Just before he joined the cast of "Catherine Was Great," starring the incomparable Mae West, a lovely blond ingenue with a stage name of Julie Carson had been fired during rehearsals because Miss West refused to have other blondes on the stage; Julie had landed the role by wearing a dark wig. The out-of-work actress and the young employed actor eventually got together while on a double date, changed dates mid-evening, and fell in love before the night was over. Julie, whose real name Betty Claire Kalb, and Gene were married three weeks later, on October 22, 1944. They have one of the most enduring marriages in Hollywood. "She came along at a time when she could be tremendously helpful to my psyche. She gave me total belief."
During the first year and a half of their marriage, Gene was in four plays in a row - all of which flopped. In 1946, they had their first child, Michael Lewis Barry. Times were hard for the Barry family and Gene earned money as Master of Ceremonies at state fairs and theatres, and put together a club act. All the while he was waiting to make it big, Betty was being patient. In a recent tribute to his wife, Barry said, "Never once did she nag me, discourage me or ask me to take work I didn't want just so we would have no worries. She's been my true partner from the first day of our life together. It's because of her backing me all the way that I was able to finally make the grade. In a very real sense, I owe my success to her."
In 1949, Gene was given a role on "Hollywood Screen Test," a show that offered young performers the chance to further their careers by appearing in dramatic stories with well-known stars. From that exposure, a call came from the West Coast, where, in 1951, he got a contract with Paramount Studios at $1,000 a week. His first film, "The Atomic City," was followed by the critically acclaimed, "The War of the Worlds," then by "Those Redheads from Seattle," "Soldier of Fortune," "The 27th Day," and "Thunder Road."
He made 20 movies in all, performed in a number of television drama shows. He appeared briefly in the "Our Miss Brooks" series during the 1955-56 season. In 1953, their second son, Frederick James Barry, was born.
Then, after 7 long years from his arrival in Hollywood, he got his first television series, "Bat Masterson," which made him financially secure for life and brought him his greatest fame. When he was approached about the idea of starring in a Western series, he, who disdained ordinary cowboys, turned it down.
But when Barry, who as a young unemployed actor wore a navy blue homburg and black chesterfield coat while making the rounds of casting offices in New York City, heard that the character would be attired in black derby, polished boots, dark pin-striped suit with black string tie, gold vest, complete with gold-headed cane, he agreed, and the rest is history. "Bat Masterson certainly has been big for me. I, in turn, am crazy about him. He's elegant, dapper and colorful, with human failings and human attributes. Not just a one-dimensional saddle-type, but a sophisticated gentleman of the West."
The weekly 30-minute series was a big hit, but there were troubled waters after the first year. When Barry felt he wasn't getting enough money as Masterson, he walked off the set for two weeks and won a raise. Yet he once cancelled a $250,000 contract on a TV series because he was given minor status. "Money alone isn't enough."