Roland Young was an English actor. Born in London, England, Young was educated at Sherborne School, Dorset and the University of London before being accepted into Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his first stage appearance in London’s West End in Find the Woman in 1908, and in 1912 he made his Broadway debut in Hindle Wakes. He appeared in two comedies written for him by Clare Kummer, Good Gracious Annabelle!, A Successful Calamity before he served with the US Army during World War I. He returned to New York when the war ended, and married Kummer’s daughter, Frances. For the next few years he alternated between New York and London. He made his film debut in the 1922 silent film Sherlock Holmes, in which he played Watson opposite John Barrymore as Holmes.
He signed a contract with MGM and made his talkie debut in The Unholy Night, directed by Lionel Barrymore. He was loaned to Warner Bros. to appear in Her Private Life, with Billie Dove and 20th Century Fox, winning critical approval for his comedic performance as Jeanette MacDonald’s husband in Don’t Bet on a Woman. He was again paired with MacDonald in the film version of Good Gracious Annabelle!, titled Annabelle’s Affairs. He appeared in Cecil B. de Mille’s The Squaw Man, and played opposite Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in The Guardsman. He appeared with Evelyn Brent in Columbia’s The Pagan Lady and Pola Negri in RKO’s A Woman Commands. His final film under his MGM contract was Lovers Courageous, opposite Robert Montgomery.
Young began to work as a free-lance performer and found himself in constant demand. He appeared with Jeanette MacDonald, Genevieve Tobin and Maurice Chevalier in One Hour With You and with Kay Francis in Street of Women. Alexander Korda invited him to return to England to make his British film debut in Wedding Rehearsal. He returned to Hollywood and appeared in a diverse group of films that included comedies, murder mysteries and dramas, and also worked on Broadway. Among his films of this period, were Ruggles of Red Gap, playing Uriah Heep in David Copperfield and H.G. Wells’ fantasy The Man Who Could Work Miracles. In 1937, he achieved one of the most important successes of his career, as the businessman Cosmo Topper, haunted by the ghosts of his clients played by Cary Grant and Constance Bennett. The film was one of the most successful films of the year, and for his comedic performance, Young received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination. His wife was played by Billie Burke who wrote in her memoir that Young “was dry and always fun to work with”. They also appeared together in The Young in Heart, and the first of the Topper sequels, Topper Takes a Trip. He continued to play supporting roles in comedies such as Yes, My Darling Daughter, with Fay Bainter and Priscilla Lane, but over the next few years the importance of his roles again decreased, but he achieved another success as Katharine Hepburn’s uncle in The Philadelphia Story. His last starring role was in the final installment of the Topper series, Topper Returns in 1941, with Billie Burke and Joan Blondell.