Press Release: Barbara Payton's Story Will Be Coming to the Big Screen

Irish Screenwriter/Director and U.S. Celebrity Biographer team up to bring the story of Actress Barbara Payton to the big screen.

It's a project more than 25 years in the making. Now the story of actress Barbara Payton is getting ready to head to the big screen, where it essentially started – explosive as a firecracker – and burned out just as quickly. Author and celebrity biographer John O'Dowd has teamed with award-winning Irish screenwriter and director Ciaran Creagh to write the quintessential movie script about this beautiful and talented young actress, who garnered a salary of $10,000 a week in the 1950s, then ended up on skid row little more than a decade later.

O'Dowd gained unprecedented access to the people who knew her best while writing the definitive biography on Payton, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story" [BearManor Media, 2015]. He built a strong relationship with her beloved only son, John Lee Payton, Jr., and with her loving and loyal sister-in-law, Jan Redfield. It was O'Dowd's dedication to telling the whole poignant tale of Barbara's life, with integrity and empathy, that allowed him to write the full story – blemishes and all – in a way no previous author had done.

After years of working to get his book made into a screenplay worthy of production, O'Dowd joined forces with Creagh. The pair have worked diligently to transform O'Dowd's two books on Payton – the biography, and his exquisitely crafted second book, "Barbara Payton – A Life in Pictures" [BearManor Media, 2019], into the new screenplay, which they hope to bring to the big screen very soon.

O'Dowd, a native of New Jersey, first encountered Payton as a small boy watching her film "Bride of the Gorilla." He was captivated by her beauty and began what would become a lifelong journey to learn about and tell her story. As he grew up and became a celebrity interviewer and biographer, he set out to write the consummate book about the rapid rise and downfall of the blonde beauty.

Creagh, of Dublin, Ireland, discovered Payton similarly by watching one of her films. This time it was her performance with Gregory Peck in the western "Only the Valiant." Creagh was older than his co-screenwriter when he discovered Payton in this way. He Googled Payton and found O'Dowd's works about the fallen star.
Creagh, whose latest film "Ann" is gaining acclaim and awards, has helped lift O'Dowd's work on the Payton story to a whole new level as they teamed up to co-write this screenplay. Currently his feature “Cry from the Sea” starring Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis), Dominic Cooper (Mama Mia), Aidan Quinn (Michael Collins) and Sarah Bolger (In America) is shooting in Ireland.

The screenwriters are hoping their film will bring movie-goers into the group of fans who can look past the many problems Payton had to see her true innocence, beauty and talent. If her story were unfolding in this era of the "Me Too Movement" she might have been helped and treated with dignity, rather than discarded and pushed into the gutter of Hollywood trash.

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  • John O'Dowd on

    Thank you, Connie. I’m very much hoping it happens for Barbara.

  • connie theil on

    Wow! I am so happy and cannot wait to see the film. Exciting!

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