Thursday, December 10, 2009

R.I.P. Gene Barry

I heard the news from Jim Neibaur over at Facebook, and The Washington Post’s Post Mortem blog has confirmed it—actor Gene Barry has gone to his rich reward at the age of 90. He passed on at his Woodland Hills, CA home yesterday.

Barry became a household name on television in the late 50s/early 60s by playing sharply-dressed lawmen in two popular series: the NBC-TV western Bat Masterson (1958-61) and the ABC-TV crime drama Burke’s Law (1963-65). The latter show may well be his best-remembered showcase; in so much as he reprised the role of millionaire police commissioner Amos Burke in a short-lived spin-off entitled Amos Burke, Secret Agent and a short-lived revival of the original Burke’s Law series seen on CBS in 1994-95. Law was one of the early contributions to the cathode ray tube of überproducer Aaron Spelling, and was a blueprint of sorts for later Spelling productions like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. (Each episode of Law featured a big-name guest star cast; the debut episode [“Who Killed Holly Howard?”], for example, spotlighted Elizabeth Allen, William Bendix, Bruce Cabot, Rod Cameron, Fred Clark, Jay C. Flippen, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Stephen McNally, Suzy Parker, ZaSu Pitts and Will Rogers, Jr.)

Barry’s other television jobs included a brief stint on the final season of the sitcom Our Miss Brooks (he played physical education instructor Gene Talbot, one of Connie Brooks’ many gentlemen callers when “bashful” biologist Philip Boynton left the show), The Name of the Game (1968-71), the anthology series on which he rotated with Anthony Franciosa and Robert Stack; and The Adventurer (1972-73), a syndicated series that starred him as Gene Bradley, a wealthy government agent (where did Barry’s public servants get all that loot, I wonder?) who posed as a movie star. Barry also played a role in the embryonic version of what later became the television mystery hit Columbo by co-starring alongside future star Peter Falk in Prescription: Murder (1968).

Gene Barry also enjoyed a none-too-shabby career in feature films—among those on his resume were The Atomic City (1952), The War of the Worlds (1953; he also had a cameo in the 2005 remake), Naked Alibi (1954), Soldier of Fortune (1955), China Gate (1957), Forty Guns (1957) and Thunder Road (1958). He kept busy on the stage as well, earning a 1984 Tony nomination for his work in La Cage aux Folles.

“Boys, you better stay in the foxhole—this one’s for your old captain…” R.I.P, Mr. Barry. You will be missed.

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Mike In OKC said...

This is sooo sad. I have seen so many of my old favorites pass on within the last couple of years. As an old Bat Masterson fan, this one hurts. To all those who never knew Gene Barry as Captain Burke or Bat Masterson, don't cheat yourself - make sure you catch some of his work. I have all the Bat Masterson episodes on DVD, but you can catch them online at Hulu at:

Really there's nothing else to add as Ivan said it all so well. He WILL be missed!

RIP, Gene Barry.

hobbyfan said...

I only just found out about this a short time ago via Yahoo!, then posted on my blog. I think I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time on Hulu the next few weeks reviewing old Bat Masterson reruns and maybe Name of the Game as well. I have one Bat Masterson ep on a 2-disc Western compilation DVD. I will have to pull that out again, and soon. RIP, Mr. Barry.