Saturday, March 14, 2020

Booksteve Reviews-Barbara Payton: A Life in Pictures by John O'Dowd

The story of Barbara Payton's rapid rise and fall in classic Hollywood is tragic but John O'Dowd has managed to turn her from a cruel punchline into a sympathetic woman with a riveting backstory you never saw onscreen.  In his first book, he humanized her and here, in 1000 photos, he puts a face to her story every step along the way from beginning to end. Even though you know so many of her choices turn out badly, you can't help but find yourself rooting for her. The photos are all well-captioned, each identifying those in it and not presuming you recognize them from other photos in the book. There's even some recently learned new info in some! The progression of the photos shows her rise from normal looking girl to cute model to beautiful starlet, but then you see the alcohol start to wear her down far too early, then the progression of men, then the public scandals. It's all there on her face to see and by seeing it all in order, the sadness is at times overwhelming. By the time you reach the book's--and Barbara's life's--foregone conclusion, you feel exhausted.

The book itself is unquestionably gorgeous to behold, big, thick, and heavy, with stylish but easy to follow layout throughout. Speaking as a 30 year bookseller, this book would be more than worth it at twice the price! Highly recommended!

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