Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story
Barbara Payton was a beautiful, wild, and rebellious non-conformist who thumbed her nose at convention and did exactly as she pleased. She had that reckless, rock-star attitude long before it was fashionable, and that took guts in the 1940s and 50s. In a lot of ways I almost feel as if I had no other choice but to write her story. It was a desire I had for many years prior to my even beginning to work on the project, and it never left me. What initially drew me to Barbara was her unbelievable beauty. In some of her early photos, she actually seemed to me to be the most gorgeous creature ever born. After I learned what had happened to her (and to her life), I was hooked.
Barbara’s story is incredibly compelling and almost unparalleled in its many tragic elements. Yet, for all her protracted — and at times, monumental — suffering (most of it, admittedly self-inflicted), for many years she was nearly completely forgotten. I find that to be very unfair. Barbara was a skilled and talented actress with a lot of potential, and her story is timeless. As such, I believe it continues to have great value as a cautionary tale.
To me, Barbara’s life story is the ultimate morality play. She was terribly misguided, maybe even a little naive at the outset, but very cunning and street-smart later on. A few people with whom I spoke in the writing of her book, admitted to me that they believed that her sad, tragic end was her comeuppance for how badly she had lived her life; almost as if the inevitable consequence for a female practitioner of sexual liberalism is a miserable life and a horrible death. It is scary to me that some people still think that way. After studying her life for all these years, I can say without hesitation that I know few stories with more pathos than Barbara’s. I felt a huge responsibility when documenting her story — both to her, and to her family and friends — and I will always hope that I didn’t let any of them down.
Writing Barbara’s biography was the hardest work I have ever undertaken, and there were many times when I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would ever be able to complete it. I felt a huge responsibility to document Barbara’s life both fairly and accurately, and that is not as easy as it sounds. Enlisting the aid of her family and some of her closest friends provided me with a truthful representation (both good and bad) of who she was to those she cared most about, and the dozens of newspaper stories about her that I used in my research gave me a lot of the factual information I needed regarding the many newsworthy events in her life. Overall, I am happy with the information I was able to gather on Barbara, and I spent many hours and several years documenting it as impartially as I could.
Some of the reviews that John’s book has received on Amazon:
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard read for me, but the whole story at last. April 2, 2007 By John Lee Payton
Right off, let me note that this book is about my mother, Barbara Payton, so of course I have a strong reason to care about it. My initial reluctance to be interviewed by Mr. O’Dowd, and my deep doubt about the use for another person out to make money off my mother made it a hard sell. But, I came to know John and trust him to tell the whole story, to tell it from all sides, to research it to an extent that would be laudable for any biography, and to include the good and the bad, leaving it for the reader to reach his or her own conclusion. I love my mother and have always been proud of her, but I’m realistic that her life was mostly great success and great failure. The author has done a good job. I found the book a pleasure and an agony to read, but I’m grateful for it and hope you will give it a read. It is a fine piece of work. – John Lee Payton
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Best Books Of Its Kind, February 15, 2013 By Jake Hinkson
This deeply researched and passionately written book captures the tragically self-destructive Barbara Payton in all her terrible glory. “Terrible” because Payton was a woman beset by demons which ultimately destroyed her. Her fall from grace was rapid and harrowing, and there are passages of this book so disturbing they’re quite impossible to forget.
But John O’Dowd also captures the glory of Barbara Payton, the gentle soul of a lost and lonely woman. He remembers the undeniable movie star presence that lit up the screen in Trapped (1949) and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950). More than that, though, O’Dowd lets us in on the woman behind the tabloid scandal.
O’Dowd’s biography is one of the best of its kind–it’s a recovery project. While it is brutal and unflinching, its most important quality is its empathy. It gives Barbara Payton back something that she lost in the scandal sheets: her humanity.
A great book, highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but damned….., October 27, 2012 By Clayton
l read this brilliant book and could not put it down…..it haunted me for days and l could not get some of the disturbing photos of Barbara out of my mind….This book serves as a warning for the many young women who contemplate going to Hollywood……..What happened to Barbara, shouldn’t have happened at all…. She let success go to her head and did not consider the consequences of her actions…The most disturbing part of the book…..and the saddest is that once her career started to nosedive, not one of her Hollywood acquaintances tried to help her…She was so beautiful and so talented, however for some unknown reason she was self destructive….Had she had some sort of help, maybe her life would have been different??….Sometimes the price of fame, is not worth the pain it brings people….R.I.P. Barbara, l hope you have found the peace and tranquility that you were unable to obtain during your lifetime.
