Actor Gene Barry, dapper TV hero, stage star, dies


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gene Barry, who played the well-dressed man of action in the television series “Bat Masterson,” ”Burke’s Law” and “The Name of the Game,” has died at age 90 of unknown causes, his son said Thursday.

Fredric James Barry said the actor died Wednesday at a rest home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills.

Gene Barry essentially played the same character in all three series, which spanned the 1950s to the 1970s. Always fashionably dressed, the tall, handsome actor with the commanding voice dominated his scenes as he bested the bad guys in each show.

In the first of the three, the Western “Bat Masterson,” he was a frontier dandy who rarely resorted to gunplay, choosing instead to beat his rivals senseless with a gold-handled cane.

Before he landed the role in 1958, Barry’s movie career appeared to be on the rise, and he was at first reluctant to play Bat Masterson. He had starred in the science-fiction classic “Invaders From Mars” in 1953 and opposite Clark Gable in “Soldier of Fortune” in 1955.

He said he was won over to TV when he learned that lawman Masterson had worn a derby and carried a gold-handled cane in real life.

“I went over to the wardrobe department, picked out a brocaded vest, looked in the mirror, and there was this elegant gentleman,” he recalled in 1999. “I said, ‘Hey, that’s Bat! That’s me!'”

After two decades as a TV star, Barry found himself typecast as a television actor and never returned to prominence in films. Instead, he stayed active with stage appearances and dozens of TV guest appearances.

He sang in such musicals as “Kismet” and “Destry Rides Again,” and created the Broadway role of Georges, the gay night club owner in Jerry Herman’s hit musical “La Cage aux Folles.” That role brought him a Tony nomination in 1984.

Barry appeared in the last season of Eve Arden’s hit sitcom “Our Miss Brooks” — as a P.E. teacher who pines for Miss Brooks — before landing “Bat Masterson” in 1958.

After the show ended its run on NBC in 1961, Barry moved to ABC to star as an LA detective in “Burke’s Law,” which lasted until 1966. The show was revived on CBS nearly 30 years later with Barry again in the lead but lasted only one season.

“The Name of the Game” (1968-1972) offered an innovation: three suave actors — Barry, Robert Stack and Anthony Franciosa — alternating weekly in their own self-contained adventures. The only connective element: All were part of an investigative magazine of which Barry was the flamboyant owner.

When the series folded, Barry filmed a syndicated show, “The Adventurer,” in England.

He was born Eugene Klass in New York City in 1919, and he met his wife, Betty Claire Kalb, when both were performing in the city. They were married 58 years, until her death in 2003.

Barry is survived by his three children, Michael, Fredric and Elizabeth, as well as three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.