Barbara Payton

Happy birthday to actress Barbara Payton, born Nov. 16, 1927 in Cloquet, MN. Leaving high school without graduating, Payton married in 1944 and moved to Los Angeles with her husband. However, she wasn’t satisfied with the life of a housewife and decided to leverage her natural beauty into a modeling career. It didn’t take long for her to BarbaraPayton1start getting jobs as an advertising and clothing model, and she eventually signed with an agency in 1947. In 1949, she caught the attention of a Universal Studios executive, who signed Payton to a contract. Her first film role was in Silver Butte (1949), but it was her third film, the noir crime drama, Trapped (1949), with Lloyd Bridges, that got people to take notice of her. In 1950, she appeared opposite James Cagney in the noir thriller, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, which launched her into stardom. Unfortunately, this would be the high point of her short-lived career. Payton was a heavy drinker and spent most of her nights living it up on the town, partying and having affairs with many prominent people in Hollywood. In 1950, she was engaged to actor Franchot Tone, but all the while, was having an affair with actor Tom Neal. At one point, in a fight over Payton, Neal attacked Tone and beat him into a coma. Tone ended up marrying Payton, but they were soon divorced after he discovered she was still seeing Neal. Payton and Neal tried to capitalize on all the press they received by starring together in a stage version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. But her wild lifestyle started to erode her abilities as an actress, resulting in lower quality roles in films such as Bride of the Gorilla (1951), Bad Blonde (1953), and Run for the Hills (1953). Payton and Neal also appeared together in the low-budget western, The Great Jessie James Raid (1953). There was one more noir film for Payton, the low-budget, Murder Is My Beat (1955), which would be her final film, until eight years later, when she got an uncredited bit part in the comedy-western, 4 for Texas (1963), with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the Three Stooges. By this time her life was a wreck. Years of alcohol and drug abuse had destroyed Payton’s good looks and her ability to lead a normal life. She was arrested multiple times for writing bad checks, public drunkenness, and prostitution. She slept on park benches, spent her days drinking, and turned tricks at night. Eventually, this punishing lifestyle took it’s toll, and Payton died of heart and liver failure in 1967 at age 39.


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