Thursday, December 2, 2010

Goodyear Television Playhouse:"All Summer Long" - a toupological analysis.

"All Summer Long" is a sixth season episode of the 1950s anthology series Goodyear Television Playhouse. The pre-taped 50-minute episode, which aired on October 28th 1956, stars Raymond Massey and Malcolm Brodrick as a father and young son. William Shatner, in one of his earliest television roles, is awarded a prestigious "And Introducing" credit (which is usually reserved for actors whom the producers believe will or should one day become famous) playing the eldest son in a troubled rural family.

A while back, when we examined the plot of the 70s movie A Whale of a Tale, we wrote that it "...may seem to some of you that we are relaying [it] in a somewhat sarcastic manner - honestly, we're not!" Yikes! Unfortunately, it's one of those scenarios again!

"This is about Willy," Bill Shatner's character John telegraphs at the start, hobbling on crutches, whilst rather insipid music plays in the background...

A family is enjoying a long summer on the farm. Young Willy (Brodrick) is concerned that regular flood waters, via a nearby river, may reach as far as the family property this season.

He wants to build a wall to prevent the flood waters from reaching the farm. But no-one, except his older brother, seems to be paying any attention to him.

There's the grumpy, authoritarian father...

The old-fashioned mother who calls her husband "Dad"...

The emotionally troubled sister Ruthy - halfway through she decides for some reason to kill herself by leaning on an electrified barbed wire fence, but the incident is soon forgotten (also for some unknown reason):

She's also having difficulties with her husband Harry, alias Dr Roger Korby, because Ruthy believes that she's ugly.

And, of course, there's young Willy...

Willy's relationship with his father is bad; thankfully, his older brother understands his growing pains.

At one point, the young kid witnesses some puppies being born - this thought so horrifies Willy's sister (presumably worried about the corrupting effect that this kind of an education might have) that she actually tries to strangle her poor brother:

The sister continues being crazy...

While John and his father clash over the controversial subject of the wall. The authorities will build the wall in the Spring, they say, but John and Willy don't want to wait. They set about building a wall, just as the rains come and the river begins to rise. But the structure is not good enough.

Willy, looking for his dog, is then washed away by the river - will he survive?

Yes, this dysfunctional family is unfortunately far less like The Waltons and far more like The Simpsons, to paraphrase a famous quote. But that's unfair - both the Waltons and the Simpsons families had a fanbase of entertained viewers. Both, in very different ways, were interesting - one for their hokey wholesomeness and the other for their flaws. "All Summer Long" has neither the charm of The Waltons or the edginess of The Simpsons.

The plot, such as there is one, is so difficult to find engrossing, the human stories so half-baked and melodramatic, the dialog so dreadful, the characters so flat, the drama so stale, that our reviewers genuinely had difficulties just sitting through "All Summer Long".

It picks up a little in terms of pace and action towards the end, but that really doesn't make up for forty prior minutes of tedium in which nothing really happens other than characters responding to or acting out poorly-constructed contrivances (the puppies, the barbed wire, the boy runs away, the wall, the obstinate father, the floods etc. etc.).

There's really only one reason why this drama falls so flat - the script by Robert Woodruff Anderson, based on his 1952 play. It's clichéd, convoluted, hackneyed and just generally a poorly-written piece of drama. According to the Wikipedia entry, this series' producer "nurtured and encouraged a group of young, mostly unknown writers." That is highly laudable, even though, as with "All Summer Long" that meant that a real turkey was occasionally produced, even from an experienced writer like Anderson.

Bill Shatner, likely eager to be noticed as an actor and delighted with such a large role, gives a decent, energetic performance, but in such a trite piece of drama, the strong performances only serve to underline the weaknesses of the material.

Let's move swiftly to the hair...

Thankfully, toupological matters make up for the shortcomings of "All Summer Long". It's a toup-less performance, of that we're certain. But what makes this even more fascinating is that while the following year, such as with "The Glass Eye", significant efforts were being made to conceal Bill Shatner's balding, here, very little of that other than basic combing is taking place.

