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American composer Victor Young gave up a successful career as a concert violinist for popular music, becoming a major musical figure from the 1930s through the mid-'50s, writing many popular songs and scores for over 300 Hollywood films.
Young was born on August 8, 1901, in Chicago where his father was a tenor in the Chicago Opera Company. He was ten-years-old when his mother died and after this, Young went with his sister to Warsaw, Poland, where they were raised by their grandparents. He studied violin under Isador Lotto at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music, and then with private tutors before debuting in the Warsaw Philharmonic. His debut was such a total success that a music patron gave him a 1730 Guarnerius and Young was invited to tour Europe with various concert orchestras. He moved back to the U.S. after the outbreak of WWI, worked as a concert violinist, and eventually conducted movie theater orchestras in Los Angeles and Chicago, before he decided to focus on pop music. Young was an arranger and violinist in the Ted Fio Rito Band during the 1920s, while still conducting a dance theater and two movie theater orchestras. Later in the decade, he also began conducting on Chicago radio.
Young moved to N.Y.C. in 1931 to work in radio and from this time on, conducted in a variety of settings, including Don Ameche's variety show and with Al Jolson. Young also served as bandleader through the 1930s and 1940s, most often backing up vocalists during the latter. In 1935, he moved to the West Coast; worked first on Paramount Pictures' Anything Goes (1936); and then became so busy with arranging, conducting; and working as music director for the movie industry that he wrote no pop songs from this time until 1940, when three different movies successfully featured his songs. Other Paramount films that he worked on include The Light That Failed (1939), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), and The Greatest Show on Earth (1953). Young also worked for Columbia Pictures on such films as Golden Boy (1939), My Foolish Heart (1949), The Quiet Man (1953), and Around the World in 80 Days (1956). In all, Young worked on over 300 films. Along with his movie work over the decades, Young had many successful singles, made occasional radio appearances, and scored a couple of Broadway productions. He received 20 Oscar nominations and was posthumously awarded an Academy Award for Around the World in 80 Days' score. Young worked with many lyricists over the course of his career, including Ned Washington, Ed Heyman, and Joe Young. Some of his best-known songs include "Sweet Sue" (1928), "Beautiful Love" (1931), "Love Me Tonight" (1932), "A Ghost of a Chance" (1933), "Stella by Starlight," "Love Letters" (1946), "Golden Earrings" (1947), "My Foolish Heart" (1950), "When I Fall in Love" (1952), and "Around the World" (1956).