Sinister Cinema: Barbara Payton, Bride of the Gorilla

You can’t fool Brian Leno. He knows it’s October, and that means Halloween horror — so he dug up some cinematic Jane Hancocks to fill in his Autograph Hound Saturday crypt-keeper duties. Enjoy — if you dare!

Halloween is one of the great times of year. Leaves crunch underfoot, the air is crisp, kids dressed as goblins pester you for candy and television is filled with old ‘monster’ movies; it is what is good in life.

The story of Barbara Payton is a Hollywood horror story.

Beautiful and talented enough to be cast opposite Jimmy Cagney in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), her life spiraled into a blackness that can only elicit sympathy from the hardest Tinseltown heart.

Drugs, alcohol and even charges of prostitution were standard fare in her life and an engagement to Franchot Tone didn’t settle her down.

She was having an affair with Detour (1945) tough guy Tom Neal despite the engagement to Joan Crawford’s former husband, and things took a decidedly bad turn when Neal, a former boxer, encountered Tone in Payton’s apartment.

It couldn’t really be called a fight — Neal smashed Tone into a coma that lasted almost a day, broke his nose and caused other injuries that only a trained boxer could inflict on another man.

Payton was featured in Bride of the Gorilla (1951), a low budget flick scripted by Curt Siodmak. The movie may be terrible, but just watching Barbara Payton is a delight and well worth the time.

Her signature is rare and won’t be bought with candy corn.

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