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Don 'Red' Barry

Sometimes known as:
Donald Michael Barry DeAcosta

Real name:
Milton Poimboeuf

1909 or 1910 - 1980

(From Old Corral collection)

Was Don Barry's real name Donald Barry or Donald Michael Barry DeAcosta ... or was it Milton Poimboeuf? Click HERE to jump to the last webpage in this Don Barry profile with info on him and the Poimboeuf family. It was updated on September 20, 2018.

(From Old Corral collection)

(From Old Corral collection)

(From Old Corral collection)

(From Old Corral collection)

Above, Don Barry and Tommy Cook (as Little Beaver) in a publicity still for THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER cliffhanger.

I've always viewed Don Barry as pugnacious, a real scrapper, and a man with a short fuse. At around five and a half feet tall, Barry was short ... but what he lacked in height, he made up in determination and energy ... and that vitality translated onto the screen. Born in Texas, he was in Hollywood in the mid 1930s doing traditional bit parts that were the norm for Tinseltown newcomers, and examples include minor roles in several of the MGM Dr. Kildare films.

He found his way to Republic Pictures where he landed several meaty roles: as Jesse James in the Roy Rogers' DAYS OF JESSE JAMES (Republic, 1939); a baddie again in the Rogers' SAGA OF DEATH VALLEY (Republic, 1939); and as the titled outlaw in the Three Mesquiteers' feature WYOMING OUTLAW (Republic, 1939). The Republic brass must have been impressed and they signed him to a term player contract on February 11, 1940.

The Barry western series kicked off in 1940 and ran for 29 films, concluding in 1944. The heroine in sixteen was pretty blonde Lynn Merrick.  The first entry, GHOST VALLEY RAIDERS (Republic, 1940) hit the screen in early Spring, 1940.

Republic had acquired the rights to the popular Red Ryder comic strip character by Fred Harman and were planning a Red Ryder cliffhanger. Though Harman's creation was thin and tall, Republic chose Barry for the role. The story goes that he objected ... but Republic boss Herbert Yates said sumthin' like "you play Red Ryder or you're out".  And as they say, the rest is history!

Released during the Summer of 1940, THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Republic, 1940; 12 chapters) was a success with Barry in the lead and Dave Sharpe stunting and doubling the star. This was also the time when Barry picked up the moniker of "Red" which would stay with him for the rest of his life.

Many of the Barry westerns were rock solid and exciting and the best ones include the first, GHOST VALLEY RAIDERS, as well as THE TULSA KID (Republic, 1940), WYOMING WILDCAT (Republic, 1941), DEATH VALLEY OUTLAWS (Republic, 1941), SUNDOWN KID (Republic, 1942), THE SOMBRERO KID (Republic, 1942), and DAYS OF OLD CHEYENNE (Republic, 1943).

Some cowboy heroes had a consistent role/name that Saturday matinee audiences would remember - for example, Sunset Carson was Sunset, Gene Autry was Gene and Wild Bill Elliott was Wild Bill. Don Barry never played "Don Barry". He was Lon or Jim or Jack or Bob or whatever. And each of his screen adventures was a story unto itself with Don often portraying a driven, vengeful character. While Wally Vernon (with that "New Yawkish" accent) sticks in my mind as Barry's primary sidekick, there were many others - Dub Taylor, Syd Saylor, Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Emmett 'Pappy' Lynn and Lloyd 'Arkansas Slim' Andrews. In some of the films, Barry had no saddle pal.

Producer George Sherman was in charge and he directed seventeen of the first eighteen.  Then Sherman was moved to other things, and musical chairs occurred as various directors came and went on the last eleven, beginning with OUTLAWS OF PINE RIDGE (Republic, 1942). Helming these were William "Bill" Witney, John English, Howard Bretherton, Spencer Gordon Bennet and Elmer Clifton. No negative implication here, as these were quality folks. But some pattern and consistency may have been lost because the boss kept changing. But that wasn't the only change. Republic assigned the young Twinkle Watts to add some juvenile appeal (Watts would later help Allan Lane). Bringing a youngster into a series had been done before.  A little curly haired moppet named Sugar Dawn was added to the early 1940s series of Tex Ritter and Tom Keene at Monogram.

