Gene Barry

Active - 1952 - 2005  |   Born - Jun 14, 1919 in New York City, New York  |   Died - Dec 9, 2009   |   Genres - Drama, Action, Mystery, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a New York jeweler, American actor Gene Barry emerged from his pinchpenny Depression-era childhood with an instatiable desire for the finer things in life. The acting profession seemed to hold out promise for fame and (especially) fortune. Making the rounds of theatrical agents in the 1940s, Barry, no matter his true financial situation, showed up dressed to the nines; grim reality soon set in, however, and the actor found himself clearing little more than $2000 a year -- on good years. When stage work seemed to yield nothing but bits, Barry turned to early television, then signed a movie contract in 1951. The only truly worthwhile film to star Barry was 1953's War of the Worlds, but even with top billing he had to play second banana to George Pal's marvelous special effects. Finally in 1956, Herb Gordon of Ziv Productions asked Barry if he'd like to star in a western. The actor resisted -- after all, everyone was doing westerns -- until Gordon pointed out that role would include a derby hat, a cane, and an erudite Eastern personality. Barry was enchanted by this, and from 1957 through 1961 he starred on the popular series Bat Masterson. The strain of filming a weekly western compelled Barry to declare that he'd never star on a series again - until he was offered the plum role of millionaire police detective Amos Burke on Burke's Law. This series ran from 1963 through 1965, and might have gone on longer had the producers not tried and failed to turn it into a Man From UNCLE type spy show. Barry's next series, Name of the Game, was another success (it ran from 1969 through 1971), and wasn't quite as grueling in that the actor only had to appear in one out of every three episodes. Always the epitome of diamond-in-the-rough masculinity, Barry astounded his fans in the mid 1980s by accepting the role of an aging homosexual in the stage musical version of the French film comedy La Cage Aux Follies. Yet another successful run followed, after which Barry went into semi-retirement, working only when he felt like it. In 1993, Gene Barry was back for an unfortunately brief revival of Burke's Law, which was adjusted for the actor's age by having him avoid the action and concentrate on the detecting; even so, viewers had a great deal of difficulty believing that Burke (or Barry) was as old as he claimed to be.

Movie Highlights

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