Even in "Miracle on 34th Street" he caught my eye when I was a kid - his big brown eyes and sensuously hairy forearms. But who knew that under the conservative lawyer's suit lurked a hirsute mass of muscle? Perhaps that very contrast is what is most arousing - John Payne is the reluctant he-man. Can he help it if he has those thighs and that chest?
John Payne in "Miracle on 34th Street"...
...and in "Kid Nightingale"
As he aged and his pretty-boyish looks grew more rugged, his on-screen persona also gained depth - hinting at buried hurts, disappointments, and pain that could lead him to tremendous empathy, as well as unexpected violent outbursts.
Perhaps his most compelling role is Ernie Driscoll in "99 River Street," a crackling film noir in which he plays a washed up boxer trying for one last chance to redeem himself. In the opening fight sequence, fancy-dancing in his trunks, his hairy chest glistening and his face twisted into an angry sneer, he is the personification of raw male sex and violence.