The Law of Contact

Don ‘Red’ Barry

by Frank M. Roberts


Okay, buckaroos and buckaretts - here is another item about the B-western stars of yesteryear to add to my previous 'educational' stories about cowboy screen heroes - and, a heroine (not the drug) or two.

This time, a look at a carrot-topped hero? No. Don 'Red' Barry had nary a red/orange follicle up there. Donald Barry De Acosta was often billed as Don 'Red' Barry - but - and this is a big butt (whoops, I mean 'big but') - He didn't have red hair. The only red above and/or around his neck was on his name tag. Go figger.

He was a Texan, though, born in Houston, the town made famous, in song, by Larry Gatlin. He entered the world waaay early on -- Jan. 12, 1912. He was a non-singin' cowboy - didn't even sing, 'Barry' Me Not on the Lone Prairie."

Height-wise, he was abbreviated; romance-wise, he got around. He married two of Republic Studios' female stars -- Peggy Stewart, and Helen Talbott.

Mayhap (mayhap?) he is 'famous-est' as the star of the first "Red Ryder" in the 12-chapter serial in 1940 and, from 1942 to 1945 he made the top-ten list - so, 'ride 'em cowboy'. As you probably figured, his nickname emanated from that role. The character was later played by Wild Bill Elliott and Alan Lane.

Ride 'em, he did. In 1939 he began a two-year deal with Lippert Pictures. (Did he tell the bad guys -- don't give me no Lip pert?). The productions were mostly low budget westerns - or - lower than low. Then, from 1951 to 1954 he worked exclusively in television.

Western flick fans - in spite of budgetary restrictions - enjoyed his excellent entries and, they enjoyed his well-known, well-loved sidekicks such as Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Emmett Lynn and, finally, Wally Vernon.

Red could probably have continued shootin' 'em up for many more years but, he decided to throw in the towel (along with two washrags). His name was no longer above the title, but face and body were ever-present. In the late 1950s he turned in excellent performances in episodes of "Sugarfoot," "Cheyenne," and "Bronco." And, he was a cast member of "Surfside Six," in 1960.

'Red' remained active right up to his death in all types of roles with old friends such as John Wayne.

A couple of his best films were, "Black Bills Express," (filmed in 'Red' and 'black') and "Days Of Old Cheyenne." (In the latter movie he ran a shoeshine stand - see - "Days Of Old -- ".

More flicks. He was the "Cyclone Kid," working with Lynn Merrick and John James. And, with Mr. Vernon, Helen Talbott, and (love this name) Twinkle Watts, he appeared as "California Joe." He starred in "Stagecoach Express," with Miss Merrick and Al St. John.

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Barry was a talented character - a screenwriter, director, college football player. All looked good but, all was not at all well. Following a domestic dispute with wife no. 2, he committed suicide. He left two daughters behind.

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We always close these epistles with looks at supporting players and, this go-'round I will check on Lee 'Lasses' White who began his pro life as a minstrel man. He was born in 1885, died in 1949 and, after retiring from his 'minstrelsy' he moved to California. Retired? That was the intent but he ended up in motion pix.

The Willis Point TX. native first worked as a stagehand in Dallas, again in minstrel shows, playing vaudeville and in tent shows. In movies he became a 'character-comedian' working with such cowboy luminaries as Tim Holt. Pix included, "Cyclone On Horseback," "Sergeant York," "Rolling Tumbleweed," "The Roundup," "The Outlaw," in which he and Jk. Beutel went virtually unnoticed, and "Scattergood Baines."

The masses enjoyed "Lasses."

Watch Don 'Red' Barry Movies —»

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