Handsome second-feature actor Tom Neal was born into a wealthy family in Evanston, Illinois, on January 28, 1914. The well-educated Neal attended Northwestern University, where he excelled on the boxing team, and graduated from Harvard Law School at the age of 24. Neal never intended to practice law, preferring instead to be an actor. After doing some work in summer stock, he made his Broadway debut in the mid 1930s, right before starting law school. In the late 1930s, Neal went to Hollywood where he was put under contract to MGM. But the studio didn't give him a big build-up, loaning him out instead to smaller studios. After his contract ended in 1942, Neal freelanced with great success, appearing in films frequently with beautiful B movie queen Ann Savage. The war years proved to be the best of Tom Neal's film career.

Tom NealTom NealTom NealTom Neal

LEFT: Boxing shot of Tom Neal. CENTER A: Late 1930s MGM publicity photo. Here, Neal resembles a young Clark Gable. CENTER B: Mid 1940s photo. RIGHT: Beefcake photo from the late 1930s

Neal's career began to sag a bit after the end of World War II, yet he kept getting roles. His film career ended with a scandal surrounding his involvement with actress Barbara Payton. Payton was engaged to actor Franchot Tone but had a roving eye. She began seeing Neal on the sly, about which Tone quickly learned. During a confrontation in September 1951, Tone and Neal brawled over her affections. Tone caught the worst end of the fight and was hospitalized for several days and required plastic surgery. Payton and Tone married a couple of weeks after the altercation, but their marriage ended just a few months later. Afterward, Neal and Payton resumed their relationship, but this union ended quickly.

Barbara Payton and Tom NealTom Neal and Barbara Payton

LEFT: The Franchot Tone-Barbara Payton-Tom Neal triangle made headlines in 1951 and effectively killed the film careers of all three principals. RIGHT: Neal with Payton in late 1951

With the bad publicity surrounding his row with Franchot Tone, accompanied by his reputation as having an explosive temper, by the mid 1950s Neal's acting career was finished, so he moved to Palm Springs and eventually started a landscaping business. He attempted to resume his acting career on television in the late 1950s but was only able to land a few small roles.

the films of tom neal

Within the Law (1939)

Tom Neal and Ruth Hussey

With Ruth Hussey in the MGM drama Within the Law

Jungle Girl (1941)

Tom Neal and Frances GiffordTom Neal and Frances Gifford

With Frances Gifford in the Republic serial Jungle Girl

Under Age (1941)

Tom Neal and Nan GreyNan Grey and Tom Neal

With Nan Grey in the Columbia drama Under Age

Behind the Rising Sun (1943)

Richard Loo and Tom Neal

With Richard Loo in the RKO drama Behind the Rising Sun

Klondike Kate (1943)

Tom Neal and Ann Savage

With frequent co-star Ann Savage in the Columbia western Klondike Kate, directed by William Castle

There's Something About a Soldier (1943)

Tom Neal

From the Columbia wartime drama There's Something About a Soldier

Two-Man Submarine (1944)

Ann Savage and Tom Neal

With Ann Savage in the Columbia second-feature war drama Two-Man Submarine

Detour (1945)

Tom Neal and Ann Savage

Tom Neal has just accidentally strangled Ann Savage in the classic low-budget thriller Detour. This is probably the best film PRC ever released and certainly the best known

First Yank Into Tokyo (1945)

Tom NealBarbara Hale and Tom Neal

LEFT: In RKO's First Yank Into Tokyo, Tom Neal undergoes plastic surgery in order to infiltrate the Japanese military. RIGHT: With co-star Barbara Hale

Blonde Alibi (1946)

Tom Neal and Martha O'Driscoll

With Martha O'Driscoll in the Universal second feature Blonde Alibi

Navy Bound (1951)

Tom Neal

From the Monogram release Navy Bound

Danger Zone (1951)

Tom Neal, Pamela Blake, Virginia Dale, and Hugh Beaumont

With Pamela Blake, Virginia Dale, and Hugh Beaumont in the low budget crime drama Danger Zone

later years

The Franchot Tone-Barbara Payton scandal was not the last or the worst for Tom Neal. He married second wife Patricia Fenton, but she passed away from cancer in 1958, just months after giving birth to Neal's only child. In 1961, he married Gale Bennett, his third wife. On April 1, 1965, Neal shot Bennett, killing her instantly. Neal maintained that the killing was an accident, and he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to one to 15 years. After serving six years of his sentence with good behavior, he was paroled in late 1971 and returned to the Los Angeles area, where he and his teenaged son shared an apartment. Sadly, Tom Neal died suddenly of a heart attack at age 58 on August 7, 1972. His son, Tom Neal Jr., has also dabbled in acting.

