March 22, 2019


Happy Birthday to William Shatner! Born on this day in 1931, the actor made his way up through stage and radio in Montreal (starting at age 8!), eventually joining the Canadian National Repertory Theatre. He toured Canada performing Shakespeare and spent three years at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It was there, during his stint as understudy to Christopher Plummer, that he famously took the stage without rehearsal with great success. Early stage and screen gigs led to larger roles, including appearances in Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in The Brothers Karamazov with Yul Brynner. He returned to Broadway in 1959 for The World of Suzie Wong in the role of Lomax. Good reviews spawned more offers and Shatner's marathon career really picked up with roles in ThrillerThe Outer LimitsBurke's LawThe FugitiveDr. KildareRoute 66, and many others. Writer Richard Matheson once said: "He so often gets a bad rap for overacting, but I just don’t see that. When I lived in Brooklyn before moving to California, I used to go out of my way to watch Bill perform on TV in New York in the early part of his career. And he was fascinating to watch...very theatrical. Great actors, in my estimation, are actors as opposed to reactors. Too many of today’s “stars” are reactors. They can’t really act themselves so they let other character actors around them do the acting and then they react to that performance." Image: from the movie Incubus(1966) shot in Esperanto (It's like seeing Shatner in a spooky Bergman film!). More below. 

One of William Shatner's early cult-classic roles was "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone written by Richard Matheson and directed by Richard Donner (Wanted Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel, The Man From UNCLE, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, Superman, Superman II, Ladyhawke, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon). Perhaps Spy Vibers will know this period of the actor's resume best for his 1964 appearance with Leonard Nimoy inThe Man From U.N.C.L.E. "The Project Strigas Affair" (image below). He returned to the spy genre to appear in Mission: Impossible "Encore" (1971) and "Cocaine" (1972). Story continues. 

Shatner and Nimoy (born 4 days apart!) were reunited in 1966 to lead a new science fiction series called Star Trek, a groundbreaking show that lasted only three years- but became a 50+ year cultural phenomenon. Star Trek has continued to weave in and out of the actor's life, from feature films and an animated series to a number of recent (and great!) documentaries. These various docs (see my list below) reveal Shatner as an exuberant, driven, and ever-inspired creator. He seems to fill his life with acting, writing, producing, recording, and doing charity work. In the intimate discussion film Mind Meld, he told his life-long friend and collaborator, Leonard Nimoy, that he feels he still hasn't done enough and that he is constantly driven to work and to experience life. With no sign of slowing down in his later years, he once said, "I find age such a foreign concept. I have to be reminded. I still have the extraordinary feeling of adventure, striking out into unknown fields." He continues to keep his calendar booked with creative projects. Given Bill's beginnings, I'd like to see him return to Shakespeare in an older role. I had a nice (and brief) meeting with him a couple of years back and he was super gracious and sweet. Other notable credits include: Incubus (1966),The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972), Mission: Impossible (1971, 1972), T.J. Hooker (1982-1986), 3rd Rock from the Sun (1999-2000), The Practice (2004), and Boston Legal (2004-2008). See Spy Vibe's Essential Bill Shatner list below.

Learn more about William Shatner with Spy Vibe's Essential Bill. DOCS: Mind Meld(2001), The Captains (2001), William Shatner Biography (1998), At Home in the Universe (1997). EPISODES: Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Glass Eye" (1957),Twilight Zone "Nick of Time" (1960) and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963),The Man From U.N.C.L.E. "The Project Strigas Affair" (1964), Star Trek (1966-1969) Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Space Seed", "The City on the Edge of Forever", "Mirror Mirror", "The Empath." FILM: Incubus (1966), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek Generations (1994). Honorable Mention: Check out the 1961 film, The Explosive Generation, to see Shatner portray an English teacher who gets in trouble when he broaches the theme of sex in class (cheesy at times, but a good time-capsule on the era. Watch for the mic boom in upper frame!). Below: Old friends (Shatner and Nimoy). Leonard Nimoy passed away recently at the age of 83. Related posts: Designer Gene WinfieldDressed For SpaceShakespeare SpiesShakespeare Spies: Diana Rigg

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