Barbara Lang



  • Birth Name: Barbara Jean Bly


Actress Barbara Lang was a beautiful, brassy “B”-level blonde of the 50s in the Barbara Payton mold. Lang’s life was certainly not as reckless as that of Payton, who also flourished during the 1950s, but it did have its share of roller coaster rides. She also did not make as many films as Payton — three to be exact. Born Barbara Jean Bly on March 2, 1928, Barbara was the daughter of a silent movie dancer, Esther Kaufman, who went by the name Maureen Knight, and a non-professional father, Leonidis Bly. Born in Pasadena, California, she was raised in the Los Angeles area and started out her teen years toiling as a jewelry sales girl and used her nubile features and curvy figure to her advantage as a part-time model. She also earned tips as a cocktail lounge singer and piano player but avoided nightclubs per se because of the propositioning male clientèle that frequented them. Out of nowhere Lang woke up one day in late 1953 unable to move. Stricken by polio, her speech was affected and her legs and facial muscles paralyzed. Told that she might never walk again, she miraculously recovered after months and months of treatment but the lingering effects of her illness robbed her of much of her stamina and she would tire easily for the rest of her life. After her recovery she pursued an acting career, and one of Barbara’s earliest acting jobs was on a few episodes of “Death Valley Days” in 1955 and 1956. Barbara met her first husband, actor and co-star Alan Wells, on one of those episodes. The couple married in 1956. A talent scout happened to catch Barbara’s appearance on the show and MGM took an interest. As a result, she signed with the studio and began taking dramatic lessons. The starlet’s first role was a bit part in Hot Summer Night (1957). She then progressed to the lead role in the prison noir House of Numbers (1957) as the wife of jailbird Jack Palance, which was actually filmed inside the walls of Folsom Prison. It seemed Barbara was on her way. A huge disappointment then for Barbara was when she lost out on the co-starring role opposite Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock (1957). After being initially named by the studio for the part, Judy Tyler was given the coveted role instead. Tragically, Ms. Tyler was killed in a car crash shortly after the filming. Instead Barbara went on to play the supporting role of Ginger D’Amour, a 30’s gangster-styled showgirl in the film noir Party Girl (1958) starring veteran MGM stars ‘Robert Taylor’ and Cyd Charisse In the meantime Barbara tried to keep on track with TV guest roles playing sexy foils in both crime drama (“Maverick,” “77 Sunset Strip”) and comedy (“The Bob Cummings Show,” “Car 54, Where Are You?”) but things soon slowed down to a halt. With her annulment from Wells finalized in 1958 and a career going into an abrupt tailspin, Barbara attempted suicide in 1959 with an overdose of sleeping pills. She recovered but her career did not. She later married and divorced a second time. Little was heard from Barbara until her reported death from pneumonia at the relatively young age of 54 in Los Angeles.