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Troy Donahue
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A Tribute to Troy Donahue
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Troy Donahue movies

Troy Donahue's star was at its zenith between 1959 and 1963 when director Delmer Daves cast him as the lead in four of the era's most celebrated celluloid melodramas: A Summer Place, Parrish, Susan Slade and Rome Adventure. At the time, they were box office smashes. Today, their indelible imprint on '50s and '60s cinema culture endures.

Prior to A Summer Place, Troy Donahue had appeared in 13 motion pictures: three uncredited roles in 1957, eight supporting roles in 1958, including This Happy Feeling, Summer Love and the cult classic Monster on the Campus, and two more in 1959 - The Perfect Furlough, and Imitation of Life.

Although Troy's superstardom was brief, his acting career spanned 45 years, 74 movies and more than 36 television shows. He also distinguished himself in 1998's sell-out tour of Bye Bye Birdie, for which he received rave reviews.

Here, we celebrate some of Troy's movies. Bring out the popcorn, slip off the loafers, suspend your cynicism ... and savor the era.

A Summer Place

A Summer Place (1959)

Combine a passionate love story with Max Steiner's haunting musical theme and douse it with a copious serve of sensational scenery. Stir in two of the screen's most gorgeous young actors, and add a couple of pretty hot older ones just for good measure. Mix it up with lost innocence, parental disapproval, adultery, and good old-fashioned '50s morality.

Finally, steam it with lust ... not just among the characters, but also from the audience feasting their eyes on Troy, Sandra, Richard and Dorothy.

A Summer Place remains a classic, and like other Delmer Daves' movies, it has a strong camp following. Was it really like that in the 1950s and early '60s? You bet!

Richard Egan and Dorothy McGuire receive top billing as the adulterous parents, with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue starring sensationally as the teenage lovers, Molly and Johnny.

Watch out for ex-Mouseketeer Cheryl Holdridge as one of the schoolgirls, Spin & Marty's Roberta Shore as Anne Talbert, and National Velvet's Ann Doran as her mom. Constance Ford turns in a bitchin' performance as Sandra's outrageously paranoid mother, Helen Jorgenson.

During the late 1990s, Troy and Sandra attended revivals of A Summer Place in New York and San Francisco. Troy was amazed by the experience, likening it to a session of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"They had about 2,000 people in there of all ages, and everybody knew all the lines," he commented.

"I hadn't seen it on the big screen either in about 25 years, which popped me away. I was mesmerized ... it was so beautifully photographed. And seeing your face along with Sandra's up there in this huge, huge close-up. And being that young and beautiful, both of us - that's pretty heady stuff."

Ditto, Troy! Small screen, big screen - we love it, too.

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Parrish & A Summer Place

Parrish (1961)

Lust sets the screen on fire yet again in Parrish when Troy romances no less than three gorgeous young women in his second Delmer Daves flick, this time set in the tobacco fields of Connecticut. Another glorious Max Steiner musical score and amazing cinematography help convert the Mildred Savage best-seller about power and passion into a steamy celluloid bodice-ripper. Great reviews? Nup! Box office success? Without a doubt! This is classic stuff.

Keep an eye out for Hampton Fancher as Edgar Raike, Sylvia Miles as Eileen, Hayden Rorke as Tom Weldon, and Carrol O'Connor as the fire chief.

Troy was in distinguished company during the making of Parrish. It is 1940s' movie queen Claudette Colbert's final film, and also stars the legendary Karl Malden and Dean Jagger. Connie Stevens, Diane McBain and Sharon Hugueny play Troy's love interests - two blondes and a brunette. Good-girl Sharon gets the guy this time around, but don't feel sorry for Connie - her turn comes later in Susan Slade. As for Diane, she shared the small screen with Troy in tv's Surfside 6, so no sympathy there, either.

Diane provides a wealth of insight into the making of Parrish in the book, Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. Talking frankly to author Tom Lisanti in 2001, she reveals that the pressure of working with movie greats Malden, Jagger and Colbert was tremendous.

"Troy, Connie, Sharon Hugueny and I all struggled because we were trying to keep up with such movie legends. We weren't quite ready and they could have helped us a lot more than they did," she admits. "I think she looked upon me with some sort of disdain," adds Diane, singling out Claudette Colbert. "I was very aware that she was not happy."

But overall, Diane enjoyed making Parrish. "It was fun to do ... Troy and I got along very well," she says. "He's a good guy."

Another ditto from us! Double-ditto.