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The Last Hurrah (1958) with Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, John Carradine, and Basil Rathbone
The Great Jesse James Raid (1953) with Barbara Payton
The Du Pont Story (1952) with Lyle Talbot and Whit Bissel
Danger Zone (1951) with Hugh Beaumont
Stop That Cab (1951) with Marjorie Lord and Sid Melton
The Valparaiso Story (1951) with Marjorie Lord, Margaret Field, and Robert Clarke
Let's Go Navy! (1951) with Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall
G.I. Jane (1951) with Jimmie Dodd
Navy Bound (1951) with Regis Toomey
Fingerprints Don't Lie (1951) with Lyle Talbot, Sheila Ryan, and Sid Melton
King of the Bullwhip (1951) with Lash La Rue
Radar Secret Service (1950) with Adele Jergens, John Howard, and Ralph Byrd; this film once aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000
Call of the Klondike (1950) with Kirby Grant and Anne Gwynne
Train to Tombstone (1950) with Don "Red" Barry
I Shot Billy the Kid (1950) with Don "Red" Barry
Joe Palooka in Humphrey Takes a Chance (1950) with Leon Errol
Everybody's Dancin' (1950) with Adele Jergens and Lyle Talbot
The Daltons' Women (1950) with Tom Tyler, Lash La Rue, and Lyle Talbot
Amazon Quest (1949) with Carole Mathews
Red Desert (1949) with Don "Red" Barry
Apache Chief (1949) with Alan Curtis
Bruce Gentry (1949) with Judy Clark
Beyond Glory (1948) with Alan Ladd, Donna Reed, Audie Murphy, and Margaret Field
The Case of the Baby-Sitter (1947) with Pamela Blake
The Hat Box Mystery (1947) with Pamela Blake
Blonde Alibi (1946) with Elisha Cook Jr. and Robert Armstrong
My Dog Shep (1946) with Craig Reynolds
The Brute Man (1946) with Rondo Hatton; once aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000
First Yank Into Tokyo (1945) with Barbara Hale
Detour (1945) with Ann Savage and Tim Ryan
Club Havana (1945) with Lita Baron and Margaret Lindsay
Crime, Inc. (1945) with Lionel Atwill, Leo Carillo, and Martha Tilton
Two Man Submarine (1944) with Ann Savage and J. Carrol Naish
The Unwritten Code (1944) with Ann Savage
Thoroughbreds (1944) with Adele Mara and Doodles Weaver
Behind the Rising Sun (1943) with J. Carrol Naish, Gloria Holden, Robert Ryan, and Margo
The Racket Man (1943) with Hugh Beaumont and Larry Parks
Klondike Kate (1943) with Ann Savage
There's Something About a Soldier (1943) with Bruce Bennett, Evelyn Keyes, Hugh Beaumont, Jeff Donnell, and Kane Richmond
Good Luck, Mr. Yates (1943) with Claire Trevor and Edgar Buchanan
She Has What It Takes (1943) with Jinx Falkenburg
China Girl (1942) with George Montgomery, Lynn Bari, and Gene Tierney
Bowery at Midnight (1942) with Bela Lugosi, John Archer, Wanda McKay, and Dave O'Brien
Flying Tigers (1942) with John Wayne, Anna Lee, and Paul Kelly
The Pride of the Yankees (1942) with Gary Cooper
Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942) with George Montgomery, Maureen O'Hara, Ralph Byrd, and Ward Bond
Horace Takes Over (1942) with Wanda McKay and Barbara Pepper
Jungle Girl (1941) with Frances Gifford and Gerald Mohr
The Miracle Kid (1941) with Carol Hughes
Top Sergeant Mulligan (1941) with Nat Pendleton, Carol Hughes, and Sterling Holloway
Under Age (1941) with Nan Grey
Sky Murder (1940) with Walter Pidgeon, Joyce Compton, and Tom Conway
The Courageous Dr. Christian (1940) with Jean Hersholt
Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President (1939) with Ann Sothern
Another Thin Man (1939) with William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Nat Pendleton
They All Came Out (1939) with George Tobias
6000 Enemies (1939) with Walter Pidgeon and Nat Pendleton
Within the Law (1939) with Ruth Hussey and Paul Kelly
Honolulu (1939) with Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, George Burns, and Gracie Allen
Four Girls in White (1939) with Ann Rutherford, Kent Taylor, Buddy Ebsen, and Phillip Terry
Burn 'Em Up O'Connor (1939) with Dennis O'Keefe and Nat Pendleton
Out West with the Hardys (1938) with Mickey Rooney and Ann Rutherford

A Time to Live, 1954 NBC TV daytime drama. Neal portrayed Paul in this 15-minute show

Mike Hammer, episode According to Luke, originally aired 1959
Tales of Wells Fargo, episode Faster Gun, originally aired October 6, 1958
Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, episode Vigilante Story, originally aired March 3, 1952
Boston Blackie, episode Gang Murder, originally aired November 12, 1951
Boston Blackie, episode Fortune Teller, originally aired October 15, 1951
Racket Squad, episode Skin Game, originally aired September 27, 1951
The Gene Autry Show, episode The Lost Chance, originally aired October 15, 1950
The Gene Autry Show, episode Six-Shooter Sweepstakes, originally aired October 1, 1950

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Watch Tom Neal's 1945 PRC film noir thriller Detour
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