Barbara Payton’s Hollywood Shame

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When Barbara Payton was at the peak of her success, earning $ 10,000 a week, starring in movies with James Cagney, Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck and with her “front page of every newspaper nationwide” picture. described as “hot, queen bee.” She couldn’t wait to grow old in a mansion with “three pools, 20 servants and a personal masseur”.

Ultimately, his fate was a hideous reversal of that dream. She ended up as an impoverished, drug-ravaged, alcoholic sex worker living in what she called “a rat-infested apartment” in the seedy part of Los Angeles.

His tumultuous life has seen more ups and downs than a melodramatic soap opera. After making 13 films in four years, she was ostracized from major Hollywood studios and her life got out of hand. There were fights, an overdose of sleeping pills, a lost custody battle, beatings by his sexual clients and a vicious attack by a psychopath wielding a knife. Payton has also suffered numerous arrests – for passing bad checks, shoplifting, heroin use, drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and prostitution. Payton’s death in 1967, when she was just 39, was the sad conclusion to one of the most tragic stories in Hollywood history.

It all started with a troubled upbringing in Cloquet, Minnesota, where she was born Barbara Lee Redfield on November 16, 1927. Her Norwegian immigrant parents, Erwin and Mabel, ran a restaurant and ice cream parlor; the striking-looking girl grew up to be the “small town goddess” of Odessa High School.

While Payton’s story is certainly partly a despicable self-destruct story, there is no doubt that she was exploited and abused from a young age. In his compassionate and nuanced biography Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story, John O’Dowd alludes to rumors of “inappropriate” events with his father (whom he calls a “murky relationship”) and points to the experience that changed Payton’s life. lose her virginity. The 15-year-old was wowed by a school friend’s 45-year-old father, while his wife hosted guests at his birthday party in the rooms below. As O’Dowd makes clear, this was a statutory rape that went unpunished.


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