Young in 1953
|Born||Byron Elsworth Barr
November 4, 1913
St. Cloud, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||October 19, 1978
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
|Gunshot wound (self inflicted)|
|Spouse(s)||Sheila Stapler (1940-1947)
Sophie Rosenstein (1950-1952)
Elizabeth Montgomery (1956-1963)
Elaine Williams (1963-1966)
Kim Schmidt (1978)
|Children||Jennifer Williams Young (b. 1964)|
Gig Young (November 4, 1913 – October 19, 1978) was an American film, stage, and television actor. Known mainly for second leads and supporting roles, Young won an Academy Award for his performance as a slimy dance-marathon emcee in the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.
Born Byron Elsworth Barr in St. Cloud, Minnesota, he and his older siblings were raised by his parents, John and Emma Barr, in Washington D.C.1 He developed a passion for the theatre while appearing in high school plays, and after some amateur experience he applied for and received a scholarship to the acclaimed Pasadena Community Playhouse. While acting in Pancho, a south-of-the-border play by Lowell Barrington, he and the leading actor in the play, George Reeves, were spotted by a Warner Brothers talent scout. Both actors were signed to supporting player contracts with the studio.2 His early work was uncredited or as Byron Barr (not to be confused with another actor with the same name, Byron Barr), but after appearing in the 1942 film The Gay Sisters as a character named "Gig Young", the studio decided that he should adopt this name professionally.3
Young appeared in supporting roles in numerous films during the 1940s, and came to be regarded as a popular and likable second lead, playing the brothers or friends of the principal characters. Young took a hiatus from his movie career and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard in 1941 where he served as a pharmacist's mate in the US Coast Guard until the end of World War II.4 In early 1942, in an uncredited bit part and nearly unseen, in his distinctive voice, he had one line, "How's the ice?", in the Bette Davis film The Man Who Came to Dinner.5 Less than two years later, he played opposite her as her much-younger beau in Old Acquaintance.
After Young's return from the war, Warner Bros. dropped his option. He then began freelancing at various studios, eventually obtaining a contract with Columbia Pictures before returning to freelancing. During those years, Young began to play the type of role that he would become best known for, a sardonic but engaging and affable drunk. His dramatic work as an alcoholic in the 1951 film Come Fill the Cup with James Cagney and his comedic role as a tipsy but ultimately charming intellectual in Teacher's Pet starring Clark Gable and Doris Day earned him nominations for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1955, Young became the host of Warner Bros. Presents, an umbrella title for three television series (Casablanca, King's Row, and Cheyenne) that aired during the 1955-56 season on ABC Television.6 Later, he starred on the 1964-65 NBC series The Rogues, sharing appearances on a rotating basis with David Niven and Charles Boyer in the Four Star Television production.7
Young won the Academy Award for his role as Rocky, the dance marathon emcee and promoter in the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? According to his fourth wife, Elaine Williams, "What he was aching for, as he walked up to collect his Oscar, was a role in his own movie—one that they could finally call 'a Gig Young movie.' For Young, the Oscar was literally the kiss of death, the end of the line".8 Young himself had said to Louella Parsons, after failing to win in 1951, "so many people who have been nominated for an Oscar have had bad luck afterwards."8
Young also is remembered by many James Dean fans for the "driving safety" interview made shortly before Dean's death in September, 1955.
