I thought maybe it was time we dug a little deeper into legendary composer Victor Young, whose timeless music has already been featured in a couple of our Fantastic Foursome posts. In October of last year we spotlighted “When I Fall In Love” and in January of this year it was “Stella By Starlight.” Both also included videos with still pictures of the composer but not a lot of info about him. Let’s fix that right now.
His musical pedigree was impressive. He was born in 1900, the son of a tenor in the Chicago Opera, and his father made sure young Victor got off to a good start by having him schooled in violin. When he was ten his mother died and his father sent him to live with relatives in Poland, where he continued to study violin, and as a teenager made his professional debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic.
Young became the toast of Europe, playing before elite audiences and even being introduced to Czar Nicholas, who kept him around for a while as part of his court, but the chaos of World War I and the Czar’s fall from grace soon caused the young musician to run for his life. He ended up back in the U.S. where he found work as a concert violinist, but within a few years he was also doing some arranging and occasionally leading orchestras in movie theaters and on radio. It was a significant period in his life, because it marked his turn toward popular music.
By the 1930s, Young was beginning to make his name. After finding some success in New York he relocated to Los Angeles and dove wholeheartedly into movie music. Over the next couple of decades he became one of the most-respected and prolific movie composers around, and he often conducted the orchestras that played his music. Although he would also write for Broadway and sell a lot of records too, movies would always be his first priority. The list of films he contributed to in one way or another is almost endless (you can see posters for many of them in the video below) but they include everything from The Wizard Of Oz to Around The World In 80 Days. In fact, the latter won him his only Oscar, although he was nominated 22 times. Sadly, it was awarded after his unexpected death in 1956.