Circa 1943 - 1944, Republic was loaded with talent. They had Roy Rogers, Sunset Carson, and Bill Elliott. Republic had cancelled the Three Mesquiteers after the 1942-1943 season. Barry was the next to go, and his last was OUTLAWS OF SANTA FE (Republic, 1944) which was released in Spring, 1944. Apparently this was OK with him, as he had hopes of doing other, higher grade filmwork. And from what I've read, he was also tired of doing B grade westerns. Republic may have also had enough of his temper and ego. Director William Witney wrote about him in his biography In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase (McFarland, 1995) ... and had no compliments. Witney also mentioned that director John English had issues with Barry and had to take him to a face-to-face meeting with Republic chief Herbert Yates to resolve problems.

The studio had a replacement in mind. Allan Lane had starred in serials KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Republic, 1940), THE TIGER WOMAN (Republic, 1942), KING OF THE MOUNTIES (Republic, 1942) and DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST (Republic, 1943). On March 3, 1944, Lane signed a term player contract and his first series oater, SILVER CITY KID (Republic, 1944), was completed in the Summer of 1944, a few months after Barry's last. Lane even inherited Barry's hoss "Banner".

During the remainder of the 1940s, Don occasionally returned to Republic and you can spot him in such films as: BELLS OF ROSARITA (Republic, 1945) starring Roy Rogers; Bill Elliott's THE PLAINSMAN AND THE LADY (Republic, 1946); and OUT CALIFORNIA WAY (Republic, 1946) with Monte Hale.

Beginning in 1949, he began doing features of both western and non-western varieties for Robert L. Lippert (Screen Guild and Lippert Pictures), and some of the titles are: THE DALTON GANG (Lippert, 1949), GUNFIRE (Lippert, 1950), TRAIN TO TOMBSTONE (Lippert, 1950) and I SHOT BILLY THE KID (Lippert, 1950). Several of these Lipperts featured Robert Lowery and Don's former Republic helper, Wally Vernon. It was during this period that Barry dabbled behind the camera, trying his hand at script writing, directing and producing. Lippert's organization was busy in the mid 1940s - early 1950s with movies such as the six Ron Ormond produced sagebrush quickies starring former Hopalong Cassidy helpers James "Shamrock" Ellison and Russell "Lucky" Hayden. More notable Lippert releases included Lloyd Bridges in ROCKETSHIP X-M (1950) and LITTLE BIG HORN (1951), and rough and gruff Gene Evans as the cigar chewing "Sergeant Zack" in THE STEEL HELMET (1951).

Don Barry's finale as a leading man was in JESSE JAMES' WOMEN (United Artists, 1954) and he had a hand in the writing and directing as well as being associate producer. While on location in Mississippi for that film, Barry recorded two songs for the legendary Trumpet Records, "White Cross In Korea" and "Give Me Back The Love I Gave". He doesn't talk or recite on these. He actually sings with accompaniment by a gal vocal group. There's a bit more on "Don Barry - singer" on a subsequent webpage.

From the 1950s through about 1980, he did support and character roles in scores of TV shows such as GUNSMOKE, MAVERICK, COLT .45, THE VIRGINIAN, BONANZA, THE LAWMAN, PERRY MASON, KOLCHAK:THE NIGHT STALKER, F TROOP, lots more. In the 1970s, he had brief but ongoing roles as "Jud Larabee" in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE as well as "Captain Barnes" in the Angie Dickinson POLICE WOMAN. Barry even did a villain role on the BATMAN TV show with Adam West. Bobby Copeland reminded me about SURFSIDE 6, one of many detective shows on TV which was produced by Warner Bros. (at the time, Warners was also doing MAVERICK, 77 SUNSET STRIP, many others).  SURFSIDE 6 ran for two seasons, from 1960 - 1962.  Barry played "Lieutenant Ray Snedigar" in season one (Richard Crane was "Lieutenant Gene Plehn" for season two). He also did some movies. Examples: he was a casino rep hoping to get back the stolen loot in OCEANS ELEVEN (Warners, 1960); and Barry was a movie director (and working with Boris Karloff) in FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (Allied Artists, 1958). In summary, Don Barry's 1950s and later television and and film credits are many - and this suggests he was talented and dependable ... and his earlier ego and temper issues had moderated or were under control.

