• 28 January 1914
  •  Evanston, Illinois, USA

Tom Neal


Tom Neal is best remembered for his off-screen exploits, which involved scandal, mayhem and a charge of murder. Before his 1938 screen debut in MGM's Out West with the Hardys (1938), Neal had been a member of the boxing team at Northwestern University, had debuted on the Broadway stage in 1935 and had received a law degree from Harvard, also in 1938. Throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, he appeared mostly as tough guys in Hollywood low-budgeters. In 1951, in a dispute over the on-again / off-again affections and the wavering allegiance of notorious actress / "party girl" Barbara Payton, he mixed it up with Payton's paramour, the aristocratic actor Franchot Tone. The former college boxer Neal inflicted upon Tone a smashed cheekbone, a broken nose and a brain concussion. Hollywood essentially blackballed Neal thereafter, but he would come to find a livelihood in gardening and landscaping. He was brought to trial in 1965 for the murder of his wife Gale, who had been shot to death with a .45-caliber bullet to the back of her head. Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Neal, which at the time meant a trip to the cyanide-gas chamber. The trial jury, however, convicted him only of "involuntary manslaughter", for which he was sentenced to 10 years in jail. On 7 December 1971 he was released on parole, having served exactly six years to the day. Eight months later, Tom Neal was dead of heart failure.