|A.K.A.||Barbara Lee Redfield|
|Was||Actor Autobiographer Prostitute Stage actor Film actor Comedian|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Humor Literature|
|Birth||16 November 1927, Cloquet, Carlton County, Minnesota, USA|
|Death||8 May 1967, San Diego, San Diego County, California, USA (aged 39 years)|
Barbara Lee Payton (born Barbara Lee Redfield; November 16, 1927 – May 8, 1967) was an American film actress best known for her stormy social life and battles with alcoholism and drug addiction. Her life has been the subject of several books, including Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story (2007) by John O'Dowd, L.A. Despair: A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times (2005) by John Gilmore and B Movie: A Play in Two Acts (2014) by Michael B. Druxman. In her brief life, she married five times.
Born in Cloquet, Minnesota, Payton was the daughter of Erwin Lee ("Flip") and Mabel Irene (Todahl) Redfield, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants.
In 1938, the family moved to Odessa, Texas. With financial assistance from his sister, Payton's father started his own business, a court of tourist cabins named Antlers Court, hoping for a profitable enterprise in a city like Odessa, whose population was booming because of the oil business.
By various accounts, Payton's father was a hard-working but difficult man, emotionally closed off, slow-talking but quick-tempered. His interaction with his children was minimal and child-rearing responsibilities were left to his wife, who occupied herself with her homemaking duties and managing family difficulties. Both of Payton's parents had long-standing problems with alcohol. Payton's first cousin, Richard Kuitu, remembers visits to the home of his uncle and aunt. The Redfields often started drinking at mid-morning and continued long after midnight. Kuitu recalls the violent temper Lee Redfield had when fueled by alcohol, which sometimes resulted in the physical abuse of Redfield's wife.
As Payton was growing into maturity, her good looks were blossoming, which garnered her attention. This type of attention was valued, even encouraged, by her mother. She was known as a lively girl, willing to please, and she learned early in life that she had a potent effect on the opposite sex.
In November 1943, the then 16-year-old eloped with high school boyfriend William Hodge. The marriage seemingly amounted to nothing more than an act of impulsive teenage rebellion and Payton did not fight her parents' insistence that the marriage be annulled. A few months later, she quit high school in the 11th grade. Her parents, who did not believe that formal education was needed for success in life, did not object to her leaving high school without a diploma.
In 1944, she met her second husband, decorated combat pilot John Payton, who at the time was stationed at Midland Army Airfield. The couple were married on February 10, 1945 and moved to Los Angeles, where John Payton enrolled at the University of Southern California under the G.I. Bill. It was still early in their marriage when Barbara, restless and feeling confined by her life as a housewife, expressed a desire to pursue a modeling or acting career.
Payton started a modeling career by hiring a photographer to take photos of her sporting fashionable outfits. This portfolio attracted the attention of Saba of California, a clothing designer, which signed her to a contract modeling junior fashions. In September 1947, the Rita La Roy Agency in Hollywood took her on and brought her work in print advertising, notably in catalogs for Studebaker cars and in clothing ads for magazines such as Charm and Junior Bazaar.
The couple had a son, John Lee, on March 14, 1947. Payton managed to combine the responsibilities of wife, new mother and professional model, yet the marriage was strained and the couple separated in July 1948. Payton's drive, fueled by her high-energy personality, had become focused on promoting her career and showcasing her beauty around the town's hot spots.
Her notoriety as a luminous, fun-loving party girl in the Hollywood club scene caught the attention of William Goetz, an executive of Universal Studios. In January 1949, he signed her at age 21 to a contract with a starting salary of $100 per week.
After her divorce from Payton in 1950, she lost custody of their son in March 1956 after her ex-husband charged that she exposed John Lee to "profane language, immoral conduct, notoriety, unwholesome activities" and failed to provide the boy with a "moral education".
Payton first gained notice in the 1949 film noir Trapped co-starring Lloyd Bridges. In 1950, she was given the opportunity to make a screen test for John Huston's production of the forthcoming MGM crime drama The Asphalt Jungle. The part of the sultry mistress of a mob-connected lawyer went to Marilyn Monroe.
After being screen-tested by James Cagney and his producer brother, William, Payton starred with Cagney in the violent noir thriller Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in 1950. William Cagney was so smitten with Payton's sensual appeal and beauty that her contract was drawn as a joint agreement between William Cagney Productions and Warner Bros. at a salary of $5,000 per week, a large sum for an actress yet to demonstrate star power at the box office.
For a relative newcomer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, Payton managed to hold her own among a cast of Hollywood veterans. Her portrayal of the hardened, seductive girlfriend, whom Cagney's character ultimately double-crosses, was praised in newspaper reviews of the movie. Her acting skills were recognized and her significant screen charisma widely acknowledged.
