Phyllis Barry was born Gertrude Hillyard on December 7, 1908, in Leeds, England. She was a gifted dancer and at the age of fourteen she joined an Australian cabaret troupe. Phyllis starred in many stage musicals including No No Nannette and Lady Be Good. She made her film debut in the 1925 Australian film Painted Daughters. At the time her stage name was Phyllis DuBarry. In 1930 she toured America in a production of Rio Rita. Prodicer Samuel Goldwyn saw her on stage and offered her a supporting role in the film Cynara starring Kay Francis. Unfortunately the movie flopped and her performance got mixed reviews. She married vaudeville performer Albert Nordlund (also known as Al Nord) in 1932.
The following year she got the lead role in the comedy What - No Beer? opposite Buster Keaton. Phyllis and Albert had a rocky marriage and they separated several times. She divorced him in 1936 and said "he told me he didn't think my career meant anything". Soon after she married decorator Gilbert M. Caldwell. She continued to make movies but by 1939 her career had stalled. Phyllis had a bit part in the drama Waterloo Bridge and she appeared in The Three Stooges short Three Little Sew and Sews. Her last film role was playing a waitress in the 1947 drama Love From A Stranger. Phyllis and her husband moved to a small house in West Hollywood. She became increasingly depressed about her failed Hollywood career. On July 1, 1954 she committed suicide by taking an overdose of medication. Phyllis was only forty-five years old.