John Payne (actor)

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John Payne
Payne in Kansas City Confidential (1952)
BornJohn Howard Payne
(1912-05-23)May 23, 1912
Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1989(1989-12-06) (aged 77)
Malibu, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1934–1975
Spouse(s)Anne Shirley (1937-1942)
Gloria DeHaven (1944-1950)
Alexandra Crowell Curtis (1953-1989) (his death)
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For other people of the same name, see John Payne.
Not to be confused with John Wayne.
John Payne
Payne in Kansas City Confidential (1952)
BornJohn Howard Payne
(1912-05-23)May 23, 1912
Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1989(1989-12-06) (aged 77)
Malibu, California, U.S.
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1934–1975
Spouse(s)Anne Shirley (1937-1942)
Gloria DeHaven (1944-1950)
Alexandra Crowell Curtis (1953-1989) (his death)

John Howard Payne[1] (May 23, 1912 – December 6, 1989[2][3]) was an American film actor who is mainly remembered from film noir crime stories and 20th Century Fox musical films, and for his leading roles in Miracle on 34th Street and the NBC Western television series The Restless Gun.


Payne was born in Roanoke, Virginia. His mother, Ida Hope (née Schaeffer), a singer, graduated from the Virginia Seminary in Roanoke and married George Washington Payne, a developer in Roanoke. They lived at Fort Lewis, an antebellum mansion that became a state historic property but was destroyed by fire in the late 1940s. Payne attended prep school at Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania and then went to Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York City in the fall of 1930. He studied drama at Columbia and voice at Juilliard School. To support himself, he took on a variety of odd jobs, including wrestling and singing in vaudeville. In 1934, a talent scout for the Shubert theaters spotted Payne and gave him a job as a stock player.


John Payne in uniform (1943)

Payne toured with several Shubert Brothers shows, and frequently sang on New York-based radio programs. In 1936, he landed a contract at Samuel Goldwyn, and he left New York for Hollywood. The first role in "Dodsworth" (1936) presented him as the affable, handsome character actor. Following this he was the leading man in the light musical "Garden of the Moon", which showcased his smooth, harmonious tenor voice. He worked for various studios until 1940, when he signed with 20th Century Fox. Fox made him a star, in 1940s musicals like Tin Pan Alley (1940), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Springtime in the Rockies (1942) and Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943). In these films, he was typically cast as a supporting player in love with the likes of Alice Faye, Betty Grable and Sonja Henie. A highlight during this period was co-starring with Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power in The Razor's Edge (1946).

To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) as the playboy son of a United States Marine Corps World War I veteran, he crosses his Marine Drill Sergeant Randolph Scott Payne's romantic interest a Navy nurse lieutenant, Maureen O'Hara. This was one of the top films of 1942. During World War II Payne served as a flight instructor in the US Army Air Forces.

Payne's most popular role may be his final film for Fox, that of attorney Fred Gailey in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). It is almost certainly his most visible role, as frequently as that film is aired during the Christmas season.

Later in his career Payne changed his image and began playing tough-guy roles in Hollywood films noir and Westerns including Kansas City Confidential (1952), 99 River Street (1953), Silver Lode (1954), Tennessee's Partner (1955) and Slightly Scarlet (1956). Payne was a contract star with Pine-Thomas Productions where he shrewdly insisted that the films he appeared in be filmed in color and that the rights to the films revert to him after several years, making him wealthy when he rented them to television.[4][5]

In 1955, he paid a $1,000-a-month option for nine months on the Ian Fleming James Bond novel Moonraker (he eventually gave up the option when he learned he could not retain the rights for the entire book series).

Payne also starred as Vint Bonner, an educated, commonsense gunfighter, in The Restless Gun, which aired on Monday evenings from 1957 to 1959, prior to Dale Robertson's western series Tales of Wells Fargo. Dan Blocker, James Coburn, and Don Grady made their first substantive acting forays with Payne on The Restless Gun.

On October 31, 1957, as The Restless Gun began airing, Payne guest starred on The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.

In March 1961, Payne suffered extensive, life-threatening injuries when struck by a car in New York City.[6] His recovery took two years. In his later roles, facial scars from the accident can be detected in close-ups; he chose not to have them removed. One of Payne's first public appearances during this period was as a guest panelist on the popular CBS game show What's My Line?.

Payne directed one of his last films, They Ran for Their Lives (1968). His final role was in 1975, when he co-starred with Peter Falk and Janet Leigh in the Columbo episode "Forgotten Lady".

Payne again teamed up with Alice Faye in a 1974 revival of the musical Good News.

Later in life, Payne, like former Daniel Boone series star Fess Parker, became wealthy through real estate investments in Southern California.

Personal life[edit]

Payne was married to actress Anne Shirley from 1937 to 1942;[7] they had a daughter, Julie Anne Payne. He then married actress Gloria DeHaven in 1944;[8][9] the union produced two children, Kathleen Hope Payne and Thomas John Payne, before ending in a divorce in 1950.[10] Payne then married Alexandra Beryl "Sandy" Crowell Curtis in 1953,[11] and remained with her until his death.

He was the father-in-law of writer-director Robert Towne, who married his oldest daughter Julie.

