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Born: Byron Elsworth Barr
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 19, 1978
Date of birth: November 4, 1913
Victim profile: Kim Schmidt, 31 (his fifth wife)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Status: Committed suicide the same day
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Gig Young (November 4, 1913-October 19, 1978) was an Academy Award-winning American film actor.

Early life and career

Born Byron Elsworth Barr in St. Cloud, Minnesota, his parents John and Emma Barr raised him in Washington DC. 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. A myth has developed that Young changed his given name Byron Barr to avoid confusion with another actor of the same name.

Actually, the name "Gig Young" was taken from a character he played in one of his earliest films, The Gay Sisters (1942). The other Byron Barr did not make his film debut until Double Indemnity in 1944, two years after Young took his screen name.

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. During World War II, Young took a hiatus from his movie career and served admirably in the United States Coast Guard, alongside fellow Hollywood actors Cesar Romero and Richard Cromwell.

In the early 1950s 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 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.

Success and decline

Gig Young was the host of Warner Bros. Presents, an umbrella title for three television series (Casablanca, Kings Row, and Cheyenne) that aired during the 1955-56 season on ABC Television. This show ushered the entry of the Warner Bros. Studio into television production, just as Disneyland (the TV show) had done for the Walt Disney Studios a year earlier also on ABC.

He won the Academy Award for his role as Rocky, the dance marathon emcee and promoter in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). Young is considered the ultimate victim of the Oscar curse, so-called because many Academy Award winners have seen their careers decline or reach a dead-end after winning the ultimate accolade from their peers.

According to his fourth wife, Elaine , "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."

Young was shattered when that opportunity did not materialise. "For Gig, the Oscar was literally the kiss of death, the end of the line," according to Williams. He 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 afterwards."

Alcoholism plagued his later years. Cast in Blazing Saddles (1974) as the Waco Kid, he was replaced by director Mel Brooks with Gene Wilder on the first day of filming because he was suffering from delirium tremens on the set.

Personal life and death

Young married his third wife, actress Elizabeth Montgomery, 20 years his junior, on 28 December 1956. They divorced in January 1963 amid rumors of domestic violence.

Young's fourth wife, Elaine Young née Williams, (married in October 1963) became a prominent Beverly Hills real estate agent in the 1970s and she brokered many transactions over the ensuing years to myriad Hollywood luminaries. Elaine Young, who died in April 2006, was also noted for overcoming disfiguring plastic surgery and for her outspoken crusade for reforms against improperly trained cosmetic surgeons.

On 27 September 1978, aged 64, he married his fifth wife, a 31 year-old German art gallery employee named Kim Schmidt. On 19 October 1978, three weeks after their marriage, they were both found dead at home with gunshot wounds to the head in their New York City apartment. Police theorize that Young first shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself in a suicide pact.

The murder/suicide occurred at The Osborne Apartments on West 57th Street between Seventh Avenue & Broadway, a co-op building. On the day he died, Gig Young taped an episode of the Joe Franklin TV show (which never aired) and then went home and committed the murder suicide.

His will, which covered a $200,000 estate, left his Academy Award to his agent, Martin Baum, and Baum's wife. The wording of the will called it "the Oscar that I won because of Martin's help." New York City police found the statuette beside the bodies of Young and his wife.

He had one daughter Jennifer Young (b. 21 April 1964); he filed a non-paternity suit claiming he wasn't her father and left her $10 in his will.

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. He was however receiving psychiatric treatment from the controversial psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy later to be vilified for his involvement with Beach Boy Brian Wilson.


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