Gene Barry

Gene Barry (born Eugene Klass, June 14, 1919 – December 9, 2009) was an American stage, screen, and television actor. Barry is best remembered for his leading roles in the films The Atomic City (1952) and The War of The Worlds (1953) and for his portrayal of the title characters in the TV series Bat Masterson and Burke's Law, among many roles.

Gene Barry
Barry in 1959
Eugene Klass

(1919-06-14)June 14, 1919
New York City, U.S.
DiedDecember 9, 2009(2009-12-09) (aged 90)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park, Culver City
Years active1942–2005
Betty Claire Kalb
(m. 1944; died 2003)

Personal life

Barry was born Eugene Klass on June 14, 1919, in New York City, the son of Eva (née Conn) and Martin Klass;[1] all of his grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia.[2] Barry grew up in Brooklyn and attended New Utrecht High School. Barry exhibited early artistic skills with singing and playing violin as a child and later spent two years at the Chatham Square School of Music in Greenwich Village on a scholarship awarded for his vocal ability.

On October 22, 1944, at age 25, Barry married Betty Claire Kalb (February 12, 1923 – January 31, 2003), whom he met on the set of Catherine Was Great. Kalb was an actress known by the stage name Julie Carson.

He was a Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[3]


Barry chose his professional name in honor of John Barrymore[4] and made his Broadway debut as Captain Paul Duval in the 1942 revival of Sigmund Romberg's The New Moon. He later portrayed Falke in Rosalinda (1942), Nova Kovich in The Merry Widow (1943), Lieutenant Bunin in Catherine Was Great (1944), Dorante and Comte De Chateau-Gaillard in The Would-Be Gentleman (1946), The Doctor in Happy as Larry (1950), and played a variety of roles in the musical revue Bless You All (1950).

In 1950 Barry began appearing on television with the NBC Television Opera Theatre. In 1955 he appeared on the CBS Television anthology series Appointment with Adventure.

In 1951 Barry was hired for his first movie, in the role of Dr. Frank Addison in The Atomic City (1952). In 1953 he was cast as Dr. Clayton Forrester in the science fiction film The War of the Worlds (1953). (Much later, Barry also made a cameo appearance in Steven Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds (2005), along with his co-star Ann Robinson from the film of 1953.)

When the situation comedy Our Miss Brooks was given a change of format in 1955, Barry was cast in a recurring role as the physical education teacher Gene Talbot, the new romantic interest of series star Eve Arden. The show was canceled in 1956, but Barry's character—a ladies' man with expensive tastes—served as the model for three shows in which he later starred.

Bat Masterson, a fictionalized recounting of the life of the real-life U.S. Marshal, gambler, and gunman was broadcast by NBC-TV from 1958 to 1961. (In 1990 Barry recreated the role of Bat Masterson for two episodes of Guns of Paradise along with Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp and the following year in The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw, also with O'Brian as Wyatt Earp.)

In his next TV series, Burke's Law, Barry played a millionaire homicide investigator who was chauffeured in his Rolls Royce as he solved crimes. This series was broadcast on ABC-TV from September 20, 1963, to May 5, 1965. For his performance in it Barry won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in 1965. In 1965–66, the final season of the series, the title of the show changed to Amos Burke, Secret Agent.[5] In 1994 a revival of the Burke's Law series returned to television for two seasons on CBS. Barry again played in the title role, this time as a widower working with his son Peter (Peter Barton). According to his co-star Gary Conway, who played Det. Tilson in the original series, the two actually had a lot of fun, on and off camera, despite having some difficulties with each other.[6] After Conway left the show, he remained friends with Barry until his acting mentor's death.

Barry's third TV series was called The Name of the Game, in which he played the sophisticated publisher of a family of magazines, and he was one of three lead characters. The other two lead actors were Robert Stack and Tony Franciosa, who rotated with Barry week by week as the primary character in each week's program. This series was shown by NBC from 1968 to 1971. One of the magazines that Barry's character published was called People, several years before the actual People began publication.

Shortly before the filming of The Name of the Game series began, Barry played the villain—a wealthy psychiatrist— in Prescription: Murder, the two-hour pilot episode of the TV series Columbo.

In 1972, Barry starred in the ITV television series The Adventurer, along with Barry Morse and Catherine Schell. He played Gene Bradley, a government agent of independent means who posed as a glamorous American movie star.

Barry returned to Broadway acting on two occasions—in 1962 in The Perfect Setup and in 1983 in the Broadway premiere of the musical La Cage aux Folles. Barry was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Georges in Cage.

For his contribution to live theatre, Gene Barry received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6555 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1994 a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[7]


Barry died on December 9, 2009 at Sunrise Senior Living[8] in Woodland Hills, California, at the age of 90.[9] He was buried at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California[10]. His marker bears the epitaph, A Class Act. His wife, Betty, died in 2003, after 58 years of marriage.


Television credits


  1. "Gene Barry Biography (1919?-)". Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  2. Boxer, Tim (1987). The Jewish Celebrity Hall of Fame. New York City: Shapolsky. ISBN 978-0933503182.
  3. Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  4. Simonson, Robert (December 11, 2009). "Gene Barry, Original Georges in La Cage Aux Folles, Dies". Playbill. Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  5. ""Amos Burke, Secret Agent" (Four Star/ABC) Season 3 (1965–66)". Classic TV Archive. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  6. "Interview with Gary Conway". Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  7. "Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  8. McLellan, Dennis (December 11, 2009). "Gene Barry dies at 90; star of 'Bat Masterson' and co-star of 'La Cage aux Folles'". Los Angeles Times.
  9. Bernstein, Adam (December 10, 2009). "Actor Gene Barry Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  10. Wilson, Scott (August 17, 2016). "Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed". McFarland via Google Books.
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