Barbara Payton

Barbara Payton (Dead Blondes Episode 10) by Karina Longworth

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In our Joan Crawford series, we talked about Barbara Payton as the young, troubled third wife of Crawford’s ex Franchot Tone, whose inability to choose between Tone and another actor brought all three of them down into tabloid Hell. Today, we revisit Payton’s story, and expand it, to explore her rise to quasi-fame, and the slippery slope that reduced her from “most likely to succeed” to informal prostitution, to formal prostitution, and finally to a way-too-early grave.

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Barbara Payton entering California Hospital to see Franchot Tone after his fight with Tom Neal, 1951, Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Barbara Payton entering California Hospital to see Franchot Tone after his fight with Tom Neal, 1951, Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

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Show notes:

I wrote our first episode on Barbara Payton, during the Joan Crawford series, while I was living in London, and I couldn’t get my hands on an actual copy of I Am Not Ashamed, Payton’s ghostwritten autobiography. Shortly after I returned to Los Angeles, I found a copy at Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard -- apparently it was re-released, in the US at least, in paperback shortly before I made the original episode. So though this was originally intended to be a re-run, this episode is now more new than old.

Sources:

I Am Not Ashamed by Barbara Payton

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by John O’Dowd

Notes From the Unashamed by Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun 

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Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and Barbara Payton by Karina Longworth

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable,  Chained , 1934

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, Chained, 1934

Listen, download this episode, or find on iTunes.

By the mid-1930s, Joan Crawford was very, very famous, and negotiating both an affair to Clark Gable (her most frequent co-star and the only male star of her stature) and a new marriage to Franchot Tone, who, like Joan’s first husband, was an actor who was not quite on her level of stardom. Crawford’s marriage to Tone would span the back half of the decade, as Crawford’s stardom peaked, and then began its first decline. Today we’ll talk about that, and then we’ll tell a story about what happened to Franchot Tone after Joan Crawford — particularly, the strange love triangle he entered into in the 1950s, with a gorgeous but self-destructive starlet Barbara Payton at its center.

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone

Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone

Show notes:

Every episode this season will draw from the following books about, and/or based on conversations with, Joan Crawford:

Not The Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence Quirk and William Schoell

Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Sources specific to this episode:

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story by John O’Dowd

A Woman’s View by Jeanine Basinger

This episode includes clips from the movie The Women (1939) 

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.