On Camera – “Dreams” (04/28/1956)

A seismic life change for Shatner begins here.

I imagine that just about every human being can look back and think of events or decisions made that profoundly changed the course of their life, inflection points that in retrospect mark a clear delineation between “Before” and “After.” What if I had gone to this school rather than that one?  What if I had/had not taken this job or followed this career path? What if I had/had not moved to this city?

What if I had never met him/her? What if I had/had not married this person? What if I had not had three children?

For William Shatner, I would argue that the most impactful inflection point of his personal life, and quite possibly of his career as well, came as a direct result of his involvement with this episode of On Camera, “Dreams.”

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General Motors Theatre – “Forever Galatea” (12/06/1955)

Let’s unpack the mystery of Peter Sloan, shall we?

In March of 2016, a man named Peter Sloan filed a $170 million lawsuit in Florida federal court against one Mr. William Shatner. Sloan, given up for adoption in New York City just five days after his birth in December of 1956, began searching for his birth parents in the early 1980’s at the urging of his first adoptive father. He eventually tracked his birth mother down in Toronto and discovered that she had been (in the mid-1950’s) a minor Canadian actress named Kathy McNeil (at the time Kathy Burt, her maiden name.) McNeil later told Sloan in a letter that his birth father was either a law student from Montreal whose name she could not recall, or William F. Shatner.

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On Camera – “On a Streetcar” (12/03/1955)

Shatner is back to TV after three months away. Why the delay?

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.

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Scope – “The Verdict Was Treason” (04/03/1955)

One of the most famous names in Canadian history is Louis Riel. I know this because I just read the entire Wikipedia entry about the man. Prior to beginning my research for this Shatner appearance, I honestly had no idea. So, Canadians, please forgive me my ignorance.

Because I’m obviously not an expert on him or on Canadian history in general, I’m going to try and hit on the highlights of Riel’s life and times as briefly as I can before discussing the production of “The Verdict Was Treason” itself. Oh…and spoiler alert. The verdict was treason.

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Playbill – “The Swamp” (03/30/1955)

About two months after first appearing on the CBC’s anthology television program Playbill, in an episode penned by the great Rod Serling, Shatner would come back for a second (and apparently final time) for an episode called “The Swamp.”

It’s actually slightly surprising that I don’t see more of Shatner on Playbill, because it appears that it was an interesting proving ground for new and innovative Canadian directors, producers and actors. It’s certainly possible (and even probable) that I’m missing one or more entries for this particular series, so let’s briefly discuss what made Playbill stand out from some of its peers.

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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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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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