Tamburlaine the Great (01/19/1956)

Shatner on Broadway!

On January 19th, 1956, William Shatner performed on Broadway for the very first time in Tamburlaine the Great. Less than four years out of college (where he took not one acting class) this must have felt like an enormous achievement if not a dream come true for the young Canadian. Directed by the British director Tyrone Guthrie, Tamburlaine the Great looks like an elaborate spectacle of a play and was intentionally designed as a limited engagement of 12 weeks at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre.

Instead, it ran for less than 3 weeks and only 20 total performances.

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Go Ask Alice (01/24/1973)

You can’t ask Alice anything anymore…

Although I will usually be reviewing Shatner appearances in chronological order, an exception is made in this case for Go Ask Alice to celebrate the launch of the website. This will probably be the only time I break my chronological rule. Probably.

In 1971, Go Ask Alice, a young girl’s real life diary was published. This anonymous girl (the title is not, as is frequently thought, the diarist’s name but is instead a line from a 1967 Jefferson Airplane song, “White Rabbit”, a thinly veiled drug song about Alice In Wonderland) detailed in the diary her addiction to drugs starting at the age of 15. This addiction soon spiraled out of control and led to her running away from home, becoming a prostitute, and eventually dying of a drug overdose at 17. The book was a sensation, read by a generation of kids and their parents alike and often read in schools for its anti-drug message.

In January 1973, this diary was made into a television movie and shown as part of ABC’s very popular “Movie of the Week” series. The film starred Jamie Smith-Jackson as the now-titular Alice (it was just easier to name the girl Alice for the movie, which both causes and alleviates confusion depending on how you want to look at it) and William Shatner as her oblivious father. This TV movie helped to solidify and magnify the success of the book, reaching an ever-wider audience of parents, teachers and kids with its harrowing true story of teen drug addiction.

Several friends of mine, who could give a shit about Shatner, knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned Go Ask Alice the TV movie. They had vivid memories of watching the film in the 1970’s and early 80’s, as it was often re-aired to good ratings and shown in high schools as a cautionary tale. At the beginning of the film, the following text is shown:

This motion picture is based on the authentic diary of a 15 year old American girl. The only alterations have been those necessitated by considerations of length and acceptability for family viewing.

In the immortal words of Simon & Garfunkel, “Hello bullshit, my old friend.”

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