In Hollywood if a Caucasian actress has a relationship with a black man, it would end up serving as a death knell on her career. She might get ostracized or end up losing projects, because she is thought to be tainted and the studios fear that the audience might not accept her anymore. Here we try to mention some such instances.

Barbara Payton

Barbara Payton in her prime 

Her story is one of the saddest tales to come out in the history of Hollywood. She was known more for her looks than talent. She was placed under contract by Universal, and she peaked when she appeared opposite James Cagney in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), Gary Cooper in Dallas (1950) and Gregory Peck in Only the Valiant (1951). Once her looks were gone because of excessive drinking, so did the roles. After that her career went downhill and she only appeared in B-movies.

Barbara Payton with her husband Franchot Tone (left), and boyfriend Tom Neal (right)

She was married five times, one of them to Franchot Tone. While married to Tone, she began a affair with actor Tom Neal, who got in a fight with Tone and almost killed him. This tarnished her reputation but did not exactly ruin her career.

Franchot Tone and Tom Neal fight reported in the newspaper

But when she began a affair with black actor Woody Strode and openly flaunted it, she raised several eyebrows. When asked about the affair, she replied, ‘So what if I am seeing Woody, I love black people and you can quote me!’ This single sentence led to her getting blackballed by the industry.

Woody Strode

After this she was arrested for passing bad checks in 1955, for prostitution in 1962, for shoplifting in 1964 and for heroin possession in 1965. To support her drug habits she got into prostitution and began turning tricks for $5. During one of those tricks she was stabbed by a drunk trick and needed 38 stitches to close the wound. She finally died of heart and liver failure at age 39 at her parents home. If not for her reckless behavior and industry’s ostracization for her interracial dalliance, she might have ended up as successful as Marilyn Monroe.

A mugshot taken of Barbara Payton, two years before her death

Kim Novak

Kim Novak in a screen shot from Vertigo (1958)

She is now immortal as one of the Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘icy blondes’. But her career could have soared even higher if not for her affairs with black men, which pissed the studio heads. She began the affair with Sammy Davis Jr. just after she finished shooting for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1957), which caused the head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn to have a heart attack.

Sammy Davis Jr (left), Harry Cohn (right)

In 1957, interracial marriage was illegal in half the states. Kim Novak was not the first white woman Sammy Davis dated, but because she was a movie star who had become a huge box office draw because of films like The Man with the Golden Arm and Pal Joey, their affair if publicized would ruin her box office potential or so the studios thought, because according to them nobody would go see a movie star who’s married to a black man. The studio ordered her not to see Davis and placed guards around her house. Cohn took out a mob hit on Davis, who threatened to break his leg and put out his one remaining eye and the only way out for him was to marry a black girl. So he married black singer Loray White, against his will to get them off his neck. Novak career went into a decline after the affair and she went into early retirement in the 1960s.

Sammy Davis Jr with Loray White at their wedding

Jean Seberg

A young Jean Seberg

She is the New Wave icon who became famous after she appeared as the female lead in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960). During the late 1960s, she provided financial support to groups supporting civil rights, such as the NAACP which made her come under the radar of FBI. She also allegedly had a brief affair with Hakim Jamal which became the subject of the movie Seberg (2019). Her affair made her a target for FBI, who decided to neutralize her, that is to ’cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the public’.

Raymond Hewitt (left), Hakim Jamal (right, two of the alleged black lovers of Jean Seberg

So when she was pregnant with her husband Romain Gary’s child in 1970, FBI created a false story from a San Francisco-based informant that the child was by Raymond Hewitt, a member of the Black Panther Party and not her husband. This caused her to go into premature labor and, on August 23, 1970, she gave birth to a 4 lb baby girl which died two days later. Seberg held a funeral in her hometown with an open casket that allowed reporters to see the infant’s white skin, which disproved the rumors.

Jean Seberg’s death reported in the newspaper

She was blacklisted from Hollywood after her sympathies for Black Panthers were made public. For the rest of career she acted in insignificant movies. In 1979 she committed suicide and her decomposed body was recovered in the backseat of her Renault, parked close to her Paris apartment in the 16th arrondissement, nine days after she went missing.

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