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John Payne Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (36) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 28 May 1912Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Date of Death 6 December 1989Malibu, California, USA  (congestive heart failure)
Birth NameJohn Howard Payne
Height 6' 2½" (1.89 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Perhaps not so surprisingly, John Payne maintained that his favorite movie of all time was one of his own -- Miracle on 34th Street (1947) -- simply because it reflected his own strong and spiritual belief system. Today, of course, the film, which co-stars beautiful Maureen O'Hara, Oscar-winning Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and little non-believing scene-stealer Natalie Wood, is a perennial holiday favorite and his best-remembered film role despite the mighty fine product he turned out over the years.

Born John Howard Payne on May 28, 1912 (not May 23, according to his daughter, actress Julie Payne), he was the middle son of three boys (Peter and Robert were the others). His parents, businessman George Washington Payne and Ida Hope (ne Schaeffer) Payne were quite well-to-do and came from a rich heritage. John was named after an ancestor who wrote the song, "Home, Sweet, Home." The boys grew up privileged on a Roanoke, Virginia estate complete with equestrian stables and swimming pools. At his mother's request, John took singing lessons in order to curb an extreme shyness problem. During his teens, the boy was shipped off to Mercersburg Academy, a prep school in Pennsylvania, and later was studying at Roanoke College at the time his father died. John was forced to give up his studies in an effort to help support his family, finding work as a male nurse and, better yet, a radio singer at a local station. Eventually, he was able to return to his studies, enrolling at the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University. John continued to find work as a singer and even earned some extra cash as a boxer and wrestler.

The tall (6'4"), dark and handsome Payne, in his mid-20s, eventually turned to the stage and, while understudying Reginald Gardiner in the musical "At Home Abroad," was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn during a performance signed for film work. Billed initially as John Howard Payne, he made his debut with a minor role in Dodsworth (1936), but nothing else came of it and he was released. Freelancing in minor musicals and comedies, he appeared in a starring role (billed now as John Payne) opposite soon-to-be acting guru Stella Adler in Love on Toast (1937), and also teamed up vocally with Betty Grable on a radio show. Payne met actress Anne Shirley during this time and the couple married in August of 1937. Three years later they had a daughter, Julie Payne, who would become an actress in her own right. The happiness for John and Anne wouldn't last, however, and the couple divorced in 1943.

In 1937, Paramount took over the actor's interest with a featured part in Bob Hope's College Swing (1938). Warner Bros. then signed him up briefly, allowing him a third-billed role in the Busby Berkeley musical Garden of the Moon (1938) starring Pat O'Brien and Margaret Lindsay in which he sang the title song as well as the tune "Love Is Where You Find It," among others. Again, John didn't have the right studio fit until 20th Century-Fox came along in 1940. Then it all began to happen for him. Co-starring roles opposite Alice Faye in the musicals Tin Pan Alley (1940) and Week-End in Havana (1941), and with popular skating star Sonja Henie in Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Iceland (1942) started the ball rolling. But it was a starring role in the war tearjerker Remember the Day (1941), in which he was romantically paired with Claudette Colbert, that secured his place as a dramatic actor and gave him one of his best career showcases.

After co-starring with former radio partner Betty Grable in Springtime in the Rockies (1942), John served a two-year hitch (1942-1944) with the Army. Upon his discharge he went right back to courting Betty Grable in the musical film The Dolly Sisters (1945) and met 18-year-old singer/actress Gloria DeHaven during its shoot. The twosome wed in 1945 and a daughter and son were born within three years. Problems arose when Gloria insisted on continuing her career and the couple, after on and off separations, finally divorced in 1950. John's early post-WWII work offered some of his finest roles with significant non-singing parts coming in the form of Sentimental Journey (1946) with Maureen O'Hara which was a project he bought for himself, the glossy epic The Razor's Edge (1946) co-starring Gene Tierney, Miracle on 34th Street (1947), again paired up magically with O'Hara, and Larceny (1948) with Joan Caulfield.

