Inventing Troy Donahue: The Making of a Movie Star

BearManor Media. Feb. 2023. 518p. ISBN 9798887711041. pap. $35. BIOG
Playwright/artist/photographer Michaud (Sal Mineo: A Biography) focuses on Troy Donahue (1936–2001), known as the handsome heartthrob of the 1950s and ’60s who starred in such films as A Summer Place and Parrish. In 1960, he won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer, and by 1962, he was receiving 7,000 fan letters a week. Ten years later, however, he found himself broke and without a home and was experiencing addiction. Born Merle Johnson Jr., Donahue had his life changed at age 14 when his father died, which led to poor choices and bad behavior and resulted in a stint at military school, Michaud writes. Interested in acting, Donahue later moved to Hollywood and met agent Henry Willson, who famously represented Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter. Willson was the one who dubbed Merle “Troy Donahue” and promoted his career. However, when Donahue’s career waned, he turned to alcohol and drugs, as this book documents. He eventually became sober, advocated for Alcoholics Anonymous, and worked occasionally. Through extensive research and interviews with Donahue’s friends, family, and fellow actors, Michaud’s book thoroughly covers Donahue’s career and personal life and reads like a compelling and blisteringly honest memoir.
VERDICT Photographs abound in this meticulous biography that celebrity mavens will especially enjoy.
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