"The Glass Eye" - evidence of spray used to cover a bald patch.

What this means is that something of a Holy Grail for toupologists is occasionally visible - a slight bald patch at the rear of Bill Shatner's head. Sometimes it's visible as a lighter patch:

Or here:

Other times it is a little more pronounced:

This patch is carefully combed over, but the absence of anything beyond that - a toupee or concealing spray, coupled with the fast-paced demands of this production - means that it occasionally peaks through. As we've previously noted, Bill Shatner was one of those unfortunate souls who started balding in their twenties. Here, he is only twenty-five years old and already his father's genes are kicking in.

A reflection, a trick of the light? Not this time, we think - a real bald patch.

Here's the video - notice how the light area does not move around the head relative to its shifting position regards the light source in the way a reflection would:

Click arrows bottom-right to enlarge.

The spherical smoothness at the back provided by the "Jim Kirk lace" is also absent. Instead, we have an area - a kind of crater - of noticeably missing hair.

The light occasionally provides a contrast between the still thick hair at the sides and the thinning top:

While Bill Shatner's hair, somewhat Jim Kirk-like even without a toup, is pretty fascinating to study throughout this episode:

And if that isn't enough, it even gets wet at the end:

We've enjoyed watching many of the 1950's TV shows in which Bill Shatner featured. But there's no way round this - "All Summer Long" is pretty awful. You'd have more fun watching toupee glue dry. The episode isn't available commercially, but used to be up on - it can now be found online.


  1. I don't think this is a bald spot.It's just camera light hiting the back of his head.In the other photo also(the one that the shat and the kid)it is also light effect(otherwise the kid is also balding).

  2. Thanks Shat attack. We've added a video of the moment to hopefully better underscore the case. -ST

  3. Great post.

    I would say the lighting emphasizes what's coming, but that in normal lighting it wouldn't be as bad as that shot.

    What I find more interesting is that his overall hair is quite straight at this point, and that his frontal hairline was largely in tact.

    It'd be curious to find toup-less pictures with his frontal hairline going away - circa 1957-1958. It seems when he started wearing toupees, either they were 1) partial ones in that they were concentrated on the back/top of his head, or 2) they were full ones in that matched his frontal hairline such that it covered it.

  4. The added video shows more clearly that indeed we have the beginings of a bald spot and it's not the effect of the studio lighting.Good work ST...

  5. there are alot of shatner clips from early TV productions that have been uploaded to YouTube within the last month

  6. It's amazing how his transition from real hair to toups is seamless, pardon the pun. Most bald actors in hollywood (matthew mcconaughey for example)have some public proof either in pictures or on tv before they transition into plugs or rugs.

  7. Toupee or not toupee!December 3, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    The Shat is very canny! He knew what was coming and was well prepared, LOL! Maybe lighting was to blame but I bet Shatner saw those rear views, made decisions, and the rest is history! Great toupological analysis.

  8. Great find!
    Shats with wet hair.. and it's not on ST IV The Voyage Home!

  9. The 'crater' shot is very telling. He was definitely thinning near the rear of his scalp, and make-up alone could only do so much... the inevitable was yet to come.

  10. Man, even the introduction to this play is painful to watch, it is so bad. Seeing something like this really debunks the so-called Golden Age of TV.

  11. I think this is the holy grail of proof. There is no way that shatners hair from here to the start of star trek can be the same. amazing find. Keep up the top or toup work!

  12. you can also see that there is none of the "lower hair" at the back missing, which you have noted elsewhere...maybe this 'injury' is an early 70's hair transplant....

  13. "This is about Willy. His hair, or more accurately, his lack of hair. And that summer when the baldness became obvious to everyone."

  14. i have just seen, a clip on youtube, it is quite a new clip, but that is all bills hair, and at this point, his frontal hair, is still thick and all there, but even in this clip, you see the back of his head, and i think i saw a brief sight of the balding, however, at this stage, bill does still have, quite a lot of hair. But in only four years, even the frontal hair, would start, to rapidly cave-in, and by star trek, his real hair, was almost totally gone.