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye was the high point in Payton's career. Her screen appearances opposite Gary Cooper in Dallas (1950) and Gregory Peck in Only the Valiant (1951), both westerns, were lackluster productions that did little to highlight her skills as an actress. Payton's career decline began with the 1951 low-budget horror film Bride of the Gorilla, co-starring Raymond Burr.
In addition to her first two marriages and affairs with Howard Hughes, Bob Hope, Woody Strode, Guy Madison, George Raft, John Ireland, Steve Cochran and Texas oilman Bob Neal, Payton was married two more times.
In 1950, Payton met actor Franchot Tone. While engaged to Tone, Payton began an affair with B-movie actor Tom Neal. She soon went back and forth publicly between Neal and Tone. On September 14, 1951, Neal, a former college boxer, physically attacked Tone at Payton's apartment, leaving Tone in an 18-hour coma with a smashed cheekbone, broken nose and concussion. The incident garnered huge publicity and Payton decided to honor her engagement to Tone. Payton and Tone, who was recovering from his injuries, were married on September 28, 1951 in Payton's hometown of Cloquet, Minnesota. After being married, Tone discovered that Payton had continued her relationship with Neal and Tone was granted a divorce in May 1952.
The Payton-Neal relationship essentially ended their Hollywood film careers. They capitalized on the notorious press coverage by touring in plays such as The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the popular 1946 film of the same name. They also starred in The Great Jesse James Raid, a B-movie western that received a limited release to theaters in 1953. In England that year, Payton co-starred in two low-budget pictures for Hammer Films: Four Sided Triangle and The Flanagan Boy (a.k.a. Bad Blonde).In May 1953, Payton announced that she and Neal were to be married that summer in Paris. The couple cancelled their engagement and broke up the following year.
In November 1957, Payton married George A. "Tony" Provas, a 23-year-old furniture store executive in Nogales, Arizona. They divorced in August 1958.
Later years and death
Payton's hard drinking and hard living ultimately destroyed her physically and emotionally. From 1955 to 1963, her alcoholism and drug addiction led to multiple skirmishes with the law, which included arrests for passing bad checks and eventually an arrest on Sunset Boulevard for prostitution. Payton was offered the option of being admitted to a detox unit and said, "I'd rather drink and die."
Following her brief hospitalization, Payton was driven by a county social worker to her parents' home in San Diego. She told her family's neighbor, "I never wanted to be with them, I never wanted to see them again. But here I am, and I got all the booze I want." Her parents were both heavy drinkers and engaged with Payton in unabated drinking binges.
Writer Robert Polito recalled 34-year-old Payton in 1962, when she was a frequent visitor to Coach and Horses, a Hollywood establishment on Sunset Boulevard where Polito's father tended bar. "Barbara Payton oozed alcohol even before she ordered a drink," Polito said. "Her eyebrows didn't match her brassy hair; her face displayed a perpetual sunburn, a map of veins by her nose... [S]he carried an old man's potbelly... [H]er gowns and dresses... [were] creased and spotted. She must have weighed 200 pounds... She does not so much inhabit a character as impersonate a starlet...."
In 1963, Payton was paid $1,000 for her autobiography, I Am Not Ashamed, which was ghostwritten by Leo Guild; the memoir was reissued in 2016 by Spurl Editions. The book originally included unflattering photographs of Payton and admissions that she had been forced to sleep on bus benches and suffered regular beatings as a prostitute. That year, she won a bit part in the western comedy film 4 for Texas, which was her last acting role.
In 1967, Payton was ill and seeking refuge from her turbulent circumstances when she moved to San Diego to live with her parents. On May 8, she died at her parents' home of heart and liver failure at the age of 39. Payton was cremated and her ashes interred at Cypress View Mausoleum and Crematory in San Diego; her parents who suffered from alcoholism would die a few years later.
|1949||Silver Butte||Rita Landon||Will Cowan|
|1949||Once More, My Darling||Girl Photographer||Robert Montgomery||Uncredited|
|1949||Trapped||Meg Dixon||Richard Fleischer|
|1949||The Pecos Pistol||Kay McCormick||Will Cowan|
|1950||Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye||Holiday Carleton||Gordon Douglas|
|1951||Only the Valiant||Cathy Eversham||Gordon Douglas|
|1951||Drums in the Deep South||Kathy Summers||William Cameron Menzies|
|1951||Bride of the Gorilla||Mrs. Dina Van Gelder||Curt Siodmak|
|1953||Four Sided Triangle||Lena/Helen||Terence Fisher||Alternative title: The Monster and the Woman|
|1953||Run for the Hills||Jane Johnson||Lew Landers|
|1953||The Great Jesse James Raid||Kate||Reginald Le Borg|
|1953||The Flanagan Boy||Lorna Vecchi||Reginald Le Borg||Alternative title: Bad Blonde|
|1955||Murder Is My Beat||Eden Lane||Edgar G. Ulmer|
|1963||4 for Texas||Town citizen||Robert Aldrich||Uncredited|