General Motors Theatre – “The Coming Out of Ellie Swan” (03/22/1955)

But coming out of where?

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.

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Scope – “One Soul in Two Bodies” (02/27/1955)

One day…just one day (!) after Shatner appeared in On Camera’s “Man in 308” he appeared in an episode of Scope, “One Soul in Two Bodies.” Truly, Shatner is a golden god!

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On Camera – “Man in 308” (02/26/1955)

Just four short days after appearing in the General Motors Theatre episode “Never Say No,” Shatner appeared on yet another CBC anthology program called On Camera, in the episode “Man in 308.” However, unlike some of the other anthology programs that Shatner would appear on over the years he was in Toronto, On Camera had one distinguishing feature…and one other singular distinction in the life of Le Shat.

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General Motors Theatre – “Never Say No” (02/22/1955)

Another day, another episode of General Motors Theatre…

On February 22nd, 1955, Shatner appeared in his fifth episode of General Motors Theater (formally CBC Theatre) in less than a year. This time for the episode “Never Say No.”

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Playbill – “Mr. Finchley Versus the Bomb” (01/19/1955)

Two of my heroes, Shatner and Rod Serling, together for the first time.

On January 12th, 1955, Rod Serling was a lesser-known television writer, a man who had toiled in relatively obscurity for a number of years churning out script after script (many of them rejected) for anthology radio and television programs.

On January 13th, 1955, Rod Serling was an in-demand sensation, a man whose “phone just started ringing and wouldn’t stop for years!” Serling went literally overnight from being virtually unknown to being one of the most celebrated and lauded screenwriters of television’s golden age and beyond after the anthology series Kraft Television Theatre aired one of his productions titled “Patterns.”

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Scope – “Antiquity 1954” (01/02/1955)

Hello, it’s 1955 calling. Get to work!

According to IMDB, Shatner wasted little time in getting a job in 1955. On only the second day of the year, he was apparently appearing in an episode of Scope, titled “Antiquity 1954.”

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1954 – Shatner Year in Review

Goodbye 1954!

Welcome to the 1954 edition of the “Shatner Year In Review.” At the end of each year covered in the review posts I will provide a summary as it relates to Shatner and his career, as well as display some key entertainment statistics.

So, 1954 was a busy damn year for Shatner…and a true breakout one in terms of proving that he might actually be able to do this thing; this thing being making a living as a professional actor.

He left the life of regional theater behind and joined the company at the newly-prestigious Stratford Festival in Ontario. He began his “day job” on various programs at the CBC for their nascent television production department, as well as for their well-established radio division. And he started to save some his newly hard-earned money for a move to NYC, where he hoped to make it big on the Broadway stage.

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General Motors Theatre – “The Black Eye” (11/16/1954)

1954 ends with a black eye.

Young Shatner must have made quite an impression on the CBC, and especially on the producers of General Motors Theatre; over the course of about six weeks he appeared on the program 3 times, and over the span of eighteen months, he worked on at least 8 episodes. Some of that would certainly be due to Shatner’s unrelenting drive (born of desperation) to scrounge up a job, and some to his fantastic work effort once he got one.

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The Canadian Howdy Doody Show (Late 1954?)

Confusion reigns in this next entry about Shatner’s career.

In a number of recent posts, I’ve made mention of “the haze” that surrounds much of Shatner’s early years as an actor. That haze runs basically from when he graduated from college in 1952 up to about 1960 or so when the air begins to clear and more programs (and information about those programs) begins to appear. Meanwhile, as stated, things are pretty murky at times regarding Le Shat.

And I don’t think any program more exemplifies “the haze” like The Canadian Howdy Doody Show.

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General Motors Theatre – “I Like It Here” (11/02/1954)

So…hazy.

As I mentioned in my last post, Shatner began working in earnest at the CBC after his first year at Stratford, for the 1954-55 TV season. His roles at this time were mostly small ones, and because most of these productions were filmed live (and because they were made so long ago), there are often no available prints to view, nor any photographs from the programs to be found. The good news is that I will be able to post about these appearances pretty quickly. The bad news is that I have very little information on them, and what I do have should be considered suspect at best.

Case in point, “I Like It Here”, another episode of General Motors Theatre that aired about one month after the last episode that Shatner was in, “The Big Leap.” I have found no pictures and no plot information on this episode…only a date and a partial cast list on IMDB. We can only assume that Shatner did appear in this, and that he picked up his $35 dollar check a couple of weeks later!

Without further ado…

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General Motors Theatre- “The Big Leap” (10/05/1954)

Shatner’s TV career picks up steam.

Just a few months prior to heading to Stratford after being offered a job with the company in early 1954, Shatner packed up his very small car (bought for him by his father who also loaned him a little bit of money) and moved to Toronto, the nearest big city to the small town of Stratford, Ontario. There he got a few jobs with the fledgling CBC television network, on CBC Theatre and (probably) on Space Command. Returning from Stratford’s very successful season after gaining exposure in the Shakespeare Festival, Shatner truly began a habit that he still has to this day…saying “yes” to just about any production that would hire him.

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Oedipus Rex (07/14/1954)

Oedipus Rex. Widely considered the greatest of all the extant Greek plays and the granddaddy of all tragedies, it was written by Sophocles and first performed around 429 B.C. If you ever went to school, chances are that you read, studied and/or learned about Oedipus Rex. Even if you have never heard of it directly, its themes of the “tragic flaw”, of fate and free will and of the futile struggle to change what is destined to happen have been a fixture of drama for the last two and a half centuries.

The third and final production to be mounted at Stratford in 1954, Oedipus Rex was also the very first play performed at the festival that was not written by Shakespeare. As related in my previous post on Taming of the Shrew, director Tyrone Guthrie was certainly not adverse to taking a classic play and, through dress and stage direction, modernizing it in some fashion. For Oedipus Rex, however, he did the exact opposite.

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