November 16, 1927 in Minnesota Barbara moved to Odessa Texas with
her family when she was eleven. She was a popular actress from 1949
to 1963 appearing opposite some of the greatest stars of the time
including Lloyd Bridges, James Cagney, Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck.
the daughter of Erwin Lee ("Flip") and Mabel Irene (Todahl)
Redfield, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants. Her father started
his own business, a court of tourist cabins, "Antlers Court",
anticipating it would turn out to be a profitable enterprise in a
city like Odessa, whose population was booming due to the oil
As Barbara was growing into maturity, her good looks were also
blossoming, which garnered the attention of local men. 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 sixteen-year-old eloped with high school
boyfriend William Hodge. The marriage seemingly amounted to nothing
more than an act of impulsive, teen-age rebellion, and Payton did
not fight her parents' insistence that the marriage be annulled. A
few months later, she quit high school in the eleventh grade. Her
parents 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.
starred in her first film in 1949 and soon after took the lead role
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, co-starring James Cagney. When her acting
career began to decline, Payton appeared in low-budget films and on
the covers of tabloid magazines, and later became destitute and
increasingly dependent on alcohol and pills. In 1961 she was evicted
from her apartment, and she was arrested for solicitation in 1962.
In 1963 she worked with the journalist Leo Guild on her memoir,
I Am Not Ashamed. Four years later, Payton died May 8, 1967 from
alcohol-related causes at the age of thirty-nine.
Remember in Odessa when...