|Neal with Ann Savage in Detour|
|Tone and Payton|
|Payton and Neal|
As Tone slowly recovered, Payton informed the press that her engagement to Neal was off. The star of Bride of the Gorilla (1951) now intended to wed Franchot Tone as soon as he was able to stagger down the aisle. Neal, left to twist in the legal wind while awaiting Tone's decision whether or not to file felony assault charges against him, told his side of the "parlor man" versus the "athlete" story in a September 17, 1951 Los Angeles Times article bearing his by-line. Maintaining his love for Payton, Neal said she instigated the confrontation with Tone over a period of months by playing the two men off against one another. Of the altercation:
"Barbara came out and asked Franchot when he was going to get rid of me and then threw her arms around him and kissed him. That's what touched it off. Tone said, "Let's go." He threw a right and I threw a right and mine got in faster. I struck him several more times and it was all over. I saw them carry him into the house.... It was one of those things, where I had to defend myself and where the sight of the girl I love kissing another man just made me see red. I mean, when you're fighting for a girl -- well, you just lose your head a little, I guess. I have nothing against Tone whatever. I'm sorry he's in the hospital and I'm ready to do anything I can do to help him. And I hope he and Barbara will be happy."
On September 27, 1951, Tone announced that would not file charges against Neal for their one-sided fistfight. The next day, Payton and Tone married in the sexy star's hometown of Cloquet, Minnesota. The couple separated after 53 days of marriage amid rumors Payton was still in love with Tom Neal. Tone divorced the fickle actress on May 19, 1952, citing "extreme mental cruelty." The court papers did not mention his former rival, but Payton had resumed a torrid relationship with the actor that eventually fizzled after they appeared together in Neal's final film, The Great Jesse James Raid, in 1953. Rendered unemployable by the scandal, Neal was forced to leave Hollywood for Palm Springs where the broke former B-movie actor was reduced to working as a gardener. Still, he fared better than Barbara Payton, who was also made persona non grata in the film capital by the scandal and her subsequent bizarre behavior. After making her last movie in 1955, Murder Is My Beat, Payton descended into a nightmare world of alcoholism, check kiting, homelessness, and prostitution. The sexy woman movie stars once fought over died on May 8, 1967, at the age of 39 from heart and liver failure in San Diego.