When John left 20th Century-Fox, his film vehicles grew more routine. Crimers, war drama, and westerns became the norm but a smart and lucrative business arrangement (that included a seven-picture deal) with action producers William H. Pine and William C. Thomas (Pine-Thommas Productions) compensated greatly. As such John appeared in El Paso (1949), Tripoli (1950), Passage West (1951), Kansas City Confidential (1952). 99 River Street (1953), Silver Lode (1954) and ended the deal with Slightly Scarlet (1956). A shrewd businessman, Payne also obtained rights to these films in the aftermath. In 1953, he entered into his third and final marriage to Alexandra ("Sandy") Crowell Curtis, the former wife of actor Alan Curtis. In addition to returning to his singing roots with Las Vegas showroom engagements, John went on to star in his own western TV series The Restless Gun (1957) which lasted two seasons. Daughter Julie appeared in one episode.

A very serious 1961 accident, however, in which John was hit by a car in New York City, slowed him down considerably. It took well over two years for him to recover enough from his leg fractures and facial/scalp wounds to return to acting. In 1964, he co-starred on Broadway with Lisa Kirk in the Broadway musical "Here's Love". A decade later he returned to the arms of Alice Faye when they reunited on stage with a Broadway revival of "Good News". Unfortunately he had to leave the show prematurely as the dancing required was re-aggravating his leg pain. His 70s career ended with TV roles on such shows as "Gunsmoke," "Cade's Country" and "Columbo".

Retiring in 1975, John focused quietly on reading, writing short stories, flying and cooking. In addition to daughter Julie, two of his grandchildren went on to become actresses as well -- Katharine Towne and Holly Payne. The 77-year-old Payne died on December 6, 1989 at his Malibu home of congestive heart failure. A reliable and steady leading man who may not have been a great mover or shaker on screen, he nonetheless brought tremendous entertainment to the industry and his fans both musically and dramatically in a career that lasted four decades.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (3)

Alexandra Crowell Curtis (27 September 1953 - 6 December 1989) (his death)
Gloria DeHaven (28 December 1944 - 21 September 1951) (divorced) (2 children)
Anne Shirley (22 August 1937 - 1 March 1943) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (36)

