The late “Star Trek” star would have turned 90 today.
Leonard Nimoy — who was born on this date 90 years ago in Boston — will always be known best, and loved most, for his iconic portrayal of the indefatigably logical Mr. Spock in the enduringly popular Star Trek franchise. But many C&I readers may also recall Nimoy's work during the golden age of television westerns, when he portrayed everything from a cowardly gambler to an Apache warrior in such series as Bonanza, Broken Arrow, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Virginian, A Man Called Shenandoah, Laramie, Rawhide and Two Faces West. In 1995, he even took a crack at playing the legendary Frank James in the TV-movie Bonanza: Under Attack.
In this 1960 episode of Tate titled “Apache Scalps,” he guest starred as a Comanche warrior, and actually maintained a straight face while delivering lines such as, “Apache arrow! Everyone knows Apaches are bad Indian! Comanches are good Indian! Everyone knows that! Is that not so?” (Also in the cast: A rising young actor named Robert Redford.)
On the big screen, Nimoy had one of his earliest roles as Chief Black Hawk opposite Rex Allen and Slim Pickens in the Republic Pictures B-movie Old Overland Trail (1953). “Good old Republic,” Nimoy recalled in a 1995 interview with Doug Nye of Knight-Ridder Newspapers. “That role came along at a time when I was really trying to break in. They (Republic) gave me that chance.” Nearly two decades later, he was a formidable foe to Yul Brynner and Richard Crenna in the 1971 movie version of Louis L'Amour's Catlow (now available on Amazon Prime, YouTube and other streaming platforms).
In a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Nimoy half-jokingly noted that playing Mr. Spock in Star Trek – a series originally pitched to NBC as “Wagon Train to the stars” – actually was a natural progression from his appearances in TV westerns, “most of the time playing Indians. Naturally, when I got into science fiction, I had to play an alien.”
Nimoy lived a long life and prospered until he passed away Feb. 27, 2015 in Los Angeles at age 83.