Barry Shipman was born 24 February 1912 in Pasadena to Ernest and Nell Shipman, he a theatrical producer and she an actress. Barry grew up on Hollywood studio lots, and accompanied his mother—after her divorce—on location in Big Bear, and at a “movie camp” on the Washington-Idaho border. Later in the 1920s, they moved frequently, through Connecticut, Florida, Spain, and back to California in 1928. Shipman himself went into the entertainment business and, in 1934, married an actress, Beulah McDonald, who went by the stage name Gwynne Shipman. They would have three children, a daughter an twin sons.