Tom Neal

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Tom Neal
Ann Savage and Tom Neal in Detour (1945)
BornThomas Carroll Neal, Jr.[1]
(1914-01-28)January 28, 1914
Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
DiedAugust 7, 1972(1972-08-07) (aged 58)
North Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
EducationLake Forest Academy
Evanston Township High School
Alma materNorthwestern University
Years active1938-1959
Spouse(s)Vicky Lane (m. 1948; div. 1950)
Patricia Fenton (m. 1956; died 1958)
Gale Bennett (m. 1960; died 1965)
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Tom Neal
Ann Savage and Tom Neal in Detour (1945)
BornThomas Carroll Neal, Jr.[1]
(1914-01-28)January 28, 1914
Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
DiedAugust 7, 1972(1972-08-07) (aged 58)
North Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
EducationLake Forest Academy
Evanston Township High School
Alma materNorthwestern University
Years active1938-1959
Spouse(s)Vicky Lane (m. 1948; div. 1950)
Patricia Fenton (m. 1956; died 1958)
Gale Bennett (m. 1960; died 1965)

Thomas Carroll "Tom" Neal, Jr. (January 28, 1914 – August 7, 1972), known professionally as Tom Neal, was an American actor and boxer best known for appearing in the critically lauded film Detour, having a tryst with Barbara Payton and later committing manslaughter.


Born in Evanston, Illinois, Neal was one of three children born to banker Thomas, Sr. and Mayme Neal (née Martin). He had two older sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Dorothy Helen.[1] His great uncle was John Drew.[2] Neal and his sisters were raised in a spacious ten-room home in Chicago. He attended Lake Forest Academy and Evanston Township High School before enrolling at Northwestern University where he majored in mathematics.[3] During college, Neal played several sports and, for a time, competed in amateur boxing matches.[4] He was also a member the Sigma Chi fraternity and was active in the drama club.[3]

Neal dropped out of Northwestern after a year, and moved back to Chicago. He appeared in various stage productions in summer stock before making his way to New York City in 1933.[3] Neal made his Broadway debut in 1935. In 1938, he first appeared in film in Out West with the Hardys, part of the Mickey Rooney "Hardy family" movie series.

Neal appeared in many low budget B-movies in the 1940s/1950s. In 1941 he starred with Frances Gifford in the Republic Pictures 15 episode serial, Jungle Girl. Perhaps his most memorable role was that of Al Roberts in the classic film noir Detour alongside Ann Savage. They went on to make five movies together.

Personal life[edit]

Neal was married three times and had one child. His first marriage was to actress and singer Vicky Lane whom he married in 1944. Lane divorced Neal in 1949 citing "mental and physical cruelty".[5]

In the early 1950s, Neal met actress Barbara Payton at a party. The two began dating but Payton ended the relationship after meeting and becoming engaged to actor Franchot Tone.[6] Despite her engagement, Payton began seeing Neal again.[7] On September 14, 1951, Neal, Payton and Tone made headlines after Neal got into a physical altercation with Tone over Payton in her front yard.[8][9] Neal beat Tone severely while Payton reportedly watched the fight. Tone suffered severe injuries, including a smashed cheekbone, a broken nose and a brain concussion for which he was hospitalized.[10] After he recovered, Tone and Payton married on September 28, 1951.[7] Payton left Tone after 53 days and returned to Neal.[11] Tone filed for divorce in March 1952 citing Payton with adultery.[12] Neal and Payton announced their engagement in May 1953 but eventually ended their relationship later that year.[13]

Shortly after their breakup, Neal married Patricia Fenton. His only child, Patrick Thomas Neal, was born in 1957. Fenton died the following year from cancer.[14] In 1992, Patrick Neal (who goes by the name Tom Neal, Jr.) appeared in one film, playing the role of Al Roberts in a 1992 independent remake of Detour.[15][16]

Later years and death[edit]

After his much publicized fight with Franchot Tone, Neal was blacklisted in Hollywood as was Payton.[11] He acted sporadically but became more known for his tumultuous on-and-off relationship with Payton. Neal and Payton attempted to capitalize on the interest in their relationship by starring together in the low budget Western The Great Jesse James Raid, in 1953. The film did reasonably well but did nothing to revitalize the couple's careers.[17] In June 1953, Neal and Payton accepted an offer to star in the touring production of The Postman Always Rings Twice. Their performances were largely panned and the tour ended in September 1953. Neal and Payton broke up for the final time in November 1953.[18]

