Gig Young was an Academy Award-winning and nominated actor. Once after a bitter divorce, he rejected his only child and left her with a meager inheritance.
Gig Young, born Byron Barr, started his acting career with a scholarship to South California’s prestigious Pasadena Community Playhouse, where he was later spotted by a Warner Brothers talent scout.
The Warner Brothers’ company signed Young, and he did a few extra roles and minor roles, still using the name Byron Barr. However, he was trying out various stage names as there was already an actor named Byron Barr.
Finally, Young landed his first prominent role in the 1942 film, “The Gay Sisters,” as a character named Gig Young. He liked the name and so adopted it for himself.
However, as Young’s career started, he had to serve in the U.S Coast Guard during World War II. After being discharged, he returned to Hollywood and had to start his career again.
Young landed a few roles, two of which saw him nominated for a Best Supporting Actor. Those two movies were “Come Fill The Come” in 1951 and “Teacher’s Pet” in 1958.
Ten years later, Young’s hard work and determination would pay off as he was awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t they?”
He starred as a dance marathon emcee alongside Jane Fonda in the film. However, she was previously not pleased to hear he was cast in the drama as he was previously only connected to comedy.
Despite having many TV and film credits to his name, Young was dissatisfied by parts of his career as he had only ever played a supporting role. He once said of the 55 film credits he did over his 30-year career:
“There are not more than five that were any good or any good for me.”
According to various reports about Young, many considered that Young suffered from the Oscar curse. This curse referred to an actor whose career would end after winning the award.
His ex-wife, Elaine Whitman, once said that he had always hoped to be the lead actor in a film, and therefore be in a “Gig Young movie,” but his hopeful wish never came true.
Unfortunately, Young’s personal life did not fare any better. The actor was married five times. Three of the marriages ended in divorce, while two others ended in tragedy.
Young’s first wife was a woman named Sheila Stapler. They married in 1939 but were divorced several years later. His second wife was Sophia Rosenstein, whom Young married in 1950.
The couple stayed married for two years until her passing in 1952. Later, Young married Elizabeth Montogomery, and they were married from 1956 to 1963, before her “Bewitched” fame.
In 1963, he married a real estate broker and sometimes performer, Elaine Whitman. The couple welcomed one daughter together, Jennifer. However, they divorced in 1966.
For Whitman, the divorce came as culture shock and a rude awakening to the harsh reality of Hollywood’s skewed value system. According to the book “Hollywood’s Second Sex,” Whitman explained:
“It was wonderful being Mrs. Gig Young. I could walk into a restaurant [when] we didn’t have a reservation and they’d sit us down and fifty people could be waiting.”
Whitman explained that on the arm of a movie star, she was treated very well by others and businesses. However, after the couple’s divorce, she noticed how the system no longer valued her.
For example, she explained that as Mrs. Gig Young, she got cheaper deals for furniture at auctions. However, post-divorce, she did not. It turned out the auctioneers gave Young cheaper deals because they wanted a movie star around.
Young’s fifth and final wife was a German-born actress, Kim Schmidt. The couple married in September 1978, and only three weeks into their marriage, Young shot her and then turned the gun on himself.
Schmidt was only 31, while Young was almost 65 years old at the time of their death. No motive was ever found. However, he did struggle with alcoholism for half of his life and crippling insecurities.
Young’s daughter was 14 years old at the time of his death. After Young’s divorce from Jennifer’s mother, he grew suspicious of whether his daughter was his, so he rejected her as a consequence.
His suspicion and rejection of his daughter were reflected in his will as he left her $10. Instead, he left his estate and fortune to his sister, Genevieve Barr Merry.
Sixteen years after her father passed away, Jennifer waged a public battle to get her father’s 1969 Oscar from his agent, Martin Baum, who had the award displayed in his office at Creative Artist Agency.
It was previously in Merry’s possession, but she gave the Oscar to Baum. Jennifer had written to Baum in hopes that he would give the award to her as she wrote to him:
“I’m praying that you can find it in your heart to give back a piece of my father by handing over his Oscar to me. I know you have it proudly displayed in a glass case in your office.”
Furthermore, Jennifer wrote that the award was her father’s most tremendous success, so it was her greatest inspiration. She later threatened to sue if the award was not returned.
At the time, Baum was less willing to hand over the award and reasoned that the Oscar was not mentioned in Young’s will, and Jennifer was given what was owed to her from the will.
The matter had been settled in 1997, as Baum agreed to bequeath the award to Jennifer upon his death. So when Baum passed away in November 2010, the award was finally returned to Young’s daughter.
According to The Hollywood, Jennifer was working on a documentary and book about her father. However, there has not been much news about it.
Jennifer followed in her father’s footsteps and paved a career in Hollywood. However, she is behind the camera, having director and producing credits for “An American Tragedy,” “Lightning, the White Stallion,” and “Hollywood Lives.”