By Robert Simonson
11 Dec 2009
Mr. Barry won a Tony Award nomination and Drama Desk Award nomination for his suave, dignified Georges, who owns a nightclub and puts up with the flamboyant excesses of his partner Albin with tenderness and equanimity. He originated the Herman songs "Song on the Sand" and "Look Over There." It was his final Broadway appearance in a career that began in the 1940s, when he appeared with The New Opera Company in a succession of revivals of old operettas, including The New Moon, The Merry Widow and Rosalinda. He also played opposite Mae West in Catherine Was Great. Mr. Barry met his wife, Betty, who acted under the name Julie Carson, during rehearsals. She died in 2003.
La Cage Aux Folles ran for years and ended up being a surprising career bookend for an actor best known for showy tough-guy roles in television series such as "Bat Masterson," "Burke's Law" and "The Name of the Game."
Gene Barry was born Eugene Klass on June 14, 1919, in New York to Martin Klass, a jeweler, and Eva Klass. He studied violin and singing as a boy, and got his start in show business while attending New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, when he won a singing contest and a scholarship to the Chatham Square School of Music. Soon, he was working on stage and, by 1942, Broadway. He changed his name to Gene Barry in honor of his idol John Barrymore.
Mr. Barry went to Hollywood in 1951. Movie roles followed, including scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester in "War of the Worlds" based on the H. G. Wells novel; "Soldier of Fortune," with Clark Gable and Susan Hayward; and "Thunder Road" with Robert Mitchum.
His third hit series was "The Name of the Game," from 1968 to 1971, in which he played Glenn Howard, a self-made publishing magnate with a lavish lifesytle.
His fame had dimmed a bit by the time La Cage revived his fortunes. After a year on Broadway, he joined the road company in San Francisco and played Los Angeles for a long stint. He also appeared in a one-man cabaret show entitled Gene Barry in One.
His final role was a bit part in the 2005 Tom Cruise remake of his old film, "The War of the Worlds."
He is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth, of Los Angeles, and two sons, Michael L. and Frederick J., both of Topanga, CA.