BARBARA PAYTON: A Life In Pictures by John O’Dowd
Book Review by Lee Sobel (9/30/20)
5 out of 5 stars
I've long been fascinated by the life and career of actress Barbara Payton. While there were many curvy blondes in 40s and 50s movies, something about her really made her stand apart for me. While she appeared in a few memorable movies such as the James Cagney crime thriller Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), the campy Bride of the Gorilla (1951), and the Edgar G. Ulmer B-noir Murder Is My Beat (1955), it was her personal life that was way more fascinating. Hyper sexed up way, way before the sexual revolution, Payton enjoyed men falling over themselves to get with her and she had numerous romantic entanglements that always seemed to end very badly. While some believe that all publicity is good publicity, clearly the shenanigans she was caught up in helped to burn her bridges with Hollywood power brokers and her career soon hit the skids as she herself appeared to be out of control, boozing (and possibly drugging) her way down the ladder. When she lost custody of her son, I believe that that was the moment when she finally gave up on herself and led to the truly shocking and lurid end of her life. It always seemed to me that her story would make a great movie -- a part for a skilled actress to show how bright she burned and how far she fell. You want drama -- you got it, right here.
Thank God for John O'Dowd. Not only does he feel the same way I do about Barbara Payton, but he's invested a huge chunk of his life to telling her story and giving her the kind of respect that she deserves. His new book, BARBARA PAYTON: A Life In Pictures, is a staggering piece of work. Nearly 600 pages and the size of a phone book, this is a pictorial companion to his earlier book, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story (also published by BearManor Media). If you like books about the underside of Hollywood, then you need to get both of these. They are both extremely well done.
Until someone steps up and makes a movie of Barbara Payton's life, BARBARA PAYTON: A Life In Pictures is the closest thing to visually representing the course of her life and career. I can't imagine how much effort it took to track down the over 1000 photos in this book. Seeing all of these pictures in large format gives you much more emotional impact of all that she endured in her life, from her childhood, birth of her son, her modeling days, the many movies she made, and her fascinating personal life and tribulations. I just can't get over how many photos there are on this book - this is a masterpiece!