Barney Phillips was an American actor of German descent. He was born in 1913 in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name “Bernard Philip Ofner”. His father was Harry Nathan Ofner, a salesman employed in the leather industry. His mother was Leona “Lonnie” Frank, a German emigrant who became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
In 1935, Phillips moved to Los Angeles, California, in hopes of working in the film industry. His film debut was the Western film “Black Aces” (1937), a B-movie produced by Universal Pictures. He had no other credited role in films for several years, though he had several theatrical credits.
In 1941, Phillips enlisted in the United States Army. He served in the signal corps during World War II. Following the war, he returned to the film industry, working mostly as an extra.
The first notable role of his career was the recurring character Sergeant Ed Jacob in the police procedural television series “Dragnet” (1951-1959). He voiced the recurring character of police sergeant Hamilton J. Finger in the radio series “Rocky Fortune” (1953-1954). The main character of the series was amateur sleuth Rocco “Rocky Fortune” Fortunato (played by Frank Sinatra).
Phillips was a prolific character on film and television for the following decades, though he was often typecast as a police officer in these roles. In the early 1960s, Phillips appeared in several episodes of the anthology television series “The Twilight Zone”: “The Purple Testament” (1960), “A Thing about Machines” (1960) , “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” (1961), and “Miniature” (1963). He is most remembered for the “Real Martian” episode, where he played the cook Haley. In the episode, Haley helps thwart an invasion of Earth from Martians. But reveals that he is an agent from planet Venus, and that he is preparing the Earth for colonization by his own planet.
Phillips was cast in the war-themed series” Twelve O’Clock High” (1964-1967) as one of the main characters, Doc Kaiser. The series featured the missions of the fictional 918th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) in World War II.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Phillips often worked as a voice actor for animated series. He voiced the powerful genie Shazzan in “Shazzan” (1967-1969), he voiced the strongman Porthos in the “The Three Musketeers” (1968-1969), and provided additional voices in “The Funky Phantom” (1971-1972).
In the late 1970s, Phillips was part of the main cast in the short-lived sitcom “The Betty White Show” (1978-1979). He played the character Fletcher Huff, a struggling actor co-starring in a police-procedural show-within-a-show, Phillips also played the recurring character of Judge Buford Potts in the action comedy “The Dukes of Hazzard” (1979-1985).
Phillips died in 1982, due to cancer, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. A few years following his death, Phillips received his final film credit, as the character Dr. Batt in the psychological drama “Beyond Reason”. The film had been produced in 1977, but was not released until 1985. The film was mainly notable as a rare directing credit for actor Telly Savalas (1922-1994).
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