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn’t put it down for an entire week, and I still carry it with me, October 20, 2011 By Delbert Botz
That “I couldn’t put it down thing” is bandied about by critics and readers a lot, but in this case, I literally couldn’t. I read it on the bus, I read it at work, I brought it to my friends’ houses and pulled it out of my backpack and read it every time one of them would go to the kitchen or take a phone call. “Thoroughly engrossing” is an understatement to say the least; it’s one of the most well-researched, excellently written biographies I’ve ever stuck my nose in. Barbara’s story is more than your standard “descent into hell” car wreck (although there’s plenty of that, too). It’s almost life changing. It can really make you re-think the knee-jerk reaction we may have to laugh at a self-destructive celebrity. There were so many times I wanted to reach into this book and grab Barbara and scream, “Don’t run back to that guy! Don’t burn that bridge! Don’t blow your one last chance!” And it’s because, in reading this book, I really began to care for her. When we see falling-down drunk actresses crashing cars and missing court dates and getting fired from yet another film, it’s easy to say, “Oh, that crazy broad! I wouldn’t do that if I were in her position.” But this book isn’t merely a series of dramatic, removed “headlines” that are easy to dismiss as someone else’s problems. It charts, in an objective-yet-heartbreaking way, a blow-by-blow account of how someone’s unchecked personal problems, which at first make them “charismatic” and “unpredictable” and “wild” to a Hollywood hungry for new blood, can snowball into ultimate destruction when you’re not emotionally qualified to handle your new popularity, and the very people who built you up turn on you. The prospect that Hollywood was (and still is) a hypocritically conservative town that makes a living selling sex and “wild ways,” yet will not hesitate to turncoat and crucify anyone deemed too “intense” or “sexually liberated” is not a new revelation, I just never really took it personally before I read this book.
Thanks to Barbara, I will never mock a drugged out has-been on a reality show or entertainment news story again.
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely the best biography I have ever read!, October 16, 2009 By Mike Farmer
Barbara Payton was a beautiful young woman from Minnesota who went to Hollywood via west Texas to become a movie actress in the mid to late 1940’s. For a very short time, it appeared that she could become a real star, before questionable decisions regarding self discipline, truly focusing on an acting career, and the choices of male companions she made, cut short her promising future in the film business.
John O’Dowd has documented Barbara’s story in this outstanding biography. Quite simply, this is by far the best biography I have ever read, and I have read a great number. Never have I read a more compassionate biographer who made every effort to get it right, and I mean get it absolutely and completely right.
Mr. O’Dowd has written the book in a very interesting, page-turning way to show Barbara’s family and upbringing; her life, both public and private; and her acting career, short and meteoric as it was. He reveals the complete human being, and shows that not only was Barbara beautiful physically, she was also multi-talented, and she was a good person in the eyes of those who really knew her. All this was against a background of a much different America and Hollywood from today.
The sheer number of people interviewed about every facet of her life, and the many different points of view and opinions brought forth as a result, was remarkable. The many photos throughout the book, their placement, and the way they complemented the text added greatly to the reading experience.
Barbara Payton’s son, John, wrote an excellent foreword, and his quotes throughout, added a great deal to the book, as did those of Jan Redfield, Barbara’s best friend and sister-in-law.
As an aside, the book’s cover, front and back, is one of the most fitting and most attractive I have ever seen. It has Barbara’s “film noir” actress pose in the foreground, and Sunset Boulevard in the background, and her photo and quotes about her on the back. It seems to capture the atmosphere of that time as far as Hollywood went.
John O’Dowd has written a classic, comprehensive biography that I sincerely recommend. You will not be disappointed.
My tribute website to Barbara Payton was launched a few years before I had even finished my work on her biography, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story. I wanted a place on the Internet where Barbara was described and represented positively, both in pictures and words, and where she could shine in a good light. I hired a fantastically talented web designer named Lynn Powell Dougherty (www.lynnpdesign.com) to create a site that Barbara’s fans, as well as her family and friends, could enjoy. This site has been an effective promotional resource for my biography on Barbara, and I have also used it to share many photos I obtained of Barbara over the years. Some of these visuals were featured in my first book; others I hope to include in a subsequent photo book on her life that I am currently assembling. The website has also been a nice way for some of Barbara’s fans to get in touch with me and share their own experiences or feelings about her. For the most part, people have been kind, compassionate, and respectful of her memory, which I know that her family appreciates.
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