Some reference material notes that Don was up for an Academy Award for his performance in THE PURPLE HEART (20th Century Fox, 1944), a movie he made on loan out from Republic. This is about a B-25 Mitchell bomber crew that was shot down during the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in the early days of World War II.  The crew is being tried for war crimes in a Japanese military court, and Barry plays "Lieutenant Peter Vincent" who endures torture at the hands of his captors.  I did check the Academy Awards database (see weblink at the end of this article), but could find no mention of Barry being among the Oscar nominees.  Regardless of the Oscar situation, Barry did a nice job in THE PURPLE HEART.

He was married twice, including a hitch to pretty B western leading lady Peggy Stewart. Son Michael was born in 1943 to Peggy and Don. Despite published information, he was not married to Republic heroine Helen Talbot. There were also a variety of stories (rumors) about Barry's romantic escapades with various starlets and actresses, including several prominent A film leading ladies.

I had a distant memory of an older Don Barry asking for donations so he could begin a new series of westerns or serials ... films that would have a clean cut hero figure that the kids of the time could look up to. Thought I had a copy of what he was advocating, but was never able to locate it in my CFS (chaotic filing system) ... until I was fanning through some 1970 and 1971 issues of Robert Malcomson's Those Enduring Matinee Idols (TEMI), a publication covering serials. Barry ran an ad asking fans for $1.00 donations in 1970 and 1971 TEMI issues and an image of the ad is further down this webpage.

Don Barry was a talented guy who did some good western films. But in real life - or in his later life - something was seriously wrong. Don Barry committed suicide on July 17, 1980. A sad ending. Counting bit parts and supporting roles on the big screen and TV, his overall career encompassed 40+ years.

You may want to visit the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral. Then go to the California Death Index and you will find a record for Donald Michael Barry, born 1/11/1911 in Texas, his Mother's maiden name was Barry, Father's name is not listed, and he passed away on 7/17/1980. There is also a record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and that shows his birth date as January 11, 1910.

The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s.  With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' cowboy film stars.  In most cases, the winners were what you would expect - Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc.  Barry was ranked in the Motion Picture Herald poll during his western series at Republic.

Popularity Rankings of Don Barry
Year Motion Picture Herald Poll Ranking
1942 9th
1943 8th
1944 7th
1945 8th

Most of the info on the Old Corral about the contracts and salaries at Republic Pictures has been gleaned from Jack Mathis' excellent Republic Confidential, Volume 2, The Players (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1992), and I've given Jack credit in the Acknowledgements & Thanks page.  The Mathis book includes information on Barry's work and contract agreements with Republic, and following are some highlights:

(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Peggy Stewart

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a blurb about Barry's marriage to Republic heroine Peggy Stewart, and director Georgie Sherman was their best man. From the pressbook for Barry's THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Republic, 1941) which was released in early 1941. The pairing was short-lived and trade publications had coverage:

  • September 11, 1940 Variety had a marriage announcement: "Peggy Stewart to Donald Barry, in Glendale, Cal., Sept. 7 (1940)."
  • November 24, 1943 Variety had a birth announcement: "Mr. and Mrs. Don Barry, son, Hollywood, Nov. 18 (1943). Father is cowboy star at Republic; mother was Peggy Stewart of the films."
  • May 27, 1944 Billboard had the divorce announcement: "Peggy Stewart, actress from Donald Barry, cowboy actor, in Hollywood April 12 (1944)."

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above, Barry in his breakthrough role as the hero of the 1940 cliffhanger, THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Republic, 1940) which was directed by Bill Witney and John English. It's a great cliffhanger, but why that hat?

Above - ad that Barry ran in 1970 and 1971 issues of Robert Malcomson's Those Enduring Matinee Idols (TEMI) publication. Looking for a million and half people to donate a dollar each.

(From Old Corral collection)

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