With his acting career over, Neal moved to Palm Springs, California and became a gardener. He later started his own landscaping business.[11][19] In 1961, Neal was married receptionist Gale Bennett in Las Vegas. On April 2, 1965, police were summoned to the couple's Palm Springs home by Neal's attorney.[20] They discovered Bennett's body on the couch partially covered by a blanket with a gunshot wound in the back of her head. It was later determined that Bennett had been shot with a .45 caliber gun on April 1.[21] Neal, who was not at the home when police arrived, became an immediate suspect. He surrendered to police on April 3 and was indicted on one charge of murder on April 10.[22][23]

At his trial, Neal admitted that he and Bennett were separated at the time of her death but that her death was accidental. He testified that on April 1, he had returned to the couple's Palm Springs home from Chicago where he had been living to see if a reconciliation was possible.[24] Neal said the two began fighting after he accused Bennett of sleeping with other men. He claimed that Bennett pulled out a gun, held it to his head and the two began to struggle. During the ensuing struggle, Neal said that the gun accidentally discharged, killing Bennett. Although prosecutors sought the death penalty, a jury convicted Neal of involuntary manslaughter on November 18, 1965.[25] On December 10, he sentenced to one to ten fifteen in prison, of which he served six years. On December 6, 1971, he was released on parole.[8][26] After his release, Neal went back to working as a landscaper and gardener.

On August 7, 1972, Neal was found dead in his bed by his son at his home in North Hollywood, California.[27] His death was later attributed to heart failure.[14] He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.[28]

Amateur boxing record[edit]

Amateur Boxing Record[29]
Loss31-3-0United States J.H. IsbellKOMarch 31, 19342Cambridge, Massachusetts
Loss31-2-0United States "Modest" Bill SmithKOFebruary 27, 19342Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win31-1-0United StatesFrankie HagenKOFebruary 24, 19341Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win30-1-0United StatesHarry GardnerKOFebruary 21, 19341Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win29-1-0United StatesSid StonemanKOFebruary 14, 19341Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win28-1-0United StatesFrankie HaganPTSJanuary 30, 19343Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win27-1-0United StatesBasil BarnettKOJanuary 24, 19342Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win26-1-0United StatesGeorge KrauseKOJanuary 16, 19341Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win25-1-0United StatesBob DelmontKOJanuary 7, 19341Cambridge, Massachusetts
Loss24-1-0United StatesBrad SimmonsKOJanuary 1, 19341Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win24-0-0United StatesHerman ZeinmanKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win23-0-0United StatesWilliam BeltranKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win22-0-0United StatesLloyd BlakeKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win21-0-0United StatesLawrence "Larry" O'NeilKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win20-0-0United StatesIgg RosenbergKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win19-0-0United StatesMelvin KenyonKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win18-0-0United StatesGary KeersKO19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win17-0-0United StatesSamuel RodgwayKOMay 28, 19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Exch16-0-0United States"Irish" Tommy MitchellKOMay 21, 19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win15-0-0United StatesJim CrawfordKOMay 14, 19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win14-0-0United StatesMax LevineKOMay 7, 19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win13-0-0United StatesLeo HartKOMay 1, 19331Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win12-0-0United StatesPaul BenjaminPTS19323Evanston, Illinois
Win11-0-0United StatesFred ChapmanKO19323Evanston, Illinois
Win10-0-0United StatesPaul BenjaminKO19323Evanston, Illinois
Win9-0-0United StatesRod ConleyKO19322Evanston, Illinois
Win8-0-0United StatesPaul GilmoreKO19321Chicago, Illinois
Win7-0-0United StatesJack LewisKO19323Chicago, Illinois
Exch6-0-0United StatesEddie MitchellKO19321Chicago, Illinois
Win5-0-0United StatesErnest BrantKO19321Chicago, Illinois
Win4-0-0United StatesKarl Brenner-EggersKO19321Chicago, Illinois
Win3-0-0United StatesNorman MartinPTS19323Chicago, Illinois
Win2-0-0United StatesAlbert LeikmanKO19321Chicago, Illinois
Win1-0-0United StatesKeith NewmanKO19321Chicago, Illinois

Selected filmography[edit]

