Victor Young (1899-1956) - prolific and reliable film composer

Victor Young Although born in Chicago, Victor Young's family was Polish, and at a young age he went to live in Warsaw with his grandparents. There he continued his musical education, playing the violin, graduating from the Warsaw Imperial Conservatory of Music, and making his debut as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Returning to Chicago in the 1920s, Young found a variety of posts there which suited his musical talents including that of musical director for Radio, and in the 1930s he moved to Hollywood where he worked prolifically until his death in 1956. He was therefore present during the early golden years of film music, and a contemporary of Max Steiner and Alfred Newman. Like them he was able to create many music scores every year (frequently including an original song), though many movies also used his stock music for which he was uncredited. He was frequently in the running for the academy award receiving many nominations in his lifetime but unfortunately only winning the award for Around the World in 80 Days just after his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of 59. Two films he had scored ("The Brave One" and "Run of the Arrow") were not released until after his death, and a further score he had started scoring for "China Gate" was completed by his friend and fellow composer Max Steiner unpaid.

Victor Young: Rio Grande - film score soundtrack album cover Before and during his time as a film composer, Young was also very active as an arranger and band leader with his own orchestra. He worked extensively in radio and recorded with artists such as Al Jolson. As if that weren't legendary enough he recorded the first album of songs from "The Wizard of Oz" with Judy Garland including the ubiquitous "Over the Rainbow". He also wrote a number of popular songs with a number of different lyricists including Ned Washington and the writing partners Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. With Edward Heyman he wrote "When I Fall in Love" the timeless classic which has been sung by many artists. He also penned the song "Stella by Starlight" with Ned Washington for the movie "The Uninvited". In the film this song is supposedly written by Ray Milland's character for "Stella" played by Gail Russell.

The Quiet Man DVD cover Among his most celebrated film scores are "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Samson and Delilah" (for Cecil B. DeMille). He also did sterling work on a number of Western films, including the legendary "Shane". He scored "Rio Grande" for John Ford, and the same winning team of Ford, Young, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara were to come together again for "The Quiet Man". This film is surely memorable to those who have seen it. It is in part a love film with a tempestuous sexual chemistry between the two leads, but it is also a very romantic view of Irish life and its most famous scene is the extended fist fight sequence. Young uses a lot of Irish folk melodies which he arranges and adapts with his own music. He uses "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" and one song used extensively is "The Isle of Innisfree" written by Richard Farrelly. For "The Race" scene and "The Fight" he uses Irish Jig music with hints of the traditional melody known as "The Irish Washerwoman". The soundtrack to "The Quiet Man" has been faithfully re-recorded and is available from and Since this is a favourite movie for many people, you might also be interested in the DVD at these links and The soundtrack to "Rio Grande" is also available at and

Films by Victor Young:

    Victor Young: Around the World in 80 Days - film score soundtrack album cover
  • Breaking the Ice
  • Army Girl
  • Man of Conquest
  • Gulliver's Travels (1939)
  • Golden Boy
  • The Uninvited - introducing the song "Stella by Starlight"
  • North West Mounted Police
  • The Dark Command
  • Arizona
  • Rio Grande - directed by John Ford, with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara
  • Hold Back the Dawn
  • Silver Queen
  • The Quiet Man - another Ford film this time with John Wayne in the title role as a "quiet" Irish American
  • Flying Tigers
  • Shane - one of the most famous of Western movies
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Three Coins in the Fountain - Young provided the score to this romantic movie, though not the title song by Jule Styne
  • Love Letter
  • The Sun Shines Bright - another John Ford film
  • Samson and Delilah
  • Around the World in 80 Days - winning the 1956 oscar posthumously and dominated by its happy waltz song
  • The Brave One
  • Run of the Arrow - another Western, starring Rod Steiger and featuring instrumental versions of Young's song "The Purple Hills"