William Shatner married Gloria Rand on August 12th, 1956. By about August 19th, the fourth season of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Shatner’s third) in Ontario, Canada was wrapping up. And by no later than mid-September of that same year, William and Gloria moved out of Canada and into their first apartment in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York. It must have been an absolute whirlwind of a time for young Bill and his new bride, and according to Shatner he wasted no time in finding work.
Shatner’s goal was to become a serious stage actor on Broadway, a goal shared by most actors in New York City at the time. I’ve mentioned in several other posts how TV was viewed during this period, but for this one I’ll let Shatner’s words from his autobiography Up Till Now do all the explaining:
Gloria and I moved to New York, right into the Golden Age of Television. Of course at that time nobody realized it was the Golden Age, a lot of people still considered TV a gimmick that would eventually fade away. But immediately I started working regularly. I was exactly the type of actor television producers were desperately searching for: I worked cheap and was always available. And I had substantial stage experience. TV was considered a very long step down from motion pictures, the theory being that if the audience could see you for free they wouldn’t buy tickets for your movies. So established movie actors wouldn’t risk their careers by working for a small salary on the tiny black-and-white screen. New York’s theater community disdained the medium but loved the work; actors could work on a TV show during the day and earn enough money to survive, and still be able to perform on the stage that evening.
Interestingly, I’ve found no mention of any stage productions that Shatner was in during either 1956 or 1957. The first Broadway production of note that he starred in would be The World of Suzie Wong that began its run in 1958. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t appearing in minor or Off-Broadway stage productions, it just means that I see no mention of that in anything that I’ve ever read about the man. However, he certainly wasn’t idle. In what was quickly becoming a theme for William Shatner he started taking whatever television jobs he could on the way to becoming what I consider to be the hardest working man in show business. Over those first two years in New York, Shatner appeared in no fewer than 25 television programs and movies.
Again, from Up Till Now:
I began by appearing regularly on the Sunday morning religious shows like Lamp Unto My Feet. There was sort of a perfect symmetry: these shows were the answer to a young actor’s prayers. They paid about seventy-five dollars needed six to ten actors every week. These were Biblical dramas and they required all the actors to speak in hushed tones: St. John never yelled, St. Peter didn’t have a Brooklyn accent, and St. Matthew didn’t forget his lines.
Lamp Unto My Feet was an early ecumenical religious television show that aired Sunday mornings on CBS for 30 years, from 1948 to 1978. Shot in New York, it featured over the years a number of noted religious actors and performers like Warren Beatty, John Cassavetes and Lenny Bruce.
According to Shatner’s autobiography, he appeared on Lamp Unto My Feet a number of times during those early days in New York City. Unfortunately I have no record of him being on it save for the mention in his book above and one specific episode credit that came in 1965. But I have no doubt that his memory in this case is correct; programs such as this would have been great ways to make a little money to stay afloat while bigger game was hunted. So, I’m assuming that Lamp Unto My Feet, and shows like it, were among some of the first bits of work that young Shatner found upon arriving in New York City.
Unknown – Not Viewed
Shat Level: Unknown – Not Viewed
It’s time to detail all of the connections between Lamp Unto My Feet and other Shatner appearances!
Well, this is easy…as I already mentioned above, I have no idea how many times Shatner was on Lamp Unto My Feet, when he was on it or who he might have appeared with. So…no details on Shatner’s tangled web this time out.
Lamp Unto My Feet was obviously at least somewhat successful, running for 30 years on a major television network. However, there is very little information about it online. The Wikipedia article is very sparse, and really the only other info I got was from a short paragraph on TV.com.
However, if you would like to watch an episode, I did find one on YouTube here.