Impulse Gamer Home

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story – John O’Dowd Book Review - -
John O'Down

Review Information

Reviewer: David Murcott
Review Date: October 2010

Book Information

Publisher: BearManorMedia
RRP: $29.95


out of 10



Few actresses in Tinseltown’s century-long history, with the possible exception of Frances Farmer, have undergone such extreme privations or suffered more extracted indignities than the beautiful, doomed Barbara Payton (1927-1967). 

Inelegantly described by Howard Hughes associate Johnny Meyer as ‘Hollywood’s biggest trollop,’ Payton spent her early years in Minnesota and the Texan dustbowl of Odessa, before moving to Los Angeles at age 21 in search of stardom.  Upon her arrival the aspiring actress promptly entered into a string of dalliances with all manner of showbiz types, including aging Lothario Errol Flynn, Bob Hope, Batman & Robin’s Robert Lowery and Gregory Peck, as well as assorted lowlifes,  clingers-on and neophytes, though she ultimately rejected Hughes himself as ‘too strange.’  The bulk of her conquests were married, which did little to endear her to the womenfolk of Tinseltown, though as Payton’s former lover Steve Hayes puts it ‘she didn’t seem to care about anything except getting laid and having a good time.’ 

Her rise to the top was almost singularly meteoric, and her decline would prove no less expeditious. In early 1949 Payton scored a bit part in the comedy Once More, My Darling, and less than a year later was starring opposite James Cagney in her best-known film, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.  She also shared screen time with Peck in Only the Valiant.  By 1951, however, the statuesque blonde had already made sufficient enemies to ensure relegation to the realm of such forgettable B-movie tat as Bride of the Gorilla.  Her career limped along for another couple of years until 1954, when at the age of 26 Payton made her final screen appearance with a role in the oft-overlooked Edgar G. Ulmer production Murder Is My Beat. 

The catalyst for Payton’s downfall, aside from her innate self-destructive tendencies, was a near-total lack of prudence.  The furore surrounding her indiscreet 1949 affair with Bob Hope saw her released from a lucrative contract with Universal before her career had even had a chance to begin, and once the love match lost its allure Payton took first to embarrassing Hope on set and then to roundly disparaging his sexual performance in the tabloids.  Finally she blackmailed him outright, threatening to inform his wife and family of his continued indiscretions unless he paid her several thousand dollars, which he did.  (She is also alleged to have pulled the same stunt on Marlon Brando in the mid-1950s).  By indulging in these and similar antics she earned the castigation of Hollywood’s ruling elite, such as studio head Jack Warner, who thoroughly disapproved of both Payton’s lifestyle and the company she kept and wanted nothing more than to be rid of her (‘She’s fucking everybody on the lot.  I gotta get rid of that cunt!’ were reported to be his exact words). 

Well, he got his wish.  Just 18 months after starring opposite the likes of James Cagney and Gregory Peck, Payton was a pariah in Hollywood, and despite her best efforts would never work in the town again.  Instead her life descended into a pitiful morass of alcoholism, drug addiction and prostitution.  Her name continued to sporadically surface in the tabloids until her death in 1967 at the age of 39, but by then Payton was a shell of her former glamorous self.  Several acquaintances reported seeing their old friend throughout the 1960s, stumbling bruised, disoriented and gap-toothed along the streets where she had once paraded as Hollywood royalty, and from earning $10,000 a week as a studio girl a now bloated and unrecognisable Payton had taken to servicing men in her dingy bedsits for five dollars a turn.   

Undertaken with the complete cooperation of Payton’s estate and featuring a foreword penned by her son, this impeccably-researched work neither sensationalises nor trivialises the life of this tormented and irrevocably damaged soul.  Despite an obvious empathy for his subject O’Dowd manages to tread a fine line between partisan and impartial, and makes no effort either to moralise or sugarcoat the degradation of Payton’s final years.  He quotes both from extensive interviews with Payton’s surviving friends, family, co-stars and associates, as well as from abundant contemporary source material, and in doing so paints the definitive picture of this singular, sad life. 

The author’s evocations are superbly illustrated in every possible sense, and the book is dotted with some 250 photographs detailing every phase of Payton’s turbulent existence, many of them extremely rare.   Those taken in 1949 and 1950 prove a heartrending counter to later shots depicting the dissolute starlet’s descent into alcoholism; gone is the confident, stunningly beautiful actress whose lasting success is all but assured, and in her stead sits a plump, waxen and slightly stunned looking figure, one who, perhaps, never fully came to terms with the cruel and unexpected twist the last decade of her life would take. 

Barbara Payton spent a few all-too-short years in the limelight, and the bulk of her remaining years enshadowed in addiction and self-loathing.  The present work more than atones for previous biographical missteps, such as Payton’s tawdrily ghostwritten 1963 memoir I Am Not Ashamed, and is, to paraphrase O’Dowd, most definitely a book that needed to be written.  Though it is a harrowing and by no means easy journey, this comprehensive exploration of the film industry’s seamy underbelly is one of the most well-crafted and solidly researched celebrity biographies of recent memory, and a deft examination of the dark side of the Hollywood dream.


   PlayStation 4
   XBox One
   PlayStation 3
   XBox 360
   PS Vita
   Wii U

   Movies & IMAX
   Crime & Thrillers


   Information & Fun

   Tara's G-Spot
   Loren's Level
   Mind & Body


Impulse Gamer is your source for the
latest Reviews and News on Video Games,
Entertainment, Pop Culture, Hardware &


© 2001 - 2021 Impulse Gamer


About Us | Contact Us