Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. on February 6, 1931 in Temple, Texas, the son of Thelma Mary (Spacek) and Elmore Rudolph Torn, who was an agriculturalist and economist, credited with popularizing the custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. "Rip" is a family name, taken by generations of Torn men and bestowed on Elmore by his father, who was also called "Rip." He was of German, Austrian, Bohemian, and Moravian descent. His mother was an elder sister of actress Sissy Spacek's father, Edwin Spacek.
Torn attended Texas A&M and the University of Texas, where he joined Sigma Chi Fraternity. He majored in animal husbandry. Extremely naïve when he was young, Torn hitchhiked to Hollywood with the idea of becoming a movie star; he wanted to make enough money in order to buy a ranch. Success did not come overnight, as he had hoped, and Torn had to work many odd jobs while occasionally being cast in television roles. He made his feature film debut in Elia Kazan's Baby Doll (195