Much has been said of William Shatner, not all of it good. Personally, we at Northern Gentleman admire Mr. Shatner for his commitment to charity and his overall handling of a sad situation.
Today, however, we are saluting William Shatner for his contributions to culture and the gentlemanly arts.
William Shatner was born in 1931 in Montreal, Quebec. It was there in Montreal that he attended primary and secondary school. He remained in Montreal to attend McGill University where he achieved a BA in Commerce (no wonder he’s Priceline’s spokesman).
Acting from an early age with the Montreal Children’s Theatre, he caught the theatre bug. After his graduation from McGill he went on to be the business manager for the Mountain Playhouse in Montreal and then moved to Ottawa to join the Canadian National Repertory Theatre. Having trained as a classical Shakespearean actor (which is why… he… enunciates… things so well) he began to appear, in 1954, in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Even before appearing on stage at Stratford, Shatner had already appeared on the silver screen. In 1951 he appeared in the Butler’s Night Off in which he played the role of “a Crook” according to IMDB, which seems to have almost forgotten that the movie was ever made.
His first leading role that came with a character name was in The Brothers Karamazov. This was in 1958 and in this big-screen adaptation of the Dostoevsky novel, Shatner was cast as the youngest brother. Although his name appeared far below that of co-stars Yul Brenner and Lee J. Cobb (who, like Leonard Nimoy, was a regular on The Virginian), Shatner’s path to stardom was set. For the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s Shatner split his time between television appearances on shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Outlaws and the stage where he appeared in The World of Suzie Wong and A Shot in the Dark.
With his acting credentials now firmly established, Shatner went on to appear in more American television shows through the first half of the 1960s including an episode of Man from U.N.C.L.E where he played the hero to Leonard Nimoy’s villain.
In 1966, he became Captain James T. Kirk and entered into legend. Among the historical moments of Star Trek’s long and illustrious history, Shatner is credited as having the first interracial kiss on scripted television with co-star Nichelle Nicols in 1968.
After falling from grace and spending some time living in his truck following the short-sighted cancellation of Star Trek, Shatner found his feet again in the early 1970s and went on to appear in dozens of movies and TV shows. In 1975, Shatner was approached to reprise the role of Kirk for the new Star Trek series Star Trek: Phase II which was shelved when Star Wars debuted and plans changed to creating Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Like Leonard Nimoy, Shatner felt that he was being typecast and had difficulty accepting the level of fandom which he was receiving. In an attempt to distance himself from his Star Trek roots he appeared in the 1998 film Free Enterprise where he tries to convince the lead characters that he is not, in fact, Captain Kirk and in 1999 he released his autobiography Get a Life where he spoke about his feelings regarding his Trek fans.
But William Shatner is much more than the sum of his film and television credits. He is a true gentleman who has devoted much of his time and money to charitable foundations. He has been involved with the American Tinnitus Association, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, among others.
Having publicly acknowledged that he has, at times, been a difficult person, Shatner has also devoted a significant amount of time to mending fences with former co-stars with whom he had had problems.
William Shatner is so much more than simply Captain Kirk. His devotion to charities, his ability to laugh at himself, his willingness to admit his failings and his commitment to improve himself and reconcile with those he’s crossed show his true colours, and those colours paint him as a true northern gentleman.