Hollywood’s Original Bad Girl


“I went out with every big male star in town.
They wanted my body
and I needed their names for success.
There was my picture on the front pages
of every paper in the country…
Today I live in a rat infested apartment
with not a bean to my name
and I drink too much Rose wine. …
Does it all sound depressing to you?
Well, I’m not ashamed.”


When it comes to train wrecks, few hold a candle to the beautiful, but ravaged, Barbara Payton. One of the great “lost” autobiographies of Hollywood Babylon history, I Am Not Ashamed is the memoir of Barbara Payton, the 1950s film noir star who acted alongside greats like Jimmy Cagney and Gregory Peck – only to be fired by the studios for her wild (and very public) love-life… and ultimately walk the streets of Hollywood as an alcoholic prostitute. But, as she says throughout, she is not ashamed of her life.


She achieved rare success in the Hollywood system and went down in an archconservative era, when McCarthy threatened the country’s free speech and Hollywood producers ran terrified of even a whiff of scandal. When Payton’s boyfriend, actor Tom Neal, pounded a concussion into his effete romantic rival Franchot Tone, the whole incident went public and made Payton the Hollywood bad girl – too bad, as it turned out, for Hollywood to handle.

From 1955 to 1963, there were several skirmishes with the law – passing bad checks, public drunkenness, mental illness, drug abuse, and, ultimately, prostitution. Gutsy, vulnerable–and doomed–Barbara Payton blazed across the motion picture stratosphere in record-time, only to collapse in a catastrophic free-fall from which she would never recover.




~ by eaesthete on 03/16/09.

4 Responses to “Hollywood’s Original Bad Girl”

  1. Love these old Hollywood glamour shots and she’s got it in spades. Not familiar with her life, but based on the piece it was short. Went on wikipedia to read further — that was quite a brawl between Tom Neal and Franchot Tone. Neal used to be a boxer so he did some serious damage.

  2. hi- don’t know you but know you love photography and pictures. You must must MUST see EVERLASTING MEMORIES, new Swedish film, in theaters now. Terrific historical fiction, perfectly done, really, and at the end of the day, all about the power of the photo. Please don’t miss. worth a mention here too for all photography lovers. thanks.

    • Marjorie,

      How nice of you to think of me. I do love visuals, moving and still and I’ll be sure to look into ‘Everlasting Memories.’ The fact that it’s Swedish has already captured my interest.

      Thank you so much for the aesthetic alert.

  3. oops. my bad. It’s called Everlasting Moments. I know you will love it.

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