GIG YOUNG Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Gig Young                                                                         
Birth name: Byron Elsworth Barr                                                         
Born: 4 November 1913 St. Cloud, Minnesota, U.S.                                       
Died: 19 October 1978 New York, New York, U.S.                                         
Gig Young (November 4, 1913 – October 19, 1978) was an Academy Award-winning         
American film and television actor.                                                     
Born Byron Elsworth Barr in St. Cloud, Minnesota, his parents John and Emma Barr       
raised him, along with his older siblings, in Washington D.C.. He developed a           
passion for the theatre while appearing in high school plays, then 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. After appearing in the 1942 film The Gay             
Sisters as a character named "Gig Young", the studio liked the name and decided         
to rechristen "Byron Barr" as "Gig Young".                                             
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. During World War II, Young took a hiatus           
from his movie career and served in the United States Coast Guard. After               
returning from WWII, 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, and his comedic role as a tipsy but ultimately charming intellectual in           
Teacher's Pet 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. Later, he starred on the 1964-65 NBC             
series, The Rogues, sharing appearances on a rotating basis with David Niven and       
Charles Boyer, a Four Star Television production.                                       
Young won the Academy Award for his role as Rocky, the dance marathon emcee and         
promoter in 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 Gig, the Oscar was literally the kiss of death, the end of the       
line". Young himself said to Louella Parsons after failing to win in 1951               
that, "so many people who have been nominated for an Oscar have had bad luck           
Alcoholism plagued his later years, causing him to lose acting roles. He was           
fired from both Blazing Saddles and the role of the rarely seen but often heard         
Charles "Charlie" Townsend in Charlie's Angels.                                         
Young was married five times; his first marriage to Sheila Stapler lasted seven         
years, ending in 1947. In 1951, he married second wife, Sophia Rosenstein. The         
marriage lasted only one year, after which Rosenstein died of cancer. After the         
death of his second wife, Young was briefly engaged to actress Elaine Stritch.         
He met actress Elizabeth Montgomery after she appeared on an episode of Warner         
Bros. Presents in 1956, the two married later that year. The union lasted six           
stormy years and ended amid rumors of domestic violence.                               
Young married fourth wife, Elaine Williams, nine months after his divorce from         
Montgomery was final. Williams was pregnant with Young's child at the time of           
the marriage and gave birth to Young's only child, Jennifer, on April 21, 1964.         
Young originally considered Jennifer's birth "a miracle" because of a vasectomy         
he underwent at age 25 due to health problems. During his marriage to Montgomery,       
he had the procedure reversed although he and Montgomery never had children.           
After three years of marriage, the couple divorced. During a legal battle over         
child support with his ex-wife Elaine, Young publicly denied Jennifer as being         
his biological child, feeling he had been tricked into marriage. Since he had           
claimed Jennifer as his child in the original divorce papers, he had no legal           
recourse in the matter.                                                                 
On September 27, 1978, at age 64, Young married his fifth wife, a 31 year-old           
German art gallery employee named Kim Schmidt. He had met Schmidt on the set of         
his final film, Game of Death, where she was working as a script supervisor.           
On October 19, 1978, three weeks after his marriage to Schmidt, the couple was         
found dead at home in their Manhattan apartment. Police theorized that Young           
first shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself in a murder-suicide.             
After an investigation, police stated Young had acted on the spur of the moment         
and his actions were not planned. The motive of the murder-suicide remains             
unclear. It was later revealed that Young had been receiving psychiatric               
treatment from the controversial psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy, who was later           
professionally decertified for his treatment of Beach Boy Brian Wilson.                 
Young's will, which covered a $200,000 estate, left his Academy Award to his           
agent, Martin Baum and Baum's wife. Young left his daughter, Jennifer, $10.             
Young was buried in the Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesville, North Carolina.             
For his contribution to the television industry, Young has a star on the               
Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard.