Barton Yarborough: One Man’s Career

Barton Yarborough (1900-1951) was a star of radio and B movies, well known to audiences of his day, now forgotten to all but the very few.

Originally from Goldthwaite, Texas, Yarborough acted in vaudeville and stock theatre, but was already breaking into radio by the 1920s when he was a student at the University of Nevada. For a time he was a member of Eva La Gallienne’s repertory company in New York. He was married to Vera Vague, who would enjoy greater movie stardom, until 1931.

In 1930 he broke into big time radio. He became one of the top stars of the medium, associated with key roles on three hit series: One Man’s Family, starting in 1932; the starring role of Doc Long in I Love a Mystery starting in 1939; and Joe Friday’s first partner Sgt. Ben Romero on Dragnet, starting in 1949.

The radio stardom led to screen roles. He had small parts in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942), among others and he transferred his Doc Long role to the big screen in three I Love a Mystery pictures in 1945 and 1946. In 1947 he appeared with Jackie Cooper in one of his first grown-up roles Kilroy Was Here. He had just begun appearing in the television version of Dragnet in 1951 when he fatally felled by a massive heart attack.

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