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)


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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The Taming of the Shrew (06/29/1954)

Introducing…Mr. William Shatner!

William Shatner is often introduced or referred to as being a “classically trained” actor, referring to those actors who have had formal training in Shakespearean theater. Indeed, when Shatner was hired for Star Trek, one of the (many, many) selling points was that he came from just such a classical training background. And when people criticize his acting for being a bit too broad, defenders (and critics alike) point to his classical background as being the main culprit for that style. But there is one person who makes a point of never referring to William Shatner as being classically trained, and that person is William Shatner himself.

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Measure for Measure (06/28/1954)

Shatner meets the Bard…and his first big break.

In my 1953 – Shatner Year in Review post, I gave a brief overview of the history of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and noted that it was an almost instant sensation in its first year. I also mentioned that Shatner was, according to him, approached to join the inaugural company but turned it down, thinking that the festival was a dubious prospect that would most likely fail. He was, of course, extremely wrong.

If the first year was a success beyond most people’s wildest dreams, the second season of the festival, in 1954, was even more blockbuster and truly cemented the Stratford Festival as one of the premiere theaters in North America and around the world. Artistic Director Tyrone Guthrie, in collaboration with Tanya Moiseiwitsch, continued to revolutionize Shakespearean theater (and theater in general) with the “thrust stage.” For the second season, capacity in the theater was increased greatly simply by moving the tent poles (yes, the theater was under a big tent) from the inside of the theater to the outside. The tickets sold almost doubled, from an astounding 68,599 in 1953 to 125,155 the following year. Another play was added, bringing the total number to three, and that added third play (Oedipus Rex) wasn’t even written by Shakespeare! The season doubled to 9 weeks, and by the second weekend they were basically sold out for the remaining 1954 run.

This, all before the internet made it incredibly simple for people to buy tickets to just about anything from just about anywhere. Seriously, think about it…to get tickets to a performance (or performances) of the Stratford Festival in 1954, one had to travel by car, bus or train to Stratford directly (which was not exactly a destination in and of itself) and wait in a line at the box office to purchase tickets. Then, you would return home (usually a journey of at least an hour) and then come back on the day or days that your purchased tickets were good for. The failing town of Stratford, propped up by the hope and money of its citizens in an effort to save their hometown, transformed literally almost overnight from a train hub and manufacturing depot into a thriving artistic tourist destination.

Shatner was invited once again to join the company, and this time he jumped at the chance.

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CBC Theatre – “The Man Who Ran Away” (04/06/1954)

Let’s play catch-up!

As I warned you all in my post on Space Command, we’re entering a very hazy period of time regarding any concrete information on a lot of Shatner’s appearances. This “haze” doesn’t really start to clear until about 1960 or so, when things definitely get more pinned down. In the meantime, new information has come to light that forces me to deviate from my plan to talk about Shatner’s appearance in The Taming of the Shrew for Stratford, and backtrack just a few months to discuss a TV appearance instead.

While doing some research for my next few posts, I ran across an article and radio program about William Shatner for the CBC. The images shown were for a number of productions I had never heard of. I did some more digging, and found a bit more information on these shows on IMDB.

And then I noticed that there were about 8-10 other shows that were also appearing on IMDB that hadn’t been there when I was building my initial Shatner database. So, I spent several hours this morning slotting in all of the information that I could find regarding these appearances. And that information was really, really sparse, but I’ve done what I could. After this post, my next tasks will be to update some of the information in previous reviews, because even little changes can affect the whole of Shatner’s web.

So let’s dive into the CBC Theatre’s, “The Man Who Ran Away” from early April 1954, shall we?

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