Marguerite Wendy Jenkins was born in Hong Kong to English parents. Her father was a successful lawyer and King's Counsel, F.C. Jenkins. She received her education at a convent school in England and a finishing school in Switzerland.
While still in her teens, she began pursuing a career as an actress, helped by her red-gold hair and blue eyes. She adopted the stage name Wendy Barrie in honour of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, who was her godfather. She began her acting life in English theatre.
In 1932, Barrie made her screen debut in the film Threads, which was based upon a play. She went on to make a number of motion pictures for London Films under the Korda brothers, Alexander and Zoltan, the best known of which is 1933's The Private Life of Henry VIII, in which she portrayed Jane Seymour.
In 1934, she appeared in Freedom of the Seas and was contracted by Fox Film Corporation for a film directed by Scott Darling that was made in Britain. The following year, she moved to the United States and made her first Hollywood film for Fox opposite Spencer Tracy in the romantic comedy It's a Small World, followed by Under Your Spell with Lawrence Tibbett. Loaned to MGM, Barrie starred opposite James Stewart in the 1936 film Speed. In 1939 she starred with Richard Greene and Basil Rathbone in the 20th Century Fox version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and with Lucille Ball in RKO's Five Came Back. During the early 1940s, Barrie made several of The Saint and The Falcon mystery films with George Sanders. She made her final motion picture in 1954.
Barry was a member of the cast of The Jack Haley Show on NBC (1937-1938) and CBS (1938-1939). She was an assistant on the Star for a Night program on the Blue Network (1943-1944), and she was one of the quizmasters on Detect and Collect on CBS (1945) and ABC (1945-1946). In 1956, she had a disc jockey program, the Wendy Barrie Show, on WMGM in New York City. She also hosted a widely syndicated radio interview show into the mid-1960s.
With the dawn of television, in the late 1940s, Barrie turned to roles in that medium. From 17 November 1948 to 9 February 1949, Barrie hosted Picture This on NBC. During 1948 and 1949, she hosted a DuMont Television Network comedy for children featuring a cowboy puppet called The Adventures of Oky Doky.
However, she is best remembered by U.S. audiences as host of one of the first television talk shows. The Wendy Barrie Show debuted in November 1948 on ABC, then ran on DuMont and NBC, ending its run in September 1950. (Another source says the program debuted on DuMont 14 March 1949.:674 Yet another source says that it debuted 10 November 1948 on NBC.):902
Barrie was hostess of the short-lived Stars in Khaki and Blue, a "prime-time talent show for members of the Armed Forces," which debuted on NBC 13 September 1952, and ended 27 September 1952. She continued to appear on network television on panel shows and as a guest star in the early 1950s, and also as a spokesperson for commercial products, including a stint as the original Revlon saleswoman on The $64,000 Question during its first months on air. Her pitching of Living Lipstick saw that product being sold out across the country. Barrie continued on local TV in New York City.
In 1953, three television stations owned by Taft Broadcasting Company and Cox Communications formed the short-lived "Tri-State Network" to compete with entertainment programming produced by Crosley Broadcasting Corporation on Crosley television stations in the Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio broadcast markets. On January 11, 1954, a new The Wendy Barrie Show premiered from the studios of WHIO-TV in Dayton, simulcast on Taft Broadcasting's WKRC-TV in Cincinnati and WTVN-TV (now WSYX) in Columbus. Wendy Barrie's contract was terminated in October, 1954.
After appearances in more than 15 films in Britain and more than 30 in Hollywood, Barrie's contribution to the industry was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, 1708 Vine Street. It was dedicated February 8, 1980.
Barrie became a naturalized American citizen in 1942. She was reportedly engaged to infamous gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, and at one time married to actor David Meyer. She died in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1978, aged 65, following a stroke that had left her debilitated for several years. She was buried in the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.