Wednesday, July 22, 2009
When did William Shatner start wearing a toupee?
The short and simple answer is sometime between 1957 and 1958. From that point onwards, he would never again choose to be photographed professionally without wearing a hairpiece. The decision may initially have been only for television and film work rather than theatrical productions - but that distinction didn't last long...
Above we have two photographs of a still toupless Shatner in December 1957, performing in a TV show called Studio One - No Deadly Medicine.
Perhaps the last time he was ever photographed acting without a toupee was during the long theatrical run of The World of Suzie Wong (see above and also here).
That same year, the toup (albeit a rather shabby-looking one) made an appearance in a TV show called Playhouse 90 - A Town Has Turned to Dust (see above). We also have a photograph from a year earlier (see below) from Studio One - The Defender (1957) in which Bill Shatner appears to be already wearing a hairpiece. Was this the first ever first toup appearance? The point here is that it likely wasn't entirely black & white - during the crossover period, Shats may have worn a toup in one show and still relied on sprays and combing techniques in another.
And of course, we also saw Shats in the movie The Brothers Karamazov (released in 1958, but filmed in 1957) - although his toup in that film is perhaps better described as a stage wig.
After 1958, the toup never ever went away and by 1959, the classic Star Trek: TOS look was essentially born with Shatner now wearing an (expensive) front lace toup as well as a hairpiece that covered the crown (the pieces may or may not have been separate). These toups were almost certainly provided by the productions Shats was working for, rather than anything the struggling young actor could afford to buy for himself - the latter would likely not have been particularly suitable for filming.
However, Bill Shatner was doing a lot of very low budget TV at this time, so perhaps with the money he had made from The Brothers Karamazov he also decided to fork out for his own personal toup in case the budget of a particular production could not cover this expense - Shats may have also felt that it helped his chances at auditions. Star Trek (which was a considerably higher budget TV production) producer Bob Justman later noted that Shatner's "Own 'personal' ones were too ratty-looking [to be used in front of the cameras]." (see here).