On William Shatner’s 24th birthday, March 22nd, 1955, he appeared in yet another episode of General Motors Theatre, “The Coming Out of Ellie Swan.” It had been almost a month since his last television appearance, so the (small) paycheck provided by this program would probably have made his birthday a better one than he otherwise would have enjoyed. In other words, I’m sure that Shatner had no compunctions about working on his birthday.
When I saw the above photo for this program in a CBC retrospective article, a program I had no idea existed, it led me to research and discover a number of other productions from CBC television of that era that I did not have in my database at the time. Starting with “The Man Who Ran Away,” I had to do a bit of backtracking, further research and archiving to slot over a dozen Shatner appearances into an already packed Shatner career archive. I strive for completeness, but this guy never seems to stop.
Unfortunately, other than a few pictures and some dodgy and incomplete information on IMDB and some CBC sites, I have very little information on many of the episodes…including this one. Once again, Shatner is appearing on an episode of General Motors Theatre. Once again, I have no information on the plot. Who was Ellie Swan? What was she coming out of? Where was she going? It appears that Shatner’s character was named “Pete,” and judging from the photo above it would appear that he may have needed to come out as well, but what was his character in relation to Ellie?
At first, looking at some of the photos from the show, I thought maybe Shatner was playing Ellie’s brother. However, there are a couple of shots (the above shot of Shatner smoking, the other of Ellie and Pete enjoying a moonlit night on the beach below) that make me think he was probably playing her boyfriend, or interested male friend.
I also saw a few pictures of what are probably Ellie’s parents waving to her, or talking to her on the porch with what appear to be packed bags next to her. Perhaps this was a self-realization story about how Ellie grows and decides that she needs to leave small-town Canada and follow her dreams elsewhere. Just like The Shat was doing around this time (although he wasn’t leaving small-town Canada, just Montreal!)
Once again, we may never know what this program was all about. If anyone has any more information on this or other Shatner CBC appearances, drop me a line and let me know!
It’s time to detail all of the connections between General Motors Theatre’s “The Coming Out of Ellie Swan” and other Shatner appearances!
The actress who apparently portrayed Ellie in this episode, Jane Graham, would go on to appear with Shatner just one more time later this same year for yet another episode of General Motors Theatre, “Forever Galatea.”
This was the second and final time that Nonnie Griffin would appear with Shatner. Just a few months prior, she was in General Motors Theatre’s, “The Black Eye” with The Shat, where she was credited as “Margaret Griffin.”
William Hutt was at Stratford every year that Shatner was, appearing in Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, Oedipus Rex, King Oedipus, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Henry V over the course of three years. He went to Broadway with Shatner in 1956 for Tyrone Guthrie’s very short-lived production of Tamburlaine the Great, and would again appear with Shatner in 1957’s film version of Oedipus Rex. Interestingly, this was the only television appearance the two men had together.
Nadyne Turney worked with Shatner in late 1954 for another episode of General Motors Theatre, “The Big Leap.” After “The Coming Out of Ellie Swan,” she apparently never worked with him again.
Deborah Cass also went to broadway with Shatner for Tamburlaine the Great in 1956. Almost 30 years later she would appear in the HBO mockumentary The Canadian Conspiracy along with many notable Canadians…the most notable being of course William F. Shatner.
Sydney Newman acted as producer or supervising producer in the Shatner-featuring CBC/General Motors‘ episode “The Man Who Ran Away,” “I Like It Here,” “The Black Eye,” and “Never Say No” as well as for The Canadian Howdy Doody Show. After this, he would do the same for the episodes “Billy Budd” and “Forever Galatea.”
Read a bit more about General Motors Theatre here.