Young in 1953
|Born||Byron Elsworth Barr
November 4, 1913
St. Cloud, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||October 19, 1978
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
|Cause of death||Gunshot wound (murder–suicide)|
(m. 1940; div. 1947)
(m. 1950; d. 1952)
(m. 1956; div. 1963)
(m. 1963; div. 1966)
(m. 1978; d. 1978)
Gig Young (born Byron Elsworth Barr; 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? An alcoholic, Young was implicated in the murder–suicide that resulted in his and his wife's deaths in 1978.
Early life and career
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. initially. When he was six, his family moved back to their hometown of Waynesville, North Carolina, where he was raised. 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 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 Bros. talent scout. Both actors were signed to supporting player contracts with the studio. His early work was un-credited or as Byron Barr (not to be confused with another actor with the same name, Byron Barr).
After appearing in the 1942 film The Gay Sisters — written by Stephen Longstreet (1907–2002) — as a character named "Gig Young", the studio determined that "Gig Young" should become Barr's stage and professional name.
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 until the end of World War II. 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. 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.
Success and decline
In 1955, Young became the host of Warner Bros. Presents, an umbrella title for three television series (Casablanca, Kings Row, and Cheyenne) that aired during the 1955–1956 season on ABC Television. He played a supporting role the same year in the Humphrey Bogart thriller The Desperate Hours. Young is also remembered by many James Dean fans for the "driving safety" interview made shortly before Dean's fatal car accident in September, 1955. On the 1964–65 NBC series The Rogues, he shared appearances on a rotating basis with David Niven and Charles Boyer.
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". 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."
After a substantial supporting role in Lovers and Other Strangers in 1970, alcoholism began to cost him roles. He collapsed on the set of the comedy film Blazing Saddles during his first day of shooting due to alcohol withdrawal, and was fired. Young's last role was in the 1978 film Game of Death, released nearly six years after the film's star, Bruce Lee, died during production in 1973.
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.
He met actress Elizabeth Montgomery after she appeared in an episode of Warner Bros. Presents in 1956, and the two married later that year. In 1963, Montgomery divorced Young because of his alcoholism.
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.
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. A motive for the murder-suicide was never made clear. Young was at one time under the care of the psychologist and psychotherapist Eugene Landy, who would later have his professional California medical license revoked amidst accusations of ethical violations and patient misconduct.
Young was buried in the Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesville, North Carolina in his family's plot along with his parents, siblings and an uncle. Young's will, which covered a $200,000 estate, left his Academy Award to his agent, Martin Baum and Baum's wife, Bernice; however, Young's daughter Jennifer launched a campaign in the early 1990s to get the award back from his agent, and struck an agreement that she would get the award back upon the agent's death, which occurred in 2010.
|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|
|They Died with Their Boots On||Lt. Roberts||Uncredited|
|You're in the Army Now||Soldier||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|
|1946||They Made Me a Killer||Steve Reynolds||Credited as Byron Barr|
|1947||Escape Me Never||Caryl Dubrok|
|1948||The Woman in White||Walter Hartright|
|The Three Musketeers||Porthos|
|Wake of the Red Witch||Samuel 'Sam' Rosen|
|1949||Lust for Gold||Pete Thomas|
|Tell It to the Judge||Alexander Darvac|
|Hunt the Man Down||Paul Bennett|
|1951||Target Unknown||Capt. Reiner|
|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||You For Me||Dr. Jeff Chadwick|
|Holiday for Sinners||Dr. Jason Kent|
|1953||The Girl Who Had Everything||Vance Court|
|City That Never Sleeps||Johnny Kelly|
|Torch Song||Cliff Willard|
|1954||Rear Window||Jeff's Editor||Voice, Uncredited|
|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|
|1974||Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia||Quill|
|The Killer Elite||Lawrence Weyburn|
|The Hindenburg||Edward Douglas|
|1977||Spectre||Dr. Amos "Ham" Hamilton|
|1978||Game of Death||Jim Marshall||(final film role)|
|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||John O'Hara's Gibbsville
a.k.a. 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||6 episodes|
|1977||Spectre||Dr. Ham Hamilton||Television movie|
Awards and nominations
|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.
- Gig Young's family grave & info Archived 2015-02-09 at Archive.is
- Cozad, W. Lee (2006). More Magnificent Mountain Movies: The Silverscreen Years, 1940–2004. W. Lee Cozad. p. 147. ISBN 0-9723372-2-9.
- Longstreet, Stephen (1942). The Gay Sisters. USA: Random House / Grosset Dunlap. pp. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034770/.
- Longstreet, Stephen (1942). The Gay Sisters. USA: Random House/Grosset Dunlap. pp. http://www.isbnsearch.org/search?s=The+Gay+Sisters.
- 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.
- Darst, Elizabeth (March 15, 2002). "OSCARS: Woman Seeks Dad's Statuette". People. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- "Obituary: Eugene Landy". The Telegraph. March 31, 2006. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008.
- 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.
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