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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy in the Golden Era

It was sad news to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy. His character, Spock, had become such a cultural icon that Nimoy could play him for decades. Gene Rodenberry created the character Spock  the mid 1960s. Nimoy, then in his mid-30s, got the part. Prior that landing the role of Spock, Nimoy had played many bit parts in many westerns during the 50s and 60s. Of course, westerns were big then, so that's where the work was. Nonetheless, Nimoy did have small parts in three 50s sci-fi films.

1952: Zombies of the Stratosphere was Nimoy's first sci-fi role. Presaging Spock, Narab was an alien -- a martian. The Narab character was a very minor role, akin to Thug #2 or Henchman #3. But, Nimoy did get a couple of speaking lines and a few precious seconds close up on the screen near the end of the film. The sinister martian leader's rocket is shot down by the hero rocket man. The wounded Narab tells Larry where the nuclear bomb is hidden and how to disarm it, thereby saving Earth. Yay!

1954: Them! saw Nimoy in such a small role, he was not credited. He played the role of a sergeant in an army intelligence office. Still, he did get a couple of lines there too.

1958: The Brain Eaters saw Nimoy in a bit more substantial role. Again with a bit of presaging, the character of Professor Cole becomes a sort of hybrid -- half human, half alien -- when he is infected with the aliens. He gets a few speaking lines in which he speaks for the aliens. Regardless of the aliens' professed intentions of bringing a semi-benovolent tyranny to improve mankind's lot. The heroes are understandably unimpressed and proceed to electrocute the aliens.

Nimoy stayed busy in the late 50s, early 60s, with bit parts in westerns, such as Bonanza and Rawhide, or small parts in crime dramas.

That is, until 1966, when he played the character of Mr. Spock in the pilot for Rodenberry's proposed TV series, Star Trek. That pilot "The Cage" failed to turn into the series. A second pilot was shot, this time with William Shatner as the brash captain of the Starship Enterprise. Nimoy was the only member of the first cast (for The Cage) that carried over to the second pilot, still as Mr. Spock.

Over the next 40 years, Nimoy would continue to play Spock in one variation or another. It is amusing to remember that such a monumental legend as Spock started out as the humble Narab in a minor role in Republic serial in 1952. Rest in Peace, Mr. Nimoy. You've served sci-fi very well.


Randall Landers said...

He touched a lot of lives...

Darci said...

You may also want to note "The Project Strigas Affair" from Nov 1964. See http://benzadmiral-uncle.blogspot.com/2010/01/project-strigas-affair-ep-19.html
Hope this helps!

Iz said...

Hi Classic Sci-fi blogger,

It seems you have no contact details on your page so I've had to say hello this way. Sorry!

Do you have an email address I can contact you on please? I have a timeline resource which might be of some use to you.



Nightowl said...

email contact info isn't present on the blog due to spambots.

To make contact, put your email in a comment. Comments are moderated, so that comment won't get published. I'll respond by email.

Grant Murray said...

Zombies of the Stratosphere is now on my 'to watch' list.