Framework

1966 interview with William Shatner

Jan. 24, 1966: Actor William Shatner during an interview with Los Angeles Times staff writer Kevin Thomas. Still in his doctor’s costume, Shatner had finished up a five-part guest appearance on “Dr. Kildare.”

This early 1966 interview highlighted Shatner’s career before “Star Trek.” In his story, Kevin Thomas reported:

…Winding up a five-part guest appearance in Dr. Kildare, he appeared for lunch at the MGM commissary in make-up and costume, a stethoscope sticking out of a coat pocket. “I play an intense doctor who has no apparent humanity but who learns to communicate with the other doctors and the patients and have compassion for my fellow man,” says Shatner in tones of mock-heroic earnestness.

Canadian-born William Shatner, 30, came to New York 10 years ago with the Stratford (Ontario) Festival Theater in a production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine,” directed by Tyone Guthrie.

Since then he has acted in countless TV dramas, appeared in several films, including “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Judgement at Nuremberg,” spent 18 months on Broadway as a star of “The World of Suzie Wong” and, also on Broadway, played opposite Julie Harris in “A Shot in the Dark.” Last season he starred in a television series, For the People, and will be doing a pilot at Desilu for a science fiction series, Star-Trek.

The high point of his career, however, remains “The Intruder,” which is the original title of “I Hate Your Guts!” (it was also known for a while as “The Stranger”). Made on location under the direction of Roger Corman, best known for his stylish adaptions of Edgar Allan Poe, it is the boldest, most realistic depiction of racial injustice ever shown in American films and is based on an actual incident.

“It’s the best I’ve ever done,” says Shatner, who superbly portrays a satanic rabble-rouser who quickly reduces a small town on the eve of integration to a state of chaos.

“Our setting was the boot heel of Missouri. Discrimination was worse than in the Deep South because there the white southerners have taken a position – the lines of war were clearly marked. But here it was a fringe area and therefore more explosive.

“Literally, this movie was made at the risk of our lives. We even has escape plans. The state militia had to be called in when we shot scenes depicting the Ku Klux Klan bombing a Negro church.

“ ‘The Intruder’ opened at two New York art houses in ’61 to incredible, fantastic reviews. But nobody went to see it, and nobody would distribute it, presumably because of the subject matter,” explains Shatner, who regards its fate as “a tragedy of this business.”

However, he still believes the low-budget movie (“The Intruder” cost $160,000, with Shatner settling for a so-far-nonexistent percentage of the gross instead of a salary) is the only hope for both artists and audiences.

“There should be movies with meaning both for the people involved in making them and those viewing them,” he said. …

The three photos above were taken by staff photographer Nelson Tiffany. The middle image accompanied Thomas’ story in the Feb. 2, 1966, Los Angeles Times.

In the June 3, 1966, Los Angeles Times, an entertainment brief reported:

William Shatner has begun shooting his hour-long science fiction series, Star Trek, at Desilu Gower Studios. Show will air this fall on NBC. Initial segment is “The Corbomite Maneuver,” directed by Joe Sargent from a script by Jerry Sohl. Gene Roddenberry is executive producer, and Bob Justmand and John D. F. Black associate producers.