Birth Date: May 23, 1912
Birth Place: Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Also Credited as: John Howard Payne
Date of Death: December 6, 1989 / Age: 77
Location of Death: Malibu, California, USA
Cause of Death: congestive heart failure
Biography: John Payne was an American movie actor who is mainly remembered as a singer in 20th Century Fox film musicals. Payne was born May 23, 1912 in Roanoke, Virginia. Payne's mother had been a successful opera singer and she encouraged her son to sing. Payne enrolled at Columbia University in the fall of 1930. He studied drama at Columbia and voice at Juilliard. To support himself, he took on a variety of odd jobs, including wrestling and singing in vaudeville. In 1934, he was spotted by a talent scout for the Schubert Theater and was given a a job as a stock player.
He toured with several Schubert shows, and frequently sang on New York-based radio programs. In 1936, Payne was offered a contract by Samuel Goldwyn, and he left New York for Hollywood. In 1940 he signed with 20th-Century Fox, where he achieved stardom in a number of early 1940s musicals, including Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Weekend in Havana (1941).
Later in his career he changed his image and began playing tough-guy roles in Hollywood films noir and westerns including 99 River Street (1953), Silver Lode (1954), Slightly Scarlet (1956) and Kansas City Confidential (1952). Payne's most popular role may be that of Fred Gailey in Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
In 1955 paid a $1,000 a month option for 9 months on the Ian Fleming James Bond novel Moonraker (he eventually gave up the option when he learned he couldn't retain the rights for the entire book series).
In late 1959 he suffered extensive, life-threatening injuries when struck by a car in New York City and was hospitalized for two and a half years. Because of that, Payne didn't appear in any films from 1962-1968. In his later roles, facial scars from the accident can be detected in close-ups.1, 2
He directed one of his last films, They Ran for Their Lives (1968).
Later in life, Payne became wealthy through real estate investments in southern California.
Payne was once married to actress Anne Shirley. He was a direct decendent of John Howard Payne, composer of the classic song "Home, Sweet Home" ("Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."). He is the Father-in-law of writer-director Robert Towne.
He died December 6, 1989 in Malibu, California due to congestive heart failure.
Payne has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.