Victor Young (August 8, 1900 – November 10, 1956) was an American composer, arranger, violinist and conductor. He was born in Chicago.
Young was born in Chicago on August 8, 1900 into a very musical family, his father being a member of one Joseph Sheehan’s touring Opera company. The young Victor began playing violin at the age of six, and was sent over to Poland when he was ten to stay with his grandfather and study at Warsaw Imperial Conservatory, achieving the Diploma of Merit. He studied the piano with Isidor Philipp of the Paris Conservatory. While still a teenager he embarked on a career as a concert violinist with the Warsaw Philharmonic under Juliusz Wertheim, assistant conductor in 1915–1916.
Playing before Russian generals and nobles, while in Warsaw, he was later introduced to Czar Nicholas in St. Petersburg, and his playing so impressed the Czar that he presented him with many gifts but the revolution cut short his success in Russia. Having been connected with the court of the Czar, the Bolsheviks deemed it advisable to get rid of him, and it is only by a miracle that he escaped death, for he was already sentenced to die. After a long and tiresome escapade, he succeeded in reaching Warsaw, then Paris, and from there to the United States.
He returned to Chicago in 1920 to join the orchestra at Central Park Casino. He then went to Los Angeles to join his Polish fiancée, finding employment first as a fiddler in impresario Sid Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre Orchestra then going on to be appointed concert-master for Paramount-Publix Theatres. After turning to popular music, he worked for a while as violinist-arranger for Ted Fio Rito.
In 1930 Chicago bandleader and radio-star Isham Jones commissioned Young to write a ballad instrumental of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust", which had been played, up until then, as an up-tempo number. Young slowed it down and played the melody as a gorgeous romantic violin solo which inspired Mitchell Parish to write lyrics for what then became one of the great love songs of all time.
In the mid-1930s he moved to Hollywood where he concentrated on films, recordings of light music and providing backing for popular singers, including Bing Crosby. His composer credits include "When I Fall in Love," "Blue Star (The 'Medic' Theme)," "Moonlight Serenade (Summer Love)" from the motion picture The Star (1952), "Sweet Sue," "Can't We Talk It Over," "Street of Dreams," "Love Letters," "Around the World," "My Foolish Heart," "Golden Earrings," "Stella by Starlight", "Delilah", "Johnny Guitar" and "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You."
Young was signed to Brunswick in 1931 where his studio groups recorded scores of popular dance music, waltzes and semi-classics through 1934. His studio groups often contained some of the best jazz musicians in New York, including Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Arthur Schutt, Eddie Lang, and others. He used first-rate vocalists, including Paul Small,Dick Robertson, Harlan Lattimore, Smith Ballew, Helen Rowland, Frank Munn, The Boswell Sisters, Lee Wiley and others. One of his most interesting recordings was the January 22, 1932 session containing songs written by Herman Hupfeld: "Goopy Geer (He Plays Piano And He Plays By Ear))" and "Down The Old Back Road", which Hupfeld sang and played piano on (his only two known vocals).
In late 1934, Young signed with Decca and continued recording in New York until mid-1936, when he relocated to Los Angeles.
Radio and films
On radio, he was the musical director of Harvest of Stars. He was musical director for many of Bing Crosby's recordings for the American branch of Decca Records. For Decca, he also conducted the first album of songs from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, a sort of "pre-soundtrack" cover version rather than a true soundtrack album. The album featured Judy Garland and the Ken Darby Singers singing songs from the film in Young's own arrangements. He also composed the music for several Decca spoken word albums.
He received 22 Academy Award nominations for his work in film, twice being nominated four times in a single year, but he did not win during his lifetime. He received his only Oscar posthumously for his score of Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). His other scores include Anything Goes (1936), Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936), Artists and Models (1937), The Gladiator, Golden Boy(1939), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), The Uninvited (1944), Love Letters (1945), So Evil My Love (1948), The Emperor Waltz (1948), The Paleface (1948), Samson and Delilah (1949), Our Very Own (1950), My Favorite Spy (1951), Payment on Demand (1951), The Quiet Man (1952), Scaramouche (1952), Something to Live For (1952), Shane (1953), The Country Girl (1954), A Man Alone (1955), and Written on the Wind (1956).
Young also composed "The Call of the Faraway Hills," used as the theme for the U.S. television series Shane.
As an occasional bit player, Young can be glimpsed briefly in The Country Girl (1954) playing a recording studio leader conducting Crosby while he tapes "You've Got What It Takes". His last film score was for Omar Khayyam, starring Cornel Wilde, filmed in 1956 and released by Paramount in 1957 after Young's death.
Young died in Palm Springs, California after a cerebral hemorrhage at age 56. He is interred in the Beth Olam Mausoleum in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA. Dr. Max Nussbaum, rabbi of Temple Israel, Hollywood, officiated. His family donated his artefacts and memorabilia (including his Oscar) to Brandeis University, where they are housed today.