“My earliest dreams were of acting and I have never considered anything else.” Gene Barry
American actor Gene Barry (born in 1919, died in 2009) began his career on the small screen in the 1950s when he won his first regular role of Gene Talbot in the last season of the CBS sitcom “Our Miss Brooks” (1955-1956). He then starred as William Barclay 'Bat' Masterson on the western series “Bat Masterson” (NBC, 1958-1961) before gaining recognition with his Golden Globe winning role of Captain Amos Burke on the ABC detective show “Burke's Law” (1963-1965), a role he reprised in a revival show of the same name that ran on CBS from 1994 to 1995. He also starred in the series “The Name of the Game” (NBC, 1968-1971) and “The Adventure” (syndicated, 1972-1973) as well as in many TV films, including “Prescription: Murder” (1958) and “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw” (1991, recreated his role of Bat Masterson). TV shows he guest starred in included “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Love Boat,” “The Twilight Zone” and “Murder, She Wrote.” Barry launched his feature film career with Paramount Pictures in the early 1950s and starred in a number of films during the decade, including his Hollywood debut “The Atomic City” (1952) and “The War of the Worlds” (1953), the first on screen adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic novel of the same title. Four years prior to his death, he made a cameo appearance in Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation, “War of the Worlds.”
On stage, Barry was nominated for a Tony Award for his starring role in the Broadway premiere of the musical “La Cage Aux Folles” (1981), which was based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret. His previous Broadway credits include “The Merry Widow” (1943), “The Would-Be Gentleman” (1946), “Happy as Larry” (1950) and “The Perfect Setup” (1962).
Barry received the Golden Boot Award in 1987. The following year, he was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame thanks to his contribution to live theater.
On the personal front, Barry and his wife, Betty Barry (together from 1944 until her death in 2003), had three children (two biological sons and an adopted daughter). He was a passionate political activist and was known for supporting Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He was present at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when the politician was assassinated.
Childhood and Family:
Eugene Klass, who would late be popular as Gene Barry, was born on June 14, 1919, in New York City, New York, to Eva and Martin Klass. He adopted his professional name in honor of his idol, John Barrymore. As a child, Gene excelled in singing and playing the violin and was given a scholarship to the Chatham Square School of Music for his vocal ability. He stayed in the school for two years.
On October 22, 1944, at age 25, Gene married Betty Claire Kalb, who was an actress known by the stage name of Julie Carson. They met during rehearsals of the 1944 Broadway show “Catherine Was Great,” but Betty was fired before opening night because of her blonde hair.
Their sons, Michael and Frederick, were born in 1946 and 1953, respectively. In 1967, the couple adopted a daughter named Elizabeth. Gene and his wife would remain together until Betty's death on January 31, 2003, in Los Angeles, CA.
Gene passed away of congestive heart failure at age 90 on December 9, 2009, in Woodland Hills, California. He is survived by his three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The War of the Worlds
Gene Barry began his career on Broadway at age 23 when he landed the role of Captain Paul Duval in a revival of Sigmund Romberg's “The New Moon” (1942). He then portrayed Falke in the musical “Rosalinda” (1942), Nova Kovich in the revival of “The Merry Widow” (1943, opposite David Wayne), Lieutenant Bunin in “Catherine Was Great” (1944, with Mae West), Dorante and Comte De Chateau-Gaillard in “The Would-Be Gentleman” (1946) and appeared in “Happy as Larry” (1950, with Burgess Meredith). He also portrayed various roles in the musical revue “Bless You All” (1950).
Barry made his television acting debut in 1950 with guest spots in “The Clock” and “Believe It or Not” and the notable role of Orlovsky in the “NBC Television Opera Theatre” episode “Die Fledermaus.” After signed by Paramount in 1952, he starred as Dr. Frank Addison, a nuclear physicist living and working in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the Jerry Hopper directed drama “Atomic City” (1952), opposite Lydia Clarke. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (Sydney Boehm). He went on to work with the studio in such movies as the Technicolor comedy “The Girls of Pleasure Island” (1953, as Captain Beaton), the H. G. Wells science fiction film adaptation “The War of the Worlds” (1953), where he starred as Dr. Clayton Forrester opposite Ann Robinson as Sylvia van Buren, the drama “Alaska Seas” (1954, starred Robert Ryan and Brian Keith) and George Marshall’s Academy Award nominated musical “Red Garters” (1954, with Rosemary Clooney, Guy Mitchell, and Jack Carson)
After parting ways with Paramount, Barry supported Sterling Hayden and Gloria Grahame in the drama “Naked Alibi” (1954), which was directed by Jerry Hopper for Universal International Pictures. He was then cast as Susan Hayward's photojournalist, Louis Hoyt, in the adventure film “Soldier of Fortune” (1955), which was written by Ernest K. Gann and based on his 1954 novel of the same name, played Captain Charles Laverne in the Tony Curtis adventure vehicle “The Purple Musk” (1955), starred as Frank Duncan in “The Houston Story” (1956, directed by William Castle), worked with Robert Ryan, Anita Ekberg, Rod Steiger, Phyllis Kirk and Keith Andes in the remake “Back from Eternity” (1956, produced and directed by John Farrow) and costarred with Angie Dickinson in Samuel Fuller's war movie “China Gate” (1957). He also played Jonathan Clark in the science fiction film “The 27th Day” (1957), was reunited with director/writer Samuel Fuller for “Forty Guns” (1957, starred Barbara Stanwyck), starred as Secret Agent Casey Reed in the dramatic thriller “Hong Kong Confidential” (1958) and costarred with Robert Mitchum in the cult classic “Thunder Road” (1958, helmed by Arthur Ripley).
