Born in Los Angeles, California in August of 1907, Wesley E. Barry was an American actor, director and producer. A child star in silent films from 1915 to 1924, he made a successful transition in his adult years to other activities in the film industry.
In 1914 at the age of seven, Wesley Barry was noticed by a director for his distinctive facial features and given a contract with Kalem Studios, a production and distribution film company founded by screenwriter Frank J. Marion, Biograph production manager Samuel Long, and wealthy film distributor George Kleine. With his freckles covered with greasepaint, Barry made his screen debut in the 1915 “The Phoney Cannibal”, a silent short starring the child-star duo Ham Hamilton and Bud Duncan. His first appearance in a feature film was the role of a freckled school boy in Marshall Neilan’s 1917 “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, which starred Mary Pickford as Rebecca.
Noted now for his freckles, Barry soon became a much demanded child actor. In 1919, he was in Neilan’s comedy drama “Daddy Long Legs”, which starred Mary Pickford, and Cecil B. DeMille’s adventure film “Male and Female”. Barry appeared in four silent films in 1920; but it was the success of Neilan and John McDernott’s 1920 comedy drama “Dinty”, specifically written for Barry, that made him a star in his own right. Throughout the 1920s, he appeared in twenty-two screen productions, among which were the 1922 “Penrod” with Our Gang actor Ernest “Ernie’ Morrison; the 1924 comedy “George Washington Jr.” with actress Gertrude Olmstead; and the 1924 sports comedy “Battling Bunyan” with Frank Campeau, known for his roles in cowboy westerns.
Wesley Barry, grown out of his infancy, made minor film appearances in sound films throughout the 1930s. He appeared in director John Ford’s 1937 drama “The Plough and the Stars”, which starred Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Foster, and Hal Roach’s musical comedy “Pick a Star”, released through MGM in 1937 and, later, by Astor Pictures in 1954. Barry did play the lead role the 1938 western “The Mexicali Kid” in which he played under the direction of Wallace For and opposite Jack Randall. He stopped acting regularly after his appearance in the 1939 “Stunt Pilot”; his last role on the big screen was an uncredited appearance in the 1943 baseball comedy “Ladies’ Day”.
Beginning in the 1940s, Barry directed and produced films, a career which would extend thirty years. For about a decade, he directed B movies including some in the “Joe Palooka” and “Bowery Boys” series. Barry also worked in the field of television where he directed several episodes of “Lassie”, the police dramas “Mod Squad” and “The Rookies”, and the western series starring Guy Madison, “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok”. In 1952, Barry both directed the drama film “The Steel Fist”, starring Roddy McDowell, and co-produced Frank McDonald’s action film “Sea Tiger”. Among the westerns he directed were “The Secret of Outlaw Flats”, starring Guy Madison and Andy Devine, and “Trail Blazers” with Alan Hale Jr, both films released in 1953.
Wesley Barry founded his own production company Genie Production in the beginning of the 1960s. His first film though his studio, now considered a sci-fi cult classic, was the 1962 “The Creation of the Humanoids”. The film, starring Don Megowan, was based on the story of robots, disparagingly referred to as ‘clickers’, who provided android bodies to the dying, radiation-affected human race. Barry’s studio produced two more films in his lifetime: the animated 1963 fantasy “The Jolly Genie” and a 1965 television documentary “The Market”.
Barry also had a prolific career as an assistant director on many major motion pictures, most notably director Roger Corman’s 1967 American gangster film “The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre”, one of the few Corman films backed by a major Hollywood studio, in this case 20th Century Fox. Barry’s last credit as assistant director in the film industry was a 1975 episode of “The Rookies”. Wesley Barry died on the 11th of April of 1994 at the age of eighty-six in Fresno, California.
Note: Wesley Barry’s “The Creation of the Humanoids”, based on an original story and screenplay by Jay Simms, was produced on a limited budget, apparent from the film’s rudimentary sets and costumes. At a time when black and white film stock was still being used for many major productions, Barry and co-producer Edward J. Kay opted for the added expense of color film. The cinematography was done by twice-Academy Award winner Hal Mohr who used all his experience to make the best of the sets. The makeup artist was Jack Pierce who created the iconic “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” makeups for Universal Pictures.
“The Creation of the Humanoids” can be found on disc and many cable venues. It is also located at the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/tcoth44546478
Top Insert Image: John J. Mescall, “Wesley Barry”, 1935, Film Shot from “Night Life of the Gods”, Director Lowell Sherman
Second Insert Image: Film Poster, “The County Fair”, 1920 Silent Film, Directors Edmund Mortimer and Maurice Tourneur, Cinematogaphers René Guissart and Charles Van Enger
Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Wesley Barry and Molly Malone”, 1924, Publicity Card for “Battling Bunyan”, Card Stock, Director Paul Hurst, Cinematographer Frank Cotner
Fourth Insert Image: Film Poster, “Creation of the Humanoids”, 1962, Director Wesley Barry, Cinematographer Hal Mohr
Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Wesley Barry”, Date Unknown, Gelatin Silver Print
One thought on “Wesley Barry: Film History Series”
Amazing career! I want to read Penrod again and see film. I have vague memories of Penrod stories. From where? The Creation of the Humanoids seems too relevant in this time of ascending AI.