Young's decline after his 1969 Oscar win was not immediate, as he had another good supporting role in Lovers and Other Strangers (1970) in the following year. However, alcoholism plagued his later years, causing him to lose acting roles. He was fired on the first day of shooting the comedy film Blazing Saddles after collapsing on the set due to withdrawal from alcohol.910 Young's last role was in the 1978 film Game of Death (1979), a film released nearly six years after the film's star, Bruce Lee, died in 1973.11
Young was married five times; his first marriage to Sheila Stapler lasted seven years, ending in 1947. In 1950, he married Sophie Rosenstein, the resident drama coach at Paramount, who was several years Young's senior. She was soon diagnosed with cancer, and died just short of two years after the couple's wedding. After her death, Young was engaged to actress Elaine Stritch.12
He met actress Elizabeth Montgomery after she appeared in an episode of Warner Bros. Presents in 1956, and the two married later that year.9 In 1963, Montgomery divorced Young because of his alcoholism.13
Young married his fourth wife, real estate agent Elaine Williams, nine months after his divorce from Montgomery was final. Williams was pregnant with Young's child at the time and gave birth to his only child, Jennifer, in April 1964. After three years of marriage, the couple divorced. During a legal battle over child support with Williams, Young denied that Jennifer was his biological child. After five years of court battles, Young lost his case.14
On September 27, 1978, Young, age 64, married his fifth wife, a 31-year-old German actress named Kim Schmidt.15 He met Schmidt in 1977 on the set of the Clive Donner/Gene Roddenberry TV movie Spectre, in which she played a police officer.15
On October 19, 1978, three weeks after his marriage to Schmidt, the couple were found dead at home in their Manhattan apartment. Police theorized that Young shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself in a murder–suicide. A motive for the murder-suicide was never made clear.16
|1940||Misbehaving Husbands||Floor Walker||Credited as Byron Barr|
|1941||Here Comes the Cavalry||Trooper Rollins||Credited as Byron Barr|
|Sergeant York||Marching soldier||Uncredited|
|Dive Bomber||Pilot Abbott||Uncredited|
|Navy Blues||Sailor in storeroom||Uncredited|
|One Foot in Heaven||First Groom Asking for Dog License||Uncredited|
|The Tanks Are Coming||Jim Allen||Credited as Byron Barr|
|You're in the Army Now||Soldier||Uncredited|
|They Died with Their Boots On||Lt. Roberts||Uncredited|
|1942||The Man Who Came to Dinner||Bit part||Uncredited|
|Captains of the Clouds||Student pilot||Credited as Byron Barr|
|The Male Animal||Student||Uncredited|
|The Mad Martindales||Peter Varney||Credited as Byron Barr|
|The Gay Sisters||Gig Young||Credited as Byron Barr (credited as Gig Young in later rereleases)|
|Old Acquaintance||Rudd Kendall|
|1947||Escape Me Never||Caryl Dubrok|
|1948||The Woman in White||Walter Hartright|
|Wake of the Red Witch||Samuel 'Sam' Rosen|
|The Three Musketeers||Porthos|
|1949||Lust for Gold||Pete Thomas|
|Tell It to the Judge||Alexander Darvac|
|Hunt the Man Down||Paul Bennett|
|Target Unknown||Capt. Reiner|
|1951||Only the Valiant||Lt. William Holloway|
|Slaughter Trail||Ike Vaughn aka Murray|
|Come Fill the Cup||Boyd Copeland||Nominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Too Young to Kiss||John Tirsen|
|1952||Holiday for Sinners||Jason Kent|
|You For Me||Dr. Jeff Chadwick|
|1953||The Girl Who Had Everything||Vance Court|
|City That Never Sleeps||Johnny Kelly|
|Torch Song||Cliff Willard|
|1954||Young at Heart||Alex Burke|
|1955||The Desperate Hours||Chuck Wright|
|1957||Desk Set||Mike Cutler|
|1958||Teacher's Pet||Dr. Hugo Pine||Nominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
|The Tunnel of Love||Dick Pepper|
|1959||Ask Any Girl||Evan Doughton|
|The Story on Page One||Larry Ellis|
|1962||That Touch of Mink||Roger|
|Kid Galahad||Willy Grogan|
|Five Miles to Midnight||David Barnes|
|1963||For Love or Money||'Sonny' John Dayton Smith|
|A Ticklish Affair||Key Weedon|
|1965||Strange Bedfellows||Richard Bramwell|
|1967||The Shuttered Room||Mike Kelton|
|1969||They Shoot Horses, Don't They?||Rocky||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated: BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
|1970||Lovers and Other Strangers||Hal Henderson|
|1973||A Son-in-Law for Charlie McReady||Charlie McReady|
|Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia||Quill|
|The Killer Elite||Lawrence Weyburn|
|The Hindenburg||Edward Douglas|
|1978||Game of Death||Jim Marshall|
|1950||The Silver Theater||Episode: "Lady with Ideas"|
|1951||Pulitzer Prize Playhouse||Episode: "Ned McCobb's Daughter"|
|The Bigelow Theatre||Episode: "Lady with Ideas"|
|1953||Robert Montgomery Presents||Episode: "The Sunday Punch"|
|Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Episode: "Part of the Game"|
|1954||Producers' Showcase||Simon Gayforth||Episode: "Tonight at 8:30", Segment "Shadow Play"|