Payne was a Republican and in October 1960 he was one of many conservative notables who drove in the Nixon-Lodge Bumper Sticker Motorcade in Los Angeles.[12]


Payne died in Malibu, California, of congestive heart failure on December 6, 1989, aged 77.[2]

He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


1936DodsworthHarry McKeeWalter Huston
1937Fair WarningJim PrestonBetty Furness
Hats OffJimmy MaxwellMae Clarke
Love on ToastBill AdamsStella Adler
1938College SwingMartin BatesGeorge Burns, Gracie Allen, Martha Raye, Bob Hope, and Betty Grable
Garden of the MoonDon VincentePat O'Brien
1939Kid NightingaleSteve Nelson aka Kid NightingaleJane Wyman
Wings of the NavyJerry HarringtonGeorge Brent and Olivia de Havilland
Indianapolis SpeedwayEddie GreerAnn Sheridan
The Royal RodeoBill Stevens
1940Star DustAmbrose Fillmore aka Bud BordenLinda Darnell
MarylandLee DanfieldWalter Brennan
King of the LumberjacksJames 'Jim'/'Slim' AbbottGloria Dickson
The Great ProfileRichard LansingJohn Barrymore and Anne Baxter
Tear Gas SquadSergeant Bill MorrisseyGeorge Reeves
Tin Pan AlleyFrancis Aloysius 'Skeets' HarriganAlice Faye and Betty Grable
1941The Great American BroadcastRix MartinAlice Faye
Sun Valley SerenadeTed ScottSonja Henie, Milton Berle and Glenn Miller
Week-End in HavanaJay WilliamsAlice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero
Remember the DayDan HopkinsClaudette Colbert
1942To the Shores of TripoliChris WintersMaureen O'Hara and Randolph Scott
Footlight SerenadeWilliam J. 'Bill' SmithBetty Grable
Springtime in the RockiesDan ChristyBetty Grable and Carmen Miranda
IcelandCapt. James MurfinSonja Henie
1943Hello, Frisco, HelloJohnny CornellAlice Faye
1945The Dolly SistersHarry FoxBetty Grable
1946Wake Up and DreamJeff CairnJune Haver
Sentimental JourneyWilliam O. WeatherlyMaureen O'Hara
The Razor's EdgeGray MaturinTyrone Power and Gene Tierney
1947Miracle on 34th StreetFred GaileyMaureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood
LarcenyRick MasonShelley Winters and Dan Duryea
1948The Saxon CharmEric BuschRobert Montgomery and Susan Hayward
1949The Crooked WayEddie Rice aka Eddie RiccardiEllen Drew
Captain ChinaCharles S. Chinnough/Capt. ChinaGail Russell, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Robert Armstrong
El PasoClay FletcherSterling Hayden and Gail Russell
1950Tripoli (fr)Lt. Presley O'BannonMaureen O'Hara
The Eagle and the HawkCapt. Todd CroydenRhonda Fleming
1951Passage WestPete BlackDooley Wilson
CrosswindsSteve SingletonRhonda Fleming and Forrest Tucker
1952Kansas City ConfidentialJoe Rolfe/Peter HarrisColeen Gray, Preston Foster, Lee Van Cleef, and Neville Brand
CaribbeanDick Lindsay/Robert MacAllisterArlene Dahl
The Blazing ForestKelly HansenAgnes Moorehead and William Demarest
1953The VanquishedRockwell (Rock) GraysonColeen Gray
Raiders of Seven SeasBarbarossaGerald Mohr, Donna Reed, and Lon Chaney, Jr.
99 River StreetErnie DriscollEvelyn Keyes
1954Silver LodeDan BallardLizabeth Scott
Rails Into LaramieJefferson HarderDan Duryea and Lee Van Cleef
1955Santa Fe PassageKirby RandolphFaith Domergue
The Road to DenverBill MayhewLee Van Cleef and Mona Freeman
Tennessee's PartnerTennesseeRhonda Fleming, Coleen Gray, and Ronald Reagan
Hell's IslandMike Cormack
1956Slightly ScarletBen GraceRhonda Fleming, and Arlene Dahl
Hold Back the NightCapt. Sam McKenzie
The BossMatt Brady
Rebel in TownJohn WilloughbyRuth Roman and J. Carrol Naish
1957Hidden FearMike Brent
Bailout at 43,000Maj. Paul Peterson
1960O'Conner's Ocean
1968They Ran for Their LivesBob Martin
1975Columbo: Forgotten Lady (TV)Ned DiamondPeter Falk and Janet Leigh


  1. ^ California Death Records. - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research.
  2. ^ a b Flint, Peter B. (December 8, 1989), "John Payne, 77, Actor, Is Dead; Lawyer in 'Miracle on 34th Street'", The New York Times 
  3. ^ NOTE: The California Death Records show his date of birth as May 28, but most published biographies show May 23, as does his obituary in The New York Times.
  4. ^ Blank, Ed (January 26, 2006), "'360 Degrees of Oscar'", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Trib Total Media, Inc.) 
  5. ^ JOHN PAYNE--the Star Who Likes People: When He Isn't Making a Picture He's Out Meeting the Public and Winning Friends for Hollywood and for Himself Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 14 Sep 1952: c2.
  6. ^ "John Payne Hit By Car" (subscription required), The New York Times (The New York Times Company), March 2, 1961 
  7. ^ "Anne Shirley Wins Divorce", Los Angeles Times (subscription required) (Tribune Company), February 20, 1942 
  8. ^ "Gloria De Haven, John Payne To Wed", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 18, 1944 
  9. ^ "John Payne Weds Gloria De Haven", Los Angeles Times (subscription required) (Tribune Company), December 29, 1944 
  10. ^ "Gloria De Haven Wins Uncontested Divorce", Los Angeles Times (subscription required) (Tribune Company), February 10, 1950 
  11. ^ "Actor John Payne Weds Ex-Wife of Alan Curtis", Los Angeles Times (subscription required) (Tribune Company), September 28, 1953 
  12. ^ "Framework". Los Angeles Times. 

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