Tom Neal

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

Tom Neal
Ann Savage and Tom Neal
Thomas Carroll Neal, Jr.[1]

(1914-01-28)January 28, 1914
DiedAugust 7, 1972(1972-08-07) (aged 58)
Alma materNorthwestern University
Years active19351959
Vicky Lane
(m. 1948; div. 1950)

Patricia Fenton
(m. 1956; died 1958)

Gale Bennett
(m. 1960; died 1965)


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, the noted thespian.[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.[2] 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

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."[4]

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.[5] Despite her engagement, Payton began seeing Neal again.[6] 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.[7][8] 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.[9] After he recovered, Tone and Payton married on September 28, 1951.[6] Payton left Tone after 53 days and returned to Neal.[10] Tone filed for divorce in March 1952 citing Payton with adultery.[11] Neal and Payton announced their engagement in May 1953 but eventually ended their relationship later that year.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14][15]

Later years and death

After his much publicized fight with Franchot Tone, Neal was blacklisted in Hollywood, as was Payton.[10] 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.[16] 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.[16]

With his acting career over, Neal moved to Palm Springs, California, and became a gardener.[17] He later started his own landscaping business.[10][18] In 1961, Neal 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21][22]

At his trial, Neal admitted that he and Bennett were separated at the time of her death but said 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.[23] 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.[24] On December 10, he was sentenced to one-to-fifteen years in prison, of which he served six. On December 6, 1971, he was released on parole.[7][25] 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.[26] His death was later attributed to heart failure.[13] He was cremated, and his ashes were interred in the Chapel Of The Pines Cremetery

Amateur boxing record

Amateur Boxing Record[27]
Result Record Opponent Method Date Round Time Event Location Notes
Loss 31-3-0 J.H. Isbell KO March 31, 1934 2 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Loss 31-2-0 "Modest" Bill Smith KO February 27, 1934 2 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 31-1-0 Frankie Hagen KO February 24, 1934 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 30-1-0 Harry Gardner KO February 21, 1934 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 29-1-0 Sid Stoneman KO February 14, 1934 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 28-1-0 Frankie Hagan PTS January 30, 1934 3 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 27-1-0 Basil Barnett KO January 24, 1934 2 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 26-1-0 George Krause KO January 16, 1934 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 25-1-0 Bob Delmont KO January 7, 1934 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Loss 24-1-0 Brad Simmons KO January 1, 1934 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 24-0-0 Herman Zeinman KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 23-0-0 William Beltran KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 22-0-0 Lloyd Blake KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 21-0-0 Lawrence "Larry" O'Neil KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 20-0-0 Igg Rosenberg KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 19-0-0 Melvin Kenyon KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 18-0-0 Gary Keers KO 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 17-0-0 Samuel Rodgway KO May 28, 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Exch 16-0-0 "Irish" Tommy Mitchell KO May 21, 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 15-0-0 Jim Crawford KO May 14, 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 14-0-0 Max Levine KO May 7, 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 13-0-0 Leo Hart KO May 1, 1933 1 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Win 12-0-0 Paul Benjamin PTS 1932 3 Evanston, Illinois
Win 11-0-0 Fred Chapman KO 1932 3 Evanston, Illinois
Win 10-0-0 Paul Benjamin KO 1932 3 Evanston, Illinois
Win 9-0-0 Rod Conley KO 1932 2 Evanston, Illinois
Win 8-0-0 Paul Gilmore KO 1932 1 Chicago, Illinois
Win 7-0-0 Jack Lewis KO 1932 3 Chicago, Illinois
Exch 6-0-0 Eddie Mitchell KO 1932 1 Chicago, Illinois
Win 5-0-0 Ernest Brant KO 1932 1 Chicago, Illinois
Win 4-0-0 Karl Brenner-Eggers KO 1932 1 Chicago, Illinois
Win 3-0-0 Norman Martin PTS 1932 3 Chicago, Illinois
Win 2-0-0 Albert Leikman KO 1932 1 Chicago, Illinois
Win 1-0-0 Keith Newman KO 1932 1 Chicago, Illinois


