 and divorced nine months later. Before his marriage, Donahue had been engaged to a woman named Lili Kardell who sued him for damages, stating that he had hit her.
  • The actor married actress Valerie Allen on October 21, 1966. Allen filed for divorce in 1968, charging her husband with cruelty.
  • Donahue's third marriage was to Alma Sharpe, an executive secretary. The two married on November 15, 1969, and divorced in 1972.
  • His fourth marriage was to Vicki Taylor from 1979 to 1981. In his final years, the actor was in a relationship with Zheng Cao.
  • Donahue had a son named Sean with a woman with whom he had a short-lived relationship in 1969.
  • In late August 2001, he suffered a heart attack and died three days later on 2 September 2001, at the age of 65.


Golden Globe Awards
1960 Most Promising Newcomer - Male A Summer Place (1959)

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