The story of Gig Young, suave player of burned-out cases and a severely burned-out case himself; told smoothly by the author of bios of Ginger Rogers, Robert Mitchum, Mae West, and others.
Drawing on private tapes Young left behind, Eells works up an analysis that shows believably how, as a child, Young came to play a victim's role, and, as an adult, that of a well-mannered boob. When he could not find love from his repressed, neurasthenic mother or dour Scottish father back in St. Cloud, Minn., shy Byron Ellsworth Barr turned to his older sister Genevieve--a pattern of turning to women for help that followed him all his life. More than once, he heard that he'd resulted from a ``leak in the safe'' (faulty condom), and his father always introduced him as a "little dumbbell.'' In the late 30's, Young had one of the first vasectomies, and later in life found himself married but unmanned by alcohol or drugs. He was nominated for an Oscar three times, won at last for brilliantly playing a whiskey-throated dance-hall emcee in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. When things got tough he tried an LSD cure, or he'd go on the road with Harvey. But mental blanks bugged him; his attempt to play alcoholic Jamie Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night failed disastrously; Mel Brooks fired him from Blazing Saddles before he'd played his first scene. Physically and emotionally spent at 64, he married for the fourth time, to Kim Schmidt, an Australian script girl of 30, and then, apparently still impotent, shot her to death, then himself, three weeks after their marriage.
Young's charm, alcoholism, and the double-whammy ending should help this uninspired but competent book find readers.