The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rock it, Man!

This morning's NY Times Magazine has a story on William Shatner, which mentions, among other things, that he was "The 23-year-old Shakespearean whom Sir Tyrone Guthrie called the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s most promising actor."

Wait a damn second. Sir Tyrone Guthrie? Stratford Shakespeare Festival? In 1954?

Sure enough, that's the second year of the Festival, and wriiten up in a little-known work by that magus of Canada, Roberston Davies, in Twice Have The Trumpets Sounded, the second of Davies' accounts of the early years of the Festival, co-authored by Davies with Guthrie, lavishly illustrated by Grant McDonald. (And if I can find me a copy of Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew'd (1955), I'll have 'em all, and my completist's heart will be at ease). Anyway, here is Davies on Shatner in The Taming of the Shrew:
Lucentio, the suitor of Bianca, is not ordinarily consdered a comic role, except in the classic sense that all lovers who do not die are figures of High Comedy. But William Shatner brought some of the gifts of the vaudevillian comedian to the part; his self-assured and somewhat brassy delivery of his first speech was itself a pleasant bit of comedy, and all through the play he gave a dimension of comedy to a character which can very easily be a romantic bore. In the company of players who performed The Shrew at the Lord's bidding, his rank was obviously that of First Light Comedian rather than First Walking Gentleman.
(Twice Have The Trumpets Sounded, at p. 50).

High praise from Davies, whose critical faculties were razor-sharp. The sketch of Shatner in role on page 51 is very reminsicent of a James Dean in his prime--and, a bit oddly, of a picture I've seen of my own father as a young man).

Shatner is often dismissed as a media phenomenon whos has made himself into a cult figure by straddling the two worlds of fandom and self-parody. And in fact, that's true. It's also true, though, that the actor playing the role of William Shatner has more native talent than one might think, and the man behind the masque is not necessarily the joking figure he portrays.

I think.


JK and LT said...

Thanks so much for sharing this for all of the Shatnerphiles. Any chance you'll scan that illustration and post it?


JK and LT said...

P.S. We reposted part of this to our blog,

Anglocat said...

If I ca do it without damaging the binding, I will. I'll have a shot at it.

Glad you liked the review!