Singer, mostly in 20th Century-Fox musicals.
Was the first person in Hollywood interested in making the James Bond novels into a film series. In 1955 he paid a $1,000-a-month option for nine months on the Bond novel "Moonraker" (he eventually gave up the option when he learned he could not retain the rights for the entire 007 series).
Direct descendant of John Howard Payne (1791-1852), composer of the classic song "Home, Sweet Home" ("Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.").
The gap in his career from 1962-68 was the result of a major automobile wreck in which he suffered extensive, life-threatening injuries. In his later roles facial scars can be detected in close-ups.
Grandfather of Katharine Towne and Holly Payne.
Ex-father-in-law of writer-director Robert Towne.
Featured in "Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir" by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (McFarland, 2003).
In 1942, after separating from Anne Shirley, he had an affair with Jane Russell. The affair is detailed in her 1986 autobiography, "My Path and My Detours". The affair ended when she realized that she was still in love with her high school sweetheart, football player Bob Waterfield, whom she married in April 1943 (they divorced in 1967).
Following the style of the times, and in order to emphasize his boyish, clean-cut image, Payne's chest was shaved to smoothness in his "beefcake" scenes of the 1940s. However, in the 1950s, styles changed, Payne's image darkened, and his "beefcake" scenes now showed a chest with dark hair.
Was very good friends with his co-star Maureen O'Hara, with whom he starred in four films, To the Shores of Tripoli (1942), Sentimental Journey (1946), Tripoli (1950), and their most famous one, the classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
Was romantically involved with Coleen Gray (his co-star in Kansas City Confidential (1952)) in the early 1950s.
Has stated that his favorite of all the films he has made is Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
Served as a pilot in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.
Initially signed to a short-term contract to appear in Dodsworth (1936) for United Artists, he later worked under contract for 20th Century0Fox (1940-42; 1945-47) and RKO (1954-56).
Graduated from Roanoke College. Studied singing at the Juilliard School of Music and acting at Columbia University. Supplemented his studies by making money as a professional wrestler, before landing his first acting job as understudy to Beatrice Lillie in the 1935 revue "At Home Abroad".
Attended Mercersburg Academy (preparatory school) in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1932.
He was one of many actors considered for the role of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind (1939).
He was a lifelong Republican and conservative.
He was a shrewd investor in real estate and owned many parcels in Southern California as well as a ranch near Billings, Montana.
Writer France Ingram, in her article on John for "Classic Images", March 2011, states that his first acting break was while he was working as a radio singer in the mid-1930s. The Shubert Organization discovered him and offered him a part touring with one of their road companies at $40 a week.
Was a Boy Scout.
As early as 1953 he planned to produce a film of "The Puppet Masters, finally striking a deal with author Robert A. Heinlein in 1959. However, the story was plagiarized and spoiled by Roger Corman's The Brain Eaters (1958).
Julie Payne states that while her father John carries the man's name, her family is not related to the Long Island-born, "Home, Sweet Home" songwriter John Howard Payne (1791-1852). That was a studio-generated myth.
According to his daughter Julie Payne, John was actually born on May 28, 1912, and not May 23. Somewhere along the line, she said, the "8" in "28" was accidentally transformed into a "3".
Daughter Julie Payne has stated that John's mother, Ida Hope Schaeffer, was never an opera singer, for the Metropolitan Opera or anywhere else. However, his father was heavily involved with the building of the city of Roanoke, Virginia.
John's daughter Julie Payne (aka Julie Anne Payne) is a legal researcher for book writers of both film and the City of Los Angeles.
Daughter Julie Payne has stated that there is no validity to the story that her father pressured his studio (20th Century-Fox) into filming Miracle on 34th Street (1947) while putting up his own money. She said that the movie was a small black-and-white film with low expectations, and that had John indeed put money into it he would not have received any profit participation because that option did not even exist until 1950, three years after the film was made. Moreover, at the time of filming John did not have the money to put into any film because he was strapped not only paying child support but had a wife with a third child on the way.
He was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6125 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6687 Hollywood Boulevard.
Had appeared with Betty Grable in five films: College Swing (1938), Tin Pan Alley (1940), Footlight Serenade (1942), Springtime in the Rockies (1942) and The Dolly Sisters (1945).
Had appeared with Rhonda Fleming in five films: The Eagle and the Hawk (1950), Crosswinds (1951), Caribbean (1952), Tennessee's Partner (1955) and Slightly Scarlet (1956).
He appeared with Alice Faye in four films: Tin Pan Alley (1940), The Great American Broadcast (1941), Week-End in Havana (1941) and Hello Frisco, Hello (1943).
Owned Window Glen Productions, the company that produced his series The Restless Gun (1957).
He moved to Paramount and made a series of melodramas and musicals, and then signed with Warner Bros. When Dick Powell turned down the Busby Berkeley musical Garden of the Moon (1938), Payne was given the role and thereafter appeared as singer and actor in some "memorable moving pictures".
He was an understudy in the 1935 Broadway musical "At Home Abroad," which co-starred Reginald Gardiner and Beatrice Lillie. When Gardiner became ill, the 22-year-old Payne went on, replacing him until Gardiner's health improved enough to return to the role. In the best Hollywood tradition, the studio talent scout who placed him under contract to Samuel Goldwyn Pictures was Samuel Goldwyn's wife Frances Howard, who often traveled to Broadway from Hollywood looking for new talent for her husband's film projects (on a 1941 trip to Broadway to see Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin-Moss Hart musical "Lady in The Dark" she discovered Danny Kaye).
He made nearly 80 pictures but said in a 1974 interview, in connection with his return to the stage in "Good News," that "I never could quite take it seriously".
In the 1930s, before entering show business, he earned a living at one point as a professional wrestler known various as "Alexei Petroff, the Savage of the Steppes" and "Tiger Jack Payne".

Personal Quotes (1)

Back in 1937 while I was under contract to Paramount, I sang on a five-minute radio program with another contract player from Paramount. A girl who's done rather well since -- Betty Grable. Betty and I didn't do so well then, though. We couldn't find a sponsor and finally gave up the program. I sang low tenor -- or, should I say, high baritone.

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