According to my records which may be (admittedly) incomplete, William Shatner did not appear in any TV productions for three months near the end of 1955. This is a bit odd for a guy that had just lost his life savings and who had, just one year earlier, already been in at least four television shows by the time December started. However, I think the reason for this absence is actually quite explainable and provides a somewhat happy addendum to the story of Shatner losing his Broadway seed money.
After the aforementioned loss of his savings (see my last post if you missed the details) Shatner must have felt that he was back to square one in a lot of ways. Rather than spending the fall and winter in New York City looking for high-profile stage work, he was forced to head back to Toronto and attempt to make ends meet and rebuild his savings through some more television work at the CBC.
Enter sweet salvation in the form of Tyrone Guthrie, renowned British director and current artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Guthrie was mounting a Broadway version of Christopher Marlowe’s enormously influential play, Tamburlaine the Great and he invited many of the Stratford performers to come with him. According to Shatner, this invite came not long after he lost all that money betting on uranium futures and so he was probably more excited than he might have been otherwise. Finally, to Broadway!
But first of course, the troupe would have had to rehearse. With Stratford’s season finishing up at the end of August, my guess is that rehearsals then began for Tamburlaine the Great in Toronto. Lasting from approximately early September to early-December or so, the compressed schedule would have left little room (or reason) for Shatner to work on TV as he would have done otherwise.
If my theory is correct, once rehearsals in Toronto were complete Shatner was right back to TV during the short break before heading to NYC. During the first week of December, 1955, he starred in two productions for the CBC. The first of these was for the anthology series On Camera.
From what I can tell from the pictures I found online, this episode titled “On a Streetcar” takes place mainly…on a streetcar and features Shatner and Janet Reid as some kind of couple. There are a few other locations used as well, but it appears that Shatner and Reid are present throughout the entire production so it must have been nice for Shatner to get a starring role like this.
Anyway, if you read my last post about the anthology series On Camera you might remember that the show tried to be very Canadian-focused, using original material written by Canadians, performed by Canadians and/or directed by Canadians as much as possible. Just 5 months later, Shatner would write and possibly direct an episode of On Camera…an episode that would have enormous and lasting ramifications on him for the rest of his life.
Unknown – Not Viewed
Shat Level: Unknown – Not Viewed
It’s time to detail all of the connections between On Camera’s “On a Streetcar” and other Shatner appearances!
I need to get this out of the way now, because it is really eating at me. From the pictures that I see of this, there is an older man on the streetcar with Shatner and Reid. He doesn’t appear to be a major character at all, but may have had a few lines (again…judging solely on the photos I was able to dig up.) That older man looks a hell of a lot like Peter Sturgess, who played the butler “Sturgess” in Shatner’s first screen appearance, The Butler’s Night Off. I can’t determine it for certain as there is no cast listing available for “On a Streetcar,” so I’m just going to put up a couple of pictures and let you be the judge.
None of the other actors that I could confirm were in “On a Streetcar” ever worked with Shatner again.
Ronald Weyman, the director of this episode, had previously produced the General Motors Theatre episode “The Big Leap” and would go on to produce one other episode with Shatner, “Forever Galatea.”
No homework for you today. Enjoy the sunshine!