Even if you aren't a movie buff, there's a good chance you can rattle off at least a few iconic actresses from Hollywood's "Golden Age" — Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe. But what about Barbara Payton? The name doesn't carry much weight these days, but in the 1950s, she was everywhere. Hailed as the next big thing in Hollywood, Payton had all the tools to become as legendary as the classic starlets we know and love today. But, as her troubled, scandal-filled personal life grew to overshadow her promising career, the rising star burnt out in a tragic tale too large for even the big screen.
Born in Cloquet, Minnesota, Barbara Lee Redfield always had a wild side. She was rebellious from a young age, and in 1943, she eloped with her high school boyfriend shortly after her 16th birthday.
Her parents were quick to have the marriage annulled, but just two years later, she wed Air Force Captain John Payton and took his name. The couple ran off to Los Angeles, where John enrolled at USC and Barbara began modeling.
They welcomed a son, John Lee, in 1947, but it didn't take long for Barbara to grow tired of domestic life. She decided to give acting a shot, and in 1948, she was signed to a contract by Universal Studios.
A new life
By 1950, her marriage to John had ended, allowing her a full taste of everything Hollywood life had to offer. She became a regular at nearly every celebrity hotspot, waltzing in on the arm of a new man each night.