Following a string of guest appearances in TV shows like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Loretta Young Show” and “The Millionaire,” Barry scored his first regular role on the situation comedy “Our Miss Brooks,” starring Eve Arden. He played physical education teacher Gene Talbot during the show's last season from 1955 to 1956. After the cancellation of the show, he could be seen in episodes of “The Ford Television Theatre,” “Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre,” “Studio 57,” “The 20th Century-Fox Hour,” “Playhouse 90,” “The Walter Winchell File,” “Target” and “Adventure Showcase” during the mid to the early 1950s, but did not have his next regular stint until he starred in NBC western series “Bat Masterson.” Debuting on October 8, 1958, the show ran for three seasons until June 1, 1961, and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1959 in the category of Best Editing of a Film for Television.
Barry's television breakthrough arrived when he was cast as Captain Amos Burke on the detective series “Burke's Law,” opposite Gary Conway, Regis Toomey, Eileen O'Neill and Leon Lontoc. The show ran on ABC from September
1963 to May 1965 and Barry picked up a Golden Globe for Best TV
Star – Male in 1965. Barry would later reprise his role of Amos
Burke in a revival of the show, which ran on CBS from 1994 to 1995.
Barry revisited Broadway in a 1962 production of “The Perfect Setup,” with Angie Dickinson and Jan Sterling. The show ran for five performances. Five years later, he starred as Simon Grant in the British film “Maroc 7” (1967). The thriller was directed by Gerry O'Hara and written by David D. Osborn. Costars of the film included Cyd Charisse, Tracy Reed, Elsa Martinelli, Leslie Phillips and Denholm Elliott. He went on to star with Joan Collins and Richard Todd in the British espionage movie “Subterfuge” (1968), which was directed by Peter Graham Scott. Also in 1958, Barry made his TV movie debut with the TV series “Prescription: Murder,” which starred Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo. Later that same year, he starred as Michael London in the NBC adventure movie “Istanbul Express.” He returned to series TV as a regular after the demise of “Burke's Law” as Glenn Howard on the NBC adventure series “The Name of the Game,” opposite Tony Franciosa and Robert Stack. The show ran on NBC from September 20, 1968, to March 19, 1971.
After “The Name of the Game” left the airwaves, Barry starred as Gene Bradley in the syndicated spy series “The Adventure” (1972-1973), which was created by Dennis Spooner. The show premiered in the U.K. on ATV on September 29, 1972. In between “The Name of the Game” and “The Adventure,” he costarred in the TV films “Do You Take This Stranger” (with Lloyd Bridges) and “The Devil and Miss Sarah” (both 1971).
In 1974, Barry revisited the big screen when he played Jackson Sinclair in the drama “The Second Coming of Suzanne,” which was directed and written by his son Michael. The senior Barry, who formed his own production company called the Barry Film Company in the early 1970s, also served as an executive producer on the film. After the double duty, he disappeared from the public eye and did not resume his acting career until three years later with performances in the TV miniseries “Aspen” (as Carl Osborne), the TV film “Ransom for Alice” (NBC) and an episode of “Charlie's Angels” called “Angels in the Wings” (as Frank Jason). He next performed in the stage musical “Spotlight” (1978), played Abraham in two episodes of “Greatest Heroes of the Bible” (1978) and appeared in episodes of “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat” (both also 1978) before portraying the important role of Congressman Lee O'Brien in the docudrama “Guyana: Crime of the Century” (1979), for director and writer René Cardona Jr..
Opening the 1980s, Barry supported Susan Blakely in the made for television movie “A Cry for Love” (NBC, 1980), appeared in the show “Aloha Paradise” (1981) and in the TV films “The Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite” (1981) and “The Adventures of Nellie Bly” (1981). In 1983, he returned to Broadway with a starring role in the original production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” opposite George Hearn. The role brought him a 1984 Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, but Hearn defeated him and took home the award.
The rest of the 1980s saw Barry in various TV shows, including “Crazy Like a Fox” (1986), “Shell Game” (1987), “The Twilight Zone” (1987), “Hotel” (1987), “My Secret Identity” (1988), “Paradise” (1989) and “Murder, She Wrote” (1989). He also played Glen Robertson in the TV film “Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love” (1987) and John Forest in the television thriller “Turn Back the Clock” (1989, starred Connie Sellecca).
In 1991, Barry reprised his role of Bat Masterson for the two part NBC western miniseries “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.” After appearing in the talk show “Hollywood Beat” in 1993, he recreated his Golden Globe winning role of Amos Burke for the CBS revival series “Burke's Law,” which ran from January 1994 to July 1995. Commenting on his return to TV as Amos Burke, he said, “I know this will sound immodest, but viewers missed me and have been waiting for me. I haven't been on TV much for the last 20 years, but that was my fault. I just never found parts that I really liked.”
Later, in 1999, Barry performed a cabaret act in New York City.
Barry made a guest appearance in “Hollywood Off-Ramp” in 2000. He then played Mr. Stern in the ABC TV film “These Old Broads” (2001), which became his final TV production before his death in 2009. In 2005, he, along with Ann Robinson, made a cameo appearance in Steven Spielberg' remake “War of the Worlds,” which starred Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin and Miranda Otto. The film was a hit with critics and performed well at the box office.
Golden Boot: 1987
Golden Globe: Best TV Star – Male, “Burke's Law,” 1965