Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born Byron Elsworth Barr in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Young began acting in his teens under his given name, but later changed it to avoid confusion with another actor of the same name. The name "Gig Young" was taken from a character he played in one of his earliest films, The Gay Sisters (1942).
Signed to a contract with Warner Brothers, Young appeared in supporting roles in numerous films during the 1940s, and came to be regarded as a popular and likeable second lead, playing the brothers or friends of the principal characters. It was in the early 1950s that Young began to play the type of role that he would become best known for, that of the sardonic but engaging and affable drunk. His dramatic work as an alcoholic in Come Fill the Cup (1951), and his comedic role as a tipsy but ultimately charming cad in Teacher's Pet (1958), each earned him nominations for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He won the Academy Award for his role as Rocky, the sleazy dance marathon emcee and promoter in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969).
His career went into decline after this, with rumours that his on-screen drinking had carried over into his off-screen life, although he worked frequently.
In 1978 he married his fifth wife, a 31 year-old German art gallery employee named Kim Schmidt . Three weeks after their marriage they were both at home found dead of gunshot wounds to the head. Police theorize that Young first shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself in a suicide pact. Though the case attracted considerable media attention and speculation, Young's motivation for the murder/suicide remains unknown, as he left no suicide note, and his associates could provide no explanation for his action.
Gig Young has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to motion pictures, at 6841 Hollywood Boulevard.
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