Susan Slade

Susan Slade (1961)

What a movie! Susan Slade is a lush, melodramatic 1960s' masterpiece, the only criticism being that Troy's appearance comes 20 minutes in - but it's worth the wait. What a hunk!

The brooding, introspective, complex character of horse-trainer and aspiring author Hoyt Becker is tailor-made for Troy in this translation of Doris Hume's novel, The Sins of Susan Slade. And what is Susan's sin? At 17, she loses her virginity and falls pregnant to a young mountaineer who dies in a climbing accident. Who directs it? Delmer Daves, who else? Who wrote the music? Max Steiner ... love it! Who saves the day and makes an honest woman of Susan? Troy Donahue, of course! (Maybe that's why he and Connie remained friends for life.)

Grant Williams, Connie's co-star in tv's Hawaiian Eye, appears as the mountaineer Conn White, with Bert Convy oiling his way through as rich Wells Corbett. Gilligan's Island's Natalie Schafer does a great job as the snobby, socialite Marion Corbett who, prior to the final revelation, sees Susie as a great catch for her sonny-boy Wells.

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Connie Stevens is superb as Susan, and gentle Lloyd Nolan is every girl's dream of what a father should be. But as for mom, golly-gosh. Dorothy McGuire turns up again as Troy's prospective mother-in-law (refer A Summer Place), which should have put him off marriage for life - but apparently didn't. Pious, manipulative, sanctimonious ... that's Mama Slade. "When Susan lets Mama have it," says one reviewer, "I felt like cheering."

Dare I say it? Ditto!

Rome Adventure (1962)

No wonder Suzanne Pleshette married him in real life. Troy - in his Susan Slade red sweater, blue eyes blazing, blond locks flopping carelessly over his tan forehead - is at his dishiest in Rome Adventure in which he carries more than just one candle for Suzanne. He carts around a whole candelabra! Director Delmer Daves opts yet again for a lush Max Steiner score, but this time it is the hauntingly hummable theme song Al Di La (translation: Beyond) that underscores some of Rome Adventure's most romantic moments.

Juxtaposing the sweetness of Suzanne's aptly named character Prudence is Angie Dickinson's bitchy, conniving Lydia, who falls in-and-out of love with Troy depending on how much he's in-or-out of love with her. He's in, she's out; he's out, she's in; yadda, yadda, yadda.

Sexy Rossano Brazzi provides an enhanced sighhhh-factor for gals and gays in the romance department, while Constance Ford throws aside her A Summer Place mad-momma persona to become Suzanne's best friend and employer - although her disarmingly shaggy Old English Sheepdog steals most of her scenes.

Watch out for Hampton Fancher (fresh from Parrish) as Albert, Pamela Austin as the beguiling Agnes, Chad Everett in a bit role, and a cameo by the mighty Al Hirt. Also starring is Rome itself, not to mention a fair serve of the spectacular Swiss and Italian countryside. Rome Adventure is the ultimate travel experience.

Ed al di la!

Rome Adventure & Palm Springs Weekend

Palm Springs Weekend (1963)

A bunch of college kids head for fun, sun, sex and romance (there's that word again) in Palm Springs during their college break in this lightweight Warner Bros AIP-style teen pic. It's minimal drama this time around for Troy; he even gets to sing the title song, as well as do a mean version of the twist with pretty Stefanie Powers - and her sturdy coiffure. Was that hairspray we used in the '60s, or Bondcrete?

Most of the stars were, or became, popular in their own 1960s tv shows: Troy in Surfside 6, Connie Stevens in Hawaiian Eye, Robert Conrad in Hawaiian Eye and Wild Wild West, Ty Hardin in Bronco, Billy Mumy in Lost in Space, and Jerry Van Dyke in My Mother The Car. Tina Cole, who shot to tv fame in Hawaiian Eye and My Three Sons, also makes her movie debut here, albeit uncredited, and even The Waltons gets into the act, with Earl Hamner Jr penning the Palm Springs Weekend screenplay.

With characters named Dr Jekyll, Stretch, Bunny, Biff and Boom Boom, it doesn't take much to surmise that Palm Springs Weekend falls a long way south of the Delmer Daves D&M melodramas that made Troy a star. But who cares? It's a blast, it's a gas, it's groovy, it's a swingin' thing, it's the ginchiest ... it's got Troy in it!

Said one reviewer of the video in recent times: "Guys, if this is what the '60s was like, dust off the time machine, set it on 62 and press SEND."

Yeah Baby!

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