Year Title Role Notes
1938 Out West with the Hardys Aldrich Brown
1939 Burn 'Em Up O'Connor 'Hank' Hogan
1939 Four Girls in White Dr. Phillips
1939 Honolulu Ambulance Intern Uncredited
1939 Within the Law Richard Gilder
1939 Prophet Without Honor Matthew Fontaine Maury Short, Uncredited
1939 6,000 Enemies Ransom
1939 Stronger Than Desire Reporter Uncredited
1939 They All Come Out Joe Z. Cameron
1939 Another Thin Man Freddie Coleman
1939 Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President Johnny Crusper
1940 The Courageous Dr. Christian Dave Williams
1940 Sky Murder Steve - Pilot
1940 Flight Command Hell Cat Uncredited
1941 Under Age Rocky Stone
1941 Jungle Girl Jack Stanton Serial, Alternative title: Edgar Rice Burrough's Jungle Girl
1941 Top Sergeant Mulligan Don Lewis
1941 The Miracle Kid Jimmy Conley
1941 Ten Gentlemen from West Point Cadet Uncredited
1942 One Thrilling Night Frankie Saxton
1942 The Pride of the Yankees Fraternity Boy Uncredited
1942 Flying Tigers Reardon
1942 Bowery at Midnight Frankie Mills
1943 China Girl Captain Haynes Uncredited
1943 No Time for Love Sandhog Uncredited
1943 Air Force Marine Uncredited
1943 She Has What It Takes Roger Rutledge
1943 Good Luck, Mr. Yates Charlie Edmonds
1943 Behind the Rising Sun Taro Seki
1943 There's Something About a Soldier Wally Williams
1943 Klondike Kate Jefferson Braddock
1944 The Racket Man Matt Benson
1944 Two-Man Submarine Jerry Evans
1944 The Unwritten Code Sgt. Terry Hunter
1944 Thoroughbreds Rusty Curtis
1945 Crime, Inc. Jim Riley Alternative title: Crime Incorporated
1945 First Yank Into Tokyo Major Steve Ross
1945 Detour Al Roberts
1945 Club Havana Bill Porter
1946 Blonde Alibi Rick Lavery
1946 The Brute Man Clifford Scott Alternative title: The Brute
1946 My Dog Shep District Attorney Herrick
1947 The Hat Box Mystery Russ Ashton Short
1947 Cry Wolf Hotel Desk Clerk Uncredited
1947 The Case of the Baby Sitter Russ Ashton Short
1948 Beyond Glory Captain Henry Jason Daniels
1949 Bruce Gentry Bruce Gentry Alternative titles: Daredevil of the Skies
Bruce Gentry, Daredevil of the Skies
1949 Amazon Quest Thomas Dekker Jr.
1949 Apache Chief Lieutenant Brown
1949 Red Desert John Williams
1950 Radar Secret Service Mickey Moran
1950 The Daltons' Women Mayor
1950 Joe Palooka in Humphrey Takes a Chance Gordon Rogers
1950 I Shot Billy the Kid Charley Bowdry
1950 Train to Tombstone Dr. Willoughby
1950 The Du Pont Story Alfred V. du Pont
1950 Call of the Klondike Tom Mallory
1950 King of the Bullwhip Benson
1951 Fingerprints Don't Lie Prosecuting Attorney
1951 Navy Bound Joe Morelli
1951 Stop That Cab Lefty
1951 Danger Zone Edgar Spadely (2nd Episode)
1951 G.I. Jane Timothy R. 'Tim' Rawlings
1951 Let's Go Navy! Joe
1951 All That I Have Bert Grayson
1951 The Valparaiso Story
1951 Venture of Faith
1953 The Great Jesse James Raid Arch Clements
1958 The Last Hurrah Tom - Mourner at Wake Uncredited
Year Title Role Notes
1950 The Gene Autry Show Breezy
2 episodes
1951 Racket Squad Episode: "Skin Game"
1951 Boston Blackie 2 episodes
1952 The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok Lash Corby Episode: "Vigilante Story"
1958 Tales of Wells Fargo Johnny Reno Episode: "Faster Gun"
1959 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Luke Lund Episode: "According to Luke", (final appearance)


  1. 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. O'Dowd 2007 p.148
  4. Rainey, Buck (2005). Serial Film Stars: A Biographical Dictionary, 1912-1956. McFarland. p. 555. ISBN 0-786-42010-3.
  5. Polito, Robert (2009). Hollywood & God. University of Chicago Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-226-67341-3.
  6. "Actor Tone, Barbara Payton, Wed In 'Quickie' Ceremony". The Bulletin. September 29, 1951. p. 8. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  7. Arthur Lyons. "Killer Career – Actor Tom Neal". Palm Springs Life magazine. Archived from the original on April 7, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  8. "Actor Tom Neal Ko's Love Rival Franchot Tone". Ludington Daily News. September 15, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  9. "Franchot Tone Still in Semi-coma After Beating Over Miss Payton". The Free Lance-Star. September 15, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  10. "Ex-Movie Star Tom Neal Dies". Beaver County Times. August 8, 1972. pp. A–4. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  11. "Franchot Says Wife, Neal Had Relations". Herald-Journal. April 25, 1952. p. 32. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  12. O'Dowd 2007 pp.243, 248
  13. Burroughs Hannsberry, Karen (2003). Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. McFarland. p. 485. ISBN 0-786-41484-7.
  14. O'Dowd 2007 p.156
  15. Marcus, Greil (2007). The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice. Macmillan. p. 130. ISBN 0-312-42642-9.
  16. O'Dowd 2007 p.242
  17. Meeks, Eric G. (2014) [2012]. The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 15. ISBN 978-1479328598.
  18. "Tom Neal Quizzed In Killing". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. April 3, 1965. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  19. "Ex-Actor Tom Neal Jailed, Wife Found Shot To Death". Herald-Journal. April 3, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  20. "Former Actor Tom Neal Charged In Wife's Murder". Lodi News-Sentinel. April 3, 1965. p. 12. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  21. "Tom Neal Jailed On Suspicion". The Virgin Islands Daily News. April 5, 1965. p. 2. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  22. "Former Actor Indicted In Slaying Of Wife". Toledo Blade. April 10, 1965. p. 15. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  23. "Tom Neal Tells Of Wife's Dating". The Miami News. November 9, 1965. p. 16A. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  24. "Former Actor Found Guilty". Rome News-Tribune. November 19, 1965. p. 1. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  25. "Actor Imprisoned For Manslaughter". Star-News. December 11, 1965. p. 17. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  26. "Ex-film actor Tom Neal found dead at 59". Eugene Register-Guard. August 8, 1952. p. 4A. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  27. Tome Neal at
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