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Leonard Nimoy: 1931-2015
27 February 2015 11:13 AM, PST
Leonard Nimoy, the eloquent, baritone-voiced actor and director who will forever be remembered as the Starship Enterprise's supremely logical half-human, half-Vulcan science officer Spock, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 83 years old.
Although his most recent major television role was on Fox's "Fringe," Nimoy's work on the television series "Star Trek" led to Spock becoming one of the most beloved sci-fi characters in the history of the genre. It also earned him three Emmy nominations for the role. Today Spock's V-shaped Vulcan hand salute, accompanied by the gentle benediction, "Live long and prosper," is recognized around the world. The "Star Trek" franchise may have defined the better part of Nimoy's career and made him a pop culture icon, but the man was as versatile as he was famous. He authored a number of books, recorded several albums, directed television episodes and theatrical releases (including the 1987 comedy blockbuster 3 Men and a Baby) and won critical notice as a respected photographer over the course of his lifetime.
Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, to Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Nimoy began acting in community theater at the age of eight. His first major role came at age 17, when he played Ralphie in an amateur production of Clifford Odets's "Awake and Sing." After receiving career advice from an actor in another Odets play making its pre-Broadway debut in Boston, he submitted an application to California's Pasadena Playhouse. Nimoy would then relocate to the West Coast using his earnings from selling vacuum cleaners.
Nimoy made his film debut at age 20 in the 1951 film Queen for a Day, and won a small role as a ballplayer in the film Rhubarb, which was released in the same year. His first movie lead was the title role in the 1952 film Kid Monk Baroni. Nimoy then took drama classes at Boston College in 1953.
Following a stint in the Army between 1953 and 1955, Nimoy had guest starring roles in a number of television series. Starting in 1958, he appeared in "Sea Hunt," "Highway Patrol," "Bonanza," "The Untouchables," "Get Smart" and "The Virginian." He also guest starred in an episode of "The Twilight Zone" titled "A Quality of Mercy," and would work with his future co-star and friend William Shatner in the "The Project Strigas Affair" episode of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
But it was Nimoy's role in a 1964 episode of "The Lieutenant" that caught the eye of a producer and writer named Gene Roddenberry, who cast Nimoy in his new series "Star Trek." Nimoy is the only member of "Star Trek's" main cast to appear in every episode of the series, including the original unaired pilot. Of the famous Vulcan salute, Nimoy once explained that he based it on the way the rabbis in his childhood held their hands while giving blessings. (He also invented the Vulcan nerve pinch when he and the "Trek" writers needed a non-violent means for Spock to overpower an enemy.) The series only ran until 1969, but went on to inspire a movie franchise and four spinoffs. Nimoy co-starred with the rest of the original cast in the first six installments of the theatrical series, starting with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979. He also directed the third and fourth "Trek" films, 1984's Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Nimoy returned to play Spock Prime for J.J. Abrams' 2009 resurrection of the theatrical franchise and its sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness.
After the original "Star Trek's" cancellation, Nimoy joined the cast of "Mission: Impossible" playing The Great Paris, a master of impersonation. The actor stayed with that series until 1971. He enjoyed roles in a number of television movies, eventually earning a best supporting actor Emmy nomination for "A Woman Called Golda" in 1982.
Nimoy did not limit his artistic exploration to stage and screen, however. He authored several books of poetry and two autobiographies, the first being the somewhat-controversial 1977 tome "I Am Not Spock," which examined his self-declared identity crisis brought on by being associated with the character. His second, 1995's "I Am Spock," revealed that he had reached a certain peace with the influence the role had on his life. He also recorded several albums, most of which are considered to be masterpieces of unintentional camp.
Nimoy was an avid photographer, having studied photography at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the 1970s. In 2002 he released a provocative collection of photographs titled "The Shekhina Project," which drew controversy for its depiction of Jewish female nudes. Five years after its publication, Nimoy examined the beauty in plus-sized women for 2007's "The Full Body Project."
Nimoy's final TV role was in "Fringe," in which he played genius scientist and Massive Dynamic CEO William Bell, and his final voice-acting role was for the animated film Zambezia.
The actor also was very active on social media, sharing affirmations and words of wisdom on Twitter accompanied by his sign-off, "LLAP," or "Live Long and Prosper." His final tweet, dated February 22, told his 1.13 million followers, "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. "
Nimoy is survived by his wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, his two children, director Adam Nimoy and Julie Nimoy, from his previous marriage to Sandra Zober, as well as a stepson and several grandchildren. »
- Melanie McFarland