Friday, October 23, 2015

The Apprentice?


We've covered Bill Shatner's 1958-60 stint performing in the theatrical play The World of Suzie Wong a number of times. But it turns out that far more photographs exist from this time - ones of significant toupological interest. For example, while perusing Marc Cushman's These Are The Voyages books we came across a publicity still from 1958 or '59 featuring Bill Shatner and co-star France Nuyen:

The picture is of a very low resolution, but nonetheless we'd say it is pretty certain Bill Shatner is toupless here - combing, spraying and creating a shell that could still pass as a full head of hair if photographed correctly. Perusing a couple of Internet photo-sharing sites and message boards, we also came across another picture from the same shoot - apparently taken by photographer Milton H. Greene on October 14, 1958:

Here, the thinning is more evident. Indeed, the sides of Bill Shatner's hair appear noticeably fuller and of a greater volume than the hair atop the scalp.

Let's quickly refresh our memories about the play in question: according to the IBDB, The World of Suzie Wong had two separate runs on Broadway, New York. The first was at the Broadhurst Theatre from October 14, 1958 to November 7, 1959; the second run, at the George Abbott Theatre, ran from November 9, 1959 to January 2, 1960. 

The story, set in Hong Kong, sees serviceman Robert Lomax (Shatner) falling for a local prostitute (Nuyen). In his autobiography, Up Till Now, Bill Shatner relates how, following initial disastrous reviews, he altered his acting style and helped re-imagine the play as a satire - which then became a hit (more in our toupological analysis)!

We also know that on November 16, 1958, Bill Shatner and France Nuyen performed an extract from the play (presumably still the "bad" version) on live television, on the Ed Sullivan Show. No footage of this has ever been seen publicly since the original transmission (but certainly such a performance would have been cause to take numerous publicity stills). 

The Suzie Wong era is of particular interest because it serves as a unique example of us seemingly having pictures of Bill Shatner both toupless and wearing a very early approximation of a "Jim Kirk Lace". A common reference point! Over the span of the play's almost 15 month run, it appears that Bill Shatner's real hair became increasingly thin to the point that - at least for certain (perhaps later) publicity stills - a toupee began to be viewed as essential. So we have what is, we think, almost certainly a toup: 

...also this quintessentially "Jim Kirk lace" 1959 television interview on the The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beechnut Show:

And also likely not toup:


See also here for a Life magazine feature published on October 8, 1958 (thus prior to the premiere) which appears to show that at this point, Bill Shatner was still toupless, but using heavy thickening spray of some kind:


Finally, with greater certainty, almost certainly no toup:

But wait, there's more! - as they say in infomercials.

What if there was a brief intermediary phase, considered, but soon discarded? We've never encountered a Bill Shatner photograph that appears to be a comb-over before. But this is what we appear to have in another Wong publicity picture we came across (the date it was taken is not known by us). Something akin to "The Donald's" solution (we believe him when he says it's not a toup):

Source: Daily Mail

Could it be that Bill Shatner briefly attempted this method too? Clever combing forward of long hair from the back?


The hair just doesn't appear to be following a natural growth/combing pattern here. Rather, it appears to have been swept forward. The frontal hairline also appears to be showing signs of severe thinning. Perhaps the hair was squashed by a since-removed toup. Or perhaps it really is some sort of comb-over attempt. There do appear to be bald patches visible through the carefully placed strands in places rarely seen by the general public. 

Just when you start to think that all the toupological stones have been uncovered something like this comes along...