Thursday, December 10, 2009

R.I.P Gene Barry

The Original Martian Repellent

When a huge celebrity of the hour overdoses on his toilet or crashes his SUV (...) every single media outlet on the planet makes a huge dish out of it and serves leftovers for weeks. But when a great of the past expires away quietly at an advanced age, nobody seems to care. Or does so much too late and improperly. Hence my writing about the passing today of a little-remembered but once-beloved actor, Eugene Klass aka Gene Barry, who died this Thursday December 10th of unknown circumstances. He was 80 years old.

Barry started out on his talent and scholarship as a local singing sensation, taking the radio and stage scene by storm in the 1940s until finally getting noticed by Hollywood in the early 1950s. A handful of small movie roles did little to elevate him nor make use of his vocal talent, save for a couple that fared poorly. One part however did secure a place for him in stardom: 1953's War of the Worlds, which he headlined as dr. Clayton Forrester.The part had originally been offered to Lee Marvin who declined; No offence to Marvin, but sci-fi fans are grateful...

His screen career on the rise, the actor is offered more TV work than he wished for, and reluctantly did he look at such offers until a proposal to portray real-life wild west lawman Bat Masterson, gentleman who relied on his wit and gold-adorned cane rather than guns to take criminals down. The show lasted only 3 season but reached cult status almost immediately, ensuring Barry a typecast yet long career on the tube.

In 1963 came his second TV hit, just a s short as the previous but equally beloved: Burke's Law saw Barry as a chief of detectives who also happens to be a wealthy playboy. The series' cult following inspired ABC to revive it in 1994, for an appreciated but unsuccessful single season. A third show followed, this one offering a much different and original format: The Name of the Game, where three series star would each in turn start in their own individual episode. Barry played newspaper owner Glenn Howard, with Robert Stack and Anthony Franciosa playing his star reporters. Again only 3 seasons, again beloved but little remembered.

14 years of playing the elegant justice-maker on the tube made it nearly impossible for him to break out on the big screen any longer nor to explore further series of his own on TV, and thus Gene spent the remaining of his career either guest-starring on shows or returning to his first true love, Broadway musicals, where he met with great success and recognition. By the end of the 1980s he all but retired, appearing only occasionally in TV shows when specially requested to do so. His last appearance was for Steven Spielberg's own adaptation of War of the Worlds in 2005, for a cameo that confirmed his status as the star to a sci-fi cult classic of Hollywood's Golden Era.

No comments:

Post a Comment