Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Evanston, Illinois, Tom Neal debuted on the Broadway stage in 1935. In 1938 he first appearead in film in Out West with the Hardys, part of the Hardy family movie series. That same year, he received a law degree from Harvard University.
Neal appeared in many low budget b-movies in the 40's and early 50's. He most memorable role was that of Al Roberts in the classic film noir Detour along side Ann Savage. They went on to make five movies together.
In 1951, he took to violence against aristocratic actor Franchot Tone. The fight broke out because of their mutual girlfriend, actress Barbara Payton. When the fight was over Neal, a former college boxer, inflicted upon Tone a smashed cheekbone, a broken nose and a brain concussion. After the incident Tone and Payton married and Neal had a difficult time finding work. Neal ended up supporting himself landscaping and gardening. Payton left Tone after only seven weeks of marriage and returned to the troubled Neal. Their relationship lasted four years.
Neal remarried almost immediately and in 1957 fathered a son. His wife passed away the following year from cancer. In 1961, Neal married for the third time to Gale Bennett. Four years later, he shot her in the back of the head with a .45-caliber gun, killing her instantly. He was arrested and although prosecutors at the time sought the death penalty, he was only convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in prison.
On December 7 1971, he was released on parole, having served exactly six years. Eight months later in August of 1972, Tom Neal died of heart failure in North Hollywood, California. He was cremated, and his ashes stored in the vault at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.
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