Book Review: Barbara Payton – A Life in Pictures

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A few years ago my friend Heather got me onto the beauty that was Barbara Payton. For those who don’t know whom the blondeshell was, Payton was an up-and-coming actress in the late 40s and 50s who would pass away, destitute, in 1967. I have written an article about her before which you can find here.

Author John O’Dowd wrote the only biography on her called Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, The Barbara Payton Story. O’Dowd’s biography truly is the only one needed. It is sentimental and caring while being tactfully blunt about Payton’s poor life decisions. The book was obviously done with a huge amount of love and respect for Barbara without the burdensome undertones of “I could have saved her” that are common in fan-written biographies. Using some Facebook stalking skills that I have acquired over the years, I found O’Dowd and was happy to see that he planned to release a photo book on Payton. My eyes gleamed and I’m pretty sure I let out an audible squeak of happiness. That was over a year ago. Now, the book has been released by Bear Manor and I happily have it in my pudgy little clutches.

Let me start by saying that the book is huge and heavy. Coming in at seven pounds and 560 pages, you are going to need a large amount of bookshelf space to hold this beauty. O’Dowd begins his book by talking about his love for Barbara and giving a brief biography of the star. As far as introductions go, it’s not long (only encompassing 5 pages) and O’Dowd discusses his love for Barbara and how he views her.

O’Dowd then gets into the meat of the book relatively quickly (starting on page 18) and shows us the life of Barbara. We see her life laid out from her childhood to her tragic demise. You can’t help but cheer for Barbara, even when she is knowingly in the wrong (such as the Tone/Neal fiasco). We see a bright, beautiful woman, just on the cusp of super stardom, lose everything within a few months and O’Dowd provides the pictures to show this destruction.

O’Dowd’s captions are well thought out and include his own words, snipes, or quotes from others about Payton. The reader truly does get a full picture of Payton. An especially emotional part of the book is where O’Dowd included newspaper lines from her passing.

Now, what this book is not is a biography on Payton. It can most certainly appeal to those who want to learn about Payton but I think it is best purchased as a companion piece to Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. While O’Dowd lavishes the reader with over 1,000 pictures, it helps to read his biography on her as well to receive a more complete picture of Payton. This is not a slam against O’Dowd, if he had included the text of Kiss and this book, it would have been well over 1,000 pages.

I own over 700 books on Old Hollywood and the stars that participated in it. I buy a lot over the course of the year, both new releases and old. I can honestly say that this was my best purchase of the year. It’s beautiful, well researched, and introduces the world to one of Hollywood’s brightest (and most notorious) stars. You can purchase the book by clicking here.

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