LOOKING BACK: TROY DONAHUE
by Patsy Lieb
At the filming of Grandview, U.S.A., I was thrilled at meeting Troy Donahue. I had dreamed of him many times after he became a star. I never thought I'd ever meet this blond icon who had stolen the hearts of so many teenage girls back then - mine for sure.
Now, here it was, 25 years later and Troy Donahue was right at the tip of my felt-tip pen...
. . . . . . .
The stars came out on a crisp October night in Pontiac, Illinois, during the filming of Ken Hixon's screenplay, Grandview, U.S.A.
There was Troy Donahue, along with Jamie Leigh Curtis, Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell.
My attention focused on the blond movie star that had captured my heart when he was treated so badly by his mother's husband in Parrish. It was hard for me to believe I was actually there, looking eye to eye and talking with Troy Donahue.
Earlier that day, Carol Schott Martino, my friend and co-editor/publisher of our literary magazine, called to tell me the stars had come to the cornbelt. A production company had chosen her hometown to film a movie. She had met the man in charge of the "honeywagons," (mobile dressing rooms) and he would let us by the police guarded ropes.
Troy was playing the part of a shady character called Donny Vinton. The first time I talked with him, he was sitting on a director's stool on the set wearing an all-weather jacket, white jeans, and house slippers. He signed autographs for a few kids who had slipped their way past the barricades. I think they had invaded to see the teen idol, Tommy Howell. Troy's grin gave me the idea he had the same thought.
"Actually, I think their mothers are saying to them, 'get over there and get his autograph for me,'" Troy said, grinning.
Troy liked giving autographs. That's what he said. I believed him, because I don't think he would have had such a glow on his face if he had been fibbing.
He said he truly felt a special affection for his fans and enjoyed signing.
"It doesn't bother me at all if I'm asked for my autograph. Sometimes I'm busy and have to refuse someone, but I hate to. And sometimes I'm just in a bad mood. Not too often, though. I would start to worry if I wasn't asked. I appreciate my fans. They have been good to me. Even when the bottom kind-of fell out for me, and I was no longer in demand, I remained popular with my fans."
In 1983, prior to making Grandview U.S.A., Troy had starring roles in three movies. "I don't call this a comeback. I call it a continuance of my career," he said.
From the beginning of his movie-making days, things seemed to fall in place for Troy. "It was persistence and luck that got me where I am today. It was being in the right place at the right time," he said.
"My mother was an actress and she tried out for a part in an off-Broadway play. That's when she met my father. He was directing, so instead of giving her the part, he married her. That was the end of her acting career and the beginning of mine. It can take years to be successful as an actor, or it can happen right away. For me, it happened right away."
Troy said he though he might have had things a bit too easy; even after he left home at age 17 and studied acting at night and worked during the day delivering film rushes in New York City.
A year later, Troy went to California where he "knocked on a lot of doors" before he finally got a screen test. This landed him a contract with Universal. The following year, Troy signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers. His first movie role in Man With A Thousand Faces, in 1957, made him an instant star.
From the start, Troy knew of the affect he had on teenage girls and women. "It felt great; it still does," he said, a boyish grin appearing on his face.
"This is great. I love being a star. I always get the script about a month early and memorize all my lines before we start shooting. I like to be comfortable with the script. I love playing a role that has some substance to it. This part is just wonderful," he said of the 'polyester jerk' character, Donny Vinton.
Troy said the minute he read the script he told himself: "I want to play that part.
"A lot of times, the good-guy roles are just goody-goody-two-shoe parts. I love playing Donny Vinton, even if he is a jerk. I love the working part of being a star."
During the making of the movie, Troy talked a lot about someday becoming a movie director. He agreed with screenwriter Ken Hixon that it is easier for a writer to become a director, though, than it is for an actor to become a director.
Writers make good movie directors, Troy said. "Because writers are used to words. They know what they have in mind for the actor to say."
It was a wee morning hour, with a bunch of people still standing behind the ropes, when Troy was to again become Donny Vinton. He would enter the staged bungalow where he would be tied to a bed by his lover just minutes before her husband would demolish the house with a bulldozer.
"I consider it my ability to act that got me this part," he said, laughing as a piece of heavy equipment moved into the scene.