In the wake of Leonard Nimoy’s passing this week, the internet is filled with Star Trek video clips, but those alone don’t do justice to the actor’s legacy.
With the memory of Star Trek being so strong, it’s easy to forget that he was well-established as a TV actor for years before being discovered by Gene Roddenberry. Here he is on Gunsmoke — as was often the case (see the Mission Impossible clip further down), in full ethnic regalia!
And of course, most of the Trek main cast “auditioned” on Perry Mason. Here’s Nimoy’s episode:
And speaking of his Star Trek co-stars, this episode of Man From UNCLE shows Kirk and Spock working together for the first time (Shatner as a drunken jackass, Nimoy as a Russian spy). Bonus points: Colonel Klink!
Like a lot of celebrities, as soon as Nimoy had a good bit of fame, he was allowed to try to leverage that into record sales — and one of the most notorious pieces was this novelty song based on The Hobbit. (And keep in mind that “hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” were not household terms back then. Long before the blockbuster movies, the only people to have heard of Tolkien were the ones who had read the books — and for the most part, that was limited to stoned college students. This song was actually groundbreaking in that regard.)
According to a Wikipedia entry, “When the single was originally released, Nimoy lip-synched to the recording during a guest appearance on the July 28, 1967 episode of Malibu U, a short-lived variety television series [and] survives as a ‘music video’.”
In addition to the occasional original tune, his singing career was mostly propped up using that time-honored (though hardly proven) route of the cover song, in this case of CCR’s Proud Mary. (Listen as your own risk, it’s kind of pitiful. Your level of respect for Mr. Spock might never recover.) Bonus points: As if it weren’t bad enough that he sings “toinin'” and “boinin'” at one point in the song (but not always), he sings “Pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans”.
Nimoy’s next career move was as a regular for two seasons of Mission Impossible after the departure of Martin Landau, as “master of disguise” Paris. Shown here is surely his finest hour, in full Kabuki makeup!
And finally: Nimoy’s post-Trek career has been dominated with re-hashing Star Trek (including several feature films), but he did occasionally find work in other films, such as 1978’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Donald Sutherland:
(Thanks to For the Win for some of these links!)