Strutting Tom and his conspicuous bulges

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In 1951, a scandalous love triangle hit the Hollywood headlines. Barbara Payton had a reputation for sleeping with almost every man she met before she became engaged to the suave and debonair Franchot Tone….

Franchot Tone had gone to New York on business when Barbara attended a Hollywood pool party, where she met B-Movie actor Tom Neal. According to an Exposed Magazine article, she had spotted the muscular and handsome Neal in the pool, “displaying his masculinity via a brief pair of bathing panties. Babs took one look,” and uttered the legendary statement: “It was love at first sight. He looked so wonderful in his trunks that I knew he was the only man in my life.” Exposed went on to say: “The memory of whatever Tone resembled in his undies was blurred by strutting Tom’s conspicuous bulges.” The passionate duo quickly started an affair.

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Barbara proposed marriage to Tom Neal, broke her engagement with Franchot, then went back and forth between the two actors several times, pitting one against the other.

The triangle exploded one night in front of Barbara’s home when Tom Neal assaulted Franchot Tone and beat the living daylights out of him. Franchot was hospitalized and remained comatose for 18 hours. Public sympathy went against Tom Neal because he had been a boxer in his younger days. There was little sympathy for Hollywood’s ‘bad blonde” either. Their careers were as good as finished as lurid stories of the incident splashed across the country’s newspapers.

Much to everyone’s shock, Franchot Tone married Miss Payton although the marriage lasted only two months. Tom Neal was named co-respondent in their divorce. Franchot used explicit photographs to prove his course of action and then spitefully mailed dozens of pictures of Barbara in compromising positions with Tom Neal to heads of major studios to destroy her chances of ever working in Hollywood again.

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The Tom and Barbara affair continued for another four years. When they finally split, Tom married for a second and then a third time, ultimately shooting his last wife in the head and serving six years in prison for manslaughter.

Meanwhile, Barbara forged on…..

“In 1962 she was arrested several times for prostitution, disorderly conduct, and public drunkenness. In ’63 she published an infamous memoir and was attacked by a trick, receiving 38 stitches in a knife wound. Barbara died in 1967, of heart and liver failure, aged just 39


Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 7:33 am  Comments (38)  
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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. She crtainly fell far and fell hard. She must have made a pitiful sight by the 60s

  2. err I meant certainly

    • Certainly you did

  3. All rather sad ……. *looks depressed*

  4. “displaying his masculinity via a brief pair of bathing panties”

    Well it would be the first and last time ‘masculine’ and ‘panties’ were used in the same sentence.

    And what a lawyer, Manslaughter for shooting someone in the head, that guys a frickin legal rain man.

  5. Five dollar party girl… well, five bucks went a lot further in those days. Now five dollars gets you a foot-long sandwich.

    I bet Nursemyra could easily fetch more than a fiver as a party girl.

    • Ha! I am the antithesis of a party girl. Just ask queenwilly or Synchy.

      • Yes, it’s true. Both Nursie and I are more comfortable talking with one person at a time.

  6. “…and then spitefully mailed dozens of pictures of Barbara in compromising positions with Tom Neal…”

    As I read this line I suddenly realized that almost every position I get to have is a compromise, some of them arrived at after lengthy negotiation.

    Andy Begdaliddle

  7. I love the title of this post!

  8. I throw up my hands. What ails these people?

  9. one bad damn decision after another. that is THE definition of ‘trailer park’… ouch. this one was painful to read…

  10. When I was younger, I tried putting a hunk of pepperoni in my swim trunks to be more noticeable for the ladies.

    Unfortunately, nobody told me that you’re supposed to put it in front.

    • Or not to have it presliced eh???

  11. I misread this on first reading and thought you said…

    “….then spitefully nailed dozens of pictures….to heads of major studios”

    Interesting days indeed…..our current crop of celebs seem to think they’re a pretty wild bunch but they’ve really got a lot to learn.

  12. I used to think of her as just a sad and naughty trivia question in Hollywood history, also but read John O’Dowd’s indepth biography of her, KISS TMORROW GOODBYE, and you’ll find a lot more substance there. Here’s my review from a couple of years ago.http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/05/kiss-tomorrow-goodbye-barbara-payton.html

  13. Those who knew her best said that Barbara was an incredibly warm, tenderhearted, trusting, and kind person who was just woefully misguided. I, personally, believe that.

    • I absolutely agree with Johnny!

      • welcome to the gimcrack booksteve, johnny and lynnie

  14. Her entire story is similar to Geraldine McGee Rosenthal. Instead of gansters she had actors. And instead of heroin, she had alcohol. Other than that they could be long, lost sisters.

  15. I always thought Franchot Tone should have married that nice Deanna Durbin.

  16. Very interesting read but very sad as well.

    • Yes it is Don. there’s more on booksteve’s blog if you’re interested (link above)

  17. The arched eyebrow, combined with the rock face climbing in all legs, complete this story. Ahhh, Hollywood. The side shows are as entertaining as any movie.

  18. Wow, only 6 years for shooting the wife . . thinking . .

    • Stop that Malach!

  19. Live hard. Die young. Leave a good looking corpse.

    At least that’s what me dear ol’ da used to say.

  20. Kinda tragic….

  21. I believe the cook’s girlfriend is trying to do this to me and her BF. Pit us against one another.

    • She needs a good slap on the bottom

  22. being a $5.00 party girl myself, i have complete sympathy with barbara. it’s impossible to always know one’s heart. it’s hard to resist a pair of bathing panties.
    her story is very tragic.

    • “It’s impossible to always know one’s heart.”

      That’s a very accurate and powerful statement, Seraphine. I agree with you 100%.

      I know we are all responsible for our own lives, but I will always feel incredibly sorry for Barbara.

      I mean, imagine going from all that glamour and wealth to living on Skid Row and prostituting yourself on a daily basis (for several years) with total strangers? It is beyond hellish. 😦

      • do you have a blog we can visit Johnny?

  23. Hi, nursemyra, I’m John O’Dowd, Barbara’s biographer, and my website is: http://www.hollywoodstarletbarbarapayton.com. I have been a fan of Barbara’s since I was a little boy when I first saw her on TV in “Bride of the Gorilla”. 🙂 It’s weird but I guess I felt a connection with her immediately upon seeing her for the first time, and she never fully left my consciousness after that.

    I began researching Barbara’s life in earnest in early 1998 and I worked on her biography for the next eight and half years. It came out on St. Patrick’s Day in 2007.

    I hope the book has helped bring a new understanding of who Barbara was. To me, she is endlessly fascinating, complex, and not one-dimensional in the least.

    I doubt if I will ever find another subject as haunting or as heartbreaking as Barbara is to me.

    Thanks for allowing me to partake in your forum.

    John O’Dowd (AKA “Johnny”)

    • Yesterday I read your fine article on Christa Helm which I found via booksteve. Another sad story, though Barbara intrigues me more, I can understand your fascination with her.

      I feel much the same way about Little Edie Bouvier Beale


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