Troy Donahue and His Leading Ladies
By: Linnea Crowther
4 years ago
Troy Donahue's charms may have outshone his talent. His chiseled good looks made him a top teen idol in the 1950s and '60s, and the fact that his acting skills were a bit lacking didn’t seem to matter much when balanced against his blond hair and sunny smile. Donahue was a hit with women, on screen and off. His fans loved him, as did his four wives and one fiancée. And his leading ladies were among Hollywood's loveliest. On the anniversary of Donahue's birth Jan. 27, 1936, we're remembering a few of the women who acted opposite one of the hunkiest heartthrobs of all time.
Sandra Dee fell in love with Donahue in the movie that propelled him to stardom: 1959's A Summer Place. Donahue had played small roles in previous movies, but in A Summer Place, he was the young lead. He and Dee played Johnny and Molly, the children of former teen lovers who married the wrong people and settled for unhappiness. Johnny and Molly were determined not to repeat the mistakes of their star-crossed parents as they fell in love on Maine's Pine Island. Donahue brought teen girls to theaters in droves, but Dee also was a force to be reckoned with. She played the ingénue in an impressive five movies that year, and she won a Golden Globe as most promising newcomer. The Donahue-Dee pairing was memorialized two decades later in the musical Grease, in which the song "Sandra Dee" includes the line, "As for you, Troy Donahue … I know what you want to do." Anyone who's seen A Summer Place probably has a good idea of that, too.
Connie Stevens starred opposite Donahue more than once –– in 1961's Parrish, as the title character in Susan Slade that same year and in 1963's Palm Springs Weekend. They appeared together on TV, too –– Donahue joined the cast of Hawaiian Eye in its final season, while Stevens had been a regular since the show's beginning. The frequent co-stars became friends off screen as well, though they never were linked romantically. Stevens was one of the last people to visit Donahue in the hospital, just one day before his death in 2001.
Suzanne Pleshette was Donahue's leading lady on the silver screen and –– briefly –– in real life, too. In 1962's Rome Adventure and 1964's A Distant Trumpet, the two were thrown together as romantic leads, and the on-screen chemistry spilled over into their personal lives. They were wed early in 1964, the first marriage for each, but the union failed to last the year. Just nine months later the two stars divorced, though there were no hard feelings. "Troy was a sweet, good man," Pleshette later recalled. "We just were never destined to be married. We just didn't have the same values. But I'm not bitter. He taught me to laugh."