|Lux Video Theatre||Episode: "Captive City"|
|1955–1956||Warner Brothers Presents||Host||36 episodes|
|1956||The United States Steel Hour||Dave Corman||Episode: "Sauce for the Goose"|
|1957||Climax!||Edgar Holt||Episode: "Jacob and the Angels"|
|Studio One||Philip Adams/Alan Fredericks||Episode: "A Dead Ringer"|
|1958||Goodyear Theatre||Herman Worth||Episode: "The Spy"|
|1959||The Twilight Zone||Martin Sloan||Episode: "Walking Distance"|
|The Philadelphia Story||C.K. Dexter Haven||Television movie|
|1960||Ninotchka||Leon Dolga||Television movie|
|Shirley Temple's Storybook||Miles Hendon||Episode: "The Prince and the Pauper"|
|1961||The Spiral Staircase||Stephen Warren||Television movie|
|1962||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Duke Marsden||Episode: "A Piece of the Action"|
|1963||Kraft Suspense Theatre||Hugo Myrich||Episode: "The End of the World, Baby"|
|1964–1965||The Rogues||Tony Fleming||22 episodes|
|1965||The Andy Williams Show||Himself||1 episode|
|1968||Companions in Nightmare||Eric Nicholson||Television movie|
|1971||The Neon Ceiling||Jones||Television movie
Nominated: Emmy Award for Best Lead Actor - Single Appearance
|1974||The Great Ice Rip-Off||Harkey Rollins||Television movie|
|1975||The Turning Point of Jim Malloy||Ray Whitehead||Television movie|
|1976||McCloud||Jack Haferman||Episode: "The Day New York Turned Blue"|
|Sherlock Holmes in New York||Mortimer McGrew||Television movie|
|Gibbsville||Ray Whitehead||7 episodes|
|1977||Spectre||Dr. Ham Hamilton||Television movie|
|1952||Academy Award||Nominated||Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Come Fill the Cup|
|1970||Won||They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|
|1971||BAFTA Award||Nominated||Best Supporting Actor||They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|
|1971||Emmy Award||Nominated||Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role||The Neon Ceiling|
|1959||Golden Globe Award||Nominated||Best Supporting Actor||Teacher's Pet|
|1970||Won||They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|
|1971||Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards||Won||Best Supporting Actor||They Shoot Horses, Don't They?|
|1958||Laurel Award||Nominated||Top Male Comedy Performance||Teacher's Pet (Placed 4th)|
|1959||Won||Top Male Supporting Performance||The Tunnel of Love|
|1963||Top Male Supporting Performance||That Touch of Mink|
- Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. p. 335. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2.
- Cozad, W. Lee (2006). More Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Silverscreen Years, 1940-2004. W. Lee Cozad. p. 147. ISBN 0-9723372-2-9.
- Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era To 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 810. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
- "Coast Guard History: Gig Young". uscg.mil. 2008-07-22.
- Thompson,, Robert J.; Burns, Gary (1999). Making Television: Authorship and the Production Process. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-275-92746-6.
- Guida, Fred; Wagenknecht, Edward (2006). A Christmas Carol and Its Adaptations: A Critical Examination of Dickens's Story and Its Productions on Screen and Television. McFarland. p. 193. ISBN 0-7864-2840-6.
- Holden, Anthony (1993). Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards. Simon & Schuster. p. 275. ISBN 0-671-70129-0.
- Donnelly, Paul (2005). Fade To Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries (3 ed.). Omnibus. p. 746. ISBN 1-84449-430-6.
- Parish, James Robert (2008). It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks. John Wiley and Sons. p. 9. ISBN 0-470-22526-2.
- Eleftheriotis, Dimitris; Needham, Gary (2006). Asian Cinemas: A Reader and Guide. University of Hawaii Press. p. 423. ISBN 0-8248-3085-7.
- Kirsta, Alix (20 February 2009). "Nobody's Perfect". Telegraph. Retrieved 20 April 2009. "Despite a long engagement to Gig Young and living with Ben Gazzara, whom she threw over for Rock Hudson ('and we all know what a bum decision that turned out to be') she got married only once, at the age of 47, to the actor John Bay whom she met in London on Small Craft Warnings."
- Strodder, Chris (2000). Swingin' Chicks of the '60s: A Tribute to 101 of the Decade's Defining Women. Cedco Pub. p. 167. ISBN 0-7683-2232-4.
- Lindsay, Mark; Lester, David Lester (2004). Suicide By Cop: Committing Suicide by Provoking Police to Shoot You. Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 72–73. ISBN 0-89503-290-2.
- Parish, James Robert (2002). The Hollywood Book of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols (3 ed.). Contemporary Books. p. 336. ISBN 0-8092-2227-2.
- Darst, Elizabeth (March 15, 2002). "OSCARS: Woman Seeks Dad's Statuette". People. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 292. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gig Young.|
- Gig Young at the Internet Broadway Database
- Gig Young at the Internet Movie Database
- Gig Young at the TCM Movie Database