BARBARA PAYTON: A LIFE IN PICTURES (hardback)
Author John O’Dowd revisits the life of the late Hollywood actress Barbara Payton in his new hardcover BearManor Media book, titled Barbara Payton: A Life in Pictures. An image driven follow-up to his first BearManor book on Barbara’s life and times, 2007’s Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story, the project contains over 1,000 photos and 550 pages, and offers an enlarged perspective of Barbara’s fascinating, if brief and star-crossed life.
Collected over the past two decades from dozens of sources—both in the United States, and abroad—the images in the book run the gamut from family photos and studio portraits, to candids, news photos, movie ads, and film stills. Accompanying the photos and their captions are over 170 quotes about Barbara and her life that have been culled from newspapers of the day, as well as from several people who knew her intimately. Hopefully, the combination of photographic and written material in the book will help provide a deeper understanding of Barbara, and what remains one of Hollywood’s biggest, and most shocking, self-inflicted tragedies.
Along with this new book and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story, John O’Dowd is the co-author of the 2017 BearManor Media audio book, My Friend, Yvette Vickers: In Her Own Words, which contains a two-hour interview the late cult actress recorded for John a few years prior to her heartbreaking, 2011 passing, as well as another two hours worth of personal messages Yvette taped for John over the course of their ten-year friendship.
An audio version of Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story is currently being narrated by renowned voice actor and radio host David “Ghosty” Wills for a 2019 release, and the book has recently been optioned for a feature film project by producer Christopher Kopp, Director of Production and Development at Focus Features. Band of Brothers and The Sopranos actor and screenwriter Frank John Hughes is adapting John’s book for the (as yet untitled) screenplay.
"There are fewer tales in Hollywood lore that are sadder than that of Barbara Payton. Payton (1927-1967) was an actress and model who made 14 films between 1949-1955. She showed great promise at the dawn of her career, getting terrific notices for her work in the gritty film noir Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), opposite legendary movie tough guy James Cagney. She was placed under contract to Warner Brothers, appearing on screen with big names such as Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck. But her tumultuous personal life, which included affairs with a number of married men in Hollywood, garnered her a great deal of bad tabloid press. The suits at Warner decided that she was more trouble than she was worth and cancelled her contract. In 1951, the year after her greatest screen triumph, she was reduced to starring in B movies like Bride of the Gorilla. In 1955 her film career ended, and by the 1960s, Payton was living on skid row, working as an alcohol-ravaged prostitute. When she died in 1967, she looked far more older than her 39 years.
A lot has been written about Payton since her passing over 50 years ago, much of it negative. But one man, author John O'Dowd, saw the humanity in Payton. In 2007 he published Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story, a full-length biography which, for the first time, told the complete story of this most complicated woman. O'Dowd didn't gloss over the negative aspects of her life, but he also included her positive traits, such as her generous, kind heart and the deep love she had for her son, her only child. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye was well received, and now, a dozen years later, O'Dowd follows up his original tome with Barbara Payton: A Life in Pictures, a handsomely mounted and impressive coffee table book which, as the title states, tells Payton's story through photographs. Hundreds of photographs.
The book is divided into 34 chapters and begins with Payton's childhood in small-town Minnesota. Photos provided by her family reveal a beautiful and happy child, without a hint of the horrors that were to come. The second chapter is devoted to John Lee Payton, Barbara's son. These photos illustrate what a devoted and loving mother she was and serve as a sharp contrast to both the film star Payton became and the tragic figure she ended up as. Author O'Dowd has done his homework, as he was in direct contact with the younger Payton and other members of Barbara's family. These photos come from the personal collections of those who knew Barbara best.
Two of the most impressive chapters are 3, Modeling and Socializing in Hollywood, and 8, In The Warner Brothers Still Gallery. The photos in these chapters, most of them professionally posed for, display a woman of stunning good looks who certainly had that elusive "star quality." Payton was a knockout, and knew that the camera was her friend. She knew how to show herself off to her best advantage-there's no question that Payton had the potential to become a major star and might have been one of Hollywood's legendary leading ladies, had her personal life not gotten in the way of her work. Each of Payton's 14 films gets its own chapter. Each includes posed stills, behind-the-scenes shots, and, in some cases, actual scenes from the film. Again, these shots reveal a stunningly beautiful woman, one who took her work seriously and delivered 100%.
Barbara Payton includes many photographs from the actress's ill-fated romances with Hollywood leading man Franchot Tone and movie tough guy Tom Neal- these relationships netted Payton tabloid press of the worst kind and led to the demise of her film career. Also included are press photos from Payton's final years in Hollywood, when she made a sad, aborted attempt at a comeback and slid further and further into alcohol abuse and prostitution. At this point in her life Payton was completely deluded, still believing herself to be the star she no longer was. She saw the tabloid headlines she got during this period as proof that she was still a celebrity and could not see that she had destroyed her life.
O'Dowd avoids judging Payton and simply presents what is, the good and the bad. He does a remarkable job of painting a complete and quite sympathetic portrait. O'Dowd's research is impressively meticulous- at the end of the book he includes screen shots of the coroner reports filed on the day she died, as well as her death certificate and autopsy report. Also included are more than a dozen pages of the sensational tabloid headlines Payton received during her lifetime.
Barbara Payton: A Life in Pictures is a superb and exhaustive work, a must-have for anyone who's read any of the negative articles that have been written about Payton since her death. Here's a book which gives a fully balanced view of a life which should have had a happier ending. The book also serves as a reminder of what a cruel and unforgiving town Hollywood can be. Barbara Payton deserved better than what she got. Thanks to John O'Dowd, she has gotten her due."
- David-Elijah Nahmod
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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