1938Out West with the HardysAldrich Brown
1939Another Thin ManFreddie Coleman
1939Within the LawRichard Gilder
1939Prophet Without HonorUncreditedShort
1940The Courageous Dr. ChristianDave Williams
1941Under Age
1941Jungle GirlJack StantonAlternative title: Edgar Rice Burrough's Jungle Girl
1942Bowery at MidnightFrankie Mills
1943She Has What It TakesRoger Rutledge
1943Behind the Rising SunTaro Seki
1944Two-Man SubmarineJerry Evans
1945DetourAl Roberts
1945Crime, Inc.Jim RileyAlternative title: Crime Incorporated
1945First Yank Into TokyoMajor Steve Ross
1946The Brute ManClifford ScottAlternative title: The Brute
1947The Case of the Baby SitterRuss Ashton
1948Beyond GloryCaptain Henry Jason Daniels
1949Bruce GentryBruce GentryAlternative titles: Daredevil of the Skies
Bruce Gentry, Daredevil of the Skies
1950Call of the KlondikeTom Mallory
1950I Shot Billy the KidCharley Bowdry
1951Navy BoundJoe Morelli
1953The Great Jesse James RaidArch Clements
1958The Last HurrahTom - Mourner at WakeUncredited
1950The Gene Autry ShowBreezy
2 episodes
1951Racket SquadEpisode: "Skin Game"
1951Boston Blackie2 episodes
1952The Adventures of Wild Bill HickokLash CorbyEpisode: "Vigilante Story"
1958Tales of Wells FargoJohnny RenoEpisode: "Faster Gun"
1959Mickey Spillane's Mike HammerLuke LundEpisode: "According to Luke"


  1. ^ a b O'Dowd, John (2007). Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story. BearManor Media. pp. 147–148. ISBN 1-593-93063-1. 
  2. ^ Morton, Lisa; Adamson, Kent (2009). Savage Detours: The Life and Work of Ann Savage. McFarland. pp. 227–228. ISBN 0-786-45706-6. 
  3. ^ a b c O'Dowd 2007 p.148
  4. ^ Morton, Lisa; Adamson, Kent (2009). Savage Detours: The Life and Work of Ann Savage. McFarland. pp. 227–228. ISBN 0-786-45706-6. 
  5. ^ Rainey, Buck (2005). Serial Film Stars: A Biographical Dictionary, 1912-1956. McFarland. p. 555. ISBN 0-786-42010-3. 
  6. ^ Polito, Robert (2009). Hollywood & God. University of Chicago Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-226-67341-3. 
  7. ^ a b "Actor Tone, Barbara Payton, Wed In 'Quickie' Ceremony". The Bulletin. September 29, 1951. p. 8. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Arthur Lyons. "Killer Career – Actor Tom Neal". Palm Springs Life magazine. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Actor Tom Neal Ko's Love Rival Franchot Tone". Ludington Daily News. September 15, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Franchot Tone Still in Semi-coma After Beating Over Miss Payton". The Free Lance-Star. September 15, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c "Ex-Movie Star Tom Neal Dies". Beaver County Times. August 8, 1972. pp. A–4. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Franchot Says Wife, Neal Had Relations". Herald-Journal. April 25, 1952. p. 32. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  13. ^ O'Dowd 2007 pp.243, 248
  14. ^ a b Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (2003). Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. McFarland. p. 485. ISBN 0-786-41484-7. 
  15. ^ O'Dowd 2007 p.156
  16. ^ Marcus, Greil (2007). The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice. Macmillian. p. 130. ISBN 0-312-42642-9. 
  17. ^ O'Dowd 2007 p.242
  18. ^ O'Dowd 2007 p.242
  19. ^ "Tom Neal Quizzed In Killing". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. April 3, 1965. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Ex-Actor Tom Neal Jailed, Wife Found Shot To Death". Herald-Journal. April 3, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Former Actor Tom Neal Charged In Wife's Murder". Lodi News-Sentinel. April 3, 1965. p. 12. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Tom Neal Jailed On Suspicion". The Virgin Islands Daily News. April 5, 1965. p. 2. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Former Actor Indicted In Slaying Of Wife". Toledo Blade. April 10, 1965. p. 15. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Tom Neal Tells Of Wife's Dating". The Miami News. November 9, 1965. p. 16A. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Former Actor Found Guilty". Rome News-Tribune. November 19, 1965. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Actor Imprisoned For Manslaughter". Star-News. December 11, 1965. p. 17. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Ex-film actor Tom Neal found dead at 59". Eugene Register-Guard. August 8, 1952. p. 4A. Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  28. ^ O'Dowd 2007 p.420
  29. ^ Tome Neal at

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