The "Bat Masterson" series not only brought fame and fortune, but also gave Gene Barry broader exposure and new career opportunities. He starred on stage, performed as a singer and dancer on top-rated television variety shows with Perry Como and Dinah Shore and appeared on a special with Sid Caesar. "I did a musical, "Destry Rides Again," in Las Vegas under really difficult conditions. I was doing the series on television at the same time, and each night after the Vegas show I'd be driven back to Los Angeles to be on the set next morning. Then I'd fly back to Vegas in the evening. It was a really wearying time."
Then, like many of his TV brothers-on-horseback, Gene began to suffer from "hoss opera-itis." This imaginary virus made him brood about "losing his identity as a versatile actor" because of the single-gaited demands of his cowboy hero role. "But when I got too depressed, my wife would snap me out of it by calling me 'Mr. Cane,' to remind me how grateful I should be to that cane-wielding character."
Twenty movies hadn't made Barry a top box-office star. Yet after 18 months of his "Bat Masterson" series, he earned an estimated $300,000 yearly, including fees for personal appearances. "I'm in better shape than most western stars for guest shots because I can sing and dance."
Since all good things must come to an end, Gene Barry eventually decided it was time to quit his popular series. "After 3 years, I'd had my fill, because a series must produce so much so quickly, a weekly television show is like a lifetime in movies. You work 16- and 18-hour days. It's a golden rut. In TV there are too many intangibles that are not of your doing. Who you follow. What night you're on. Who you're up against. A movie, you make it and it gets out before the public. There are so many influences that damage you on TV that the longer I can stay out of it now, in terms of a series, the happier I will be." He announced that he'd never make another series and took a song-and-dance nightclub act through the United States and into South America.
He stayed away from the TV factories for 2 l/2 years. Then the script for "Burke's Law" crossed his desk. He saw the Amos Burke character as a return to elegance. "He had a gentle manliness, he was a gentle man, a gentleman. I said, 'O.K.', let's make a deal."
In 1963, Gene Barry became Captain Amos Burke, Chief of Detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department, swapping Masterson's town coat for a tuxedo and trading his horse in on a Rolls Royce. Burke was a handsome, suave, and witty millionaire, a role not unlike Barry's cowboy-dandy in his earlier series. He lived in a palatial mansion, and habitually arrived at the scene of a crime in his Rolls Royce driven by his chauffeur, Henry. "He was smothered in women which is an exceedingly pleasant way to earn roughly a quarter of a million dollars a year," said Aaron Spelling, producer of the show. You put all of these ingredients together and you get another outstanding series for an outstanding actor.
But it wasn't all glamour for the actor. "My average working day is up at 6:30, gulp a cup of coffee and maybe some juice in the kitchen. I don't see my wife, my sons. I'm at the studio at 7:45. We shoot at 8:30. Except for an hour at lunch, I'm at it steadily until 7-8-9 every night. I get home drained. There's just time for dinner with Betty. Then upstairs, a look at the next day's script and 10 minutes later, I'm asleep. Glamourous?"