Gig Young was born Byron Barr to parents John and Emma Barr in Minnesota, and raised in Washington, DC, where he developed a passion for theatre while appearing in high school plays. After gaining some amateur experience, he applied for and received a scholarship to the acclaimed Southern California’s Pasadena Community Playhouse. While acting in “Pancho”, a south-of-the-border play by Lowell Barrington, he was spotted by a Warner Brothers talent scout, leading to his signing contracts with the studio. Still acting under his given name, Byron Barr, he played bits and extra roles. He experimented with varying screen names because there was already another actor with the same name (see Byron Barr). In 1942, in the picture The Gay Sisters (1942), he was given the role of a character whose name was Gig Young, which he liked well enough to finally adopt it as his permanent stage name. His intermittent roles and, therefore, income, required Young to supplement his income working at a gas station, but success in The Gay Sisters (1942) eventually allowed him the freedom to become a full-time actor. Although service in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II interrupted his ascension, after discharge he quickly established himself as a reliable light leading man, usually the second male lead to stars who were established box office draws. A dramatic part in Come Fill the Cup (1951) resulted in his being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar; a second Supporting Actor nomination followed seven years later for his comedic performance in Teacher’s Pet (1958). A prolific television career later complemented his film work. In 1969, his surprisingly seedy portrayal of a dance-marathon emcee in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) finally brought him that Supporting Actor Oscar. A succession of marriages, including one to actress Elizabeth Montgomery, failed. In 1978, only three weeks after marrying German actress Kim Schmidt, Young apparently shot her to death in their New York City apartment and then turned the gun on himself. The precise motivation for the sad and grisly murder-suicide remains unclear. Young was not quite 65, his bride, 31.
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