Dec 25, 2014

Michael Forest: Playing a God of Masculine Beauty

The September 22nd, 1967 episode of Star Trek had the cryptic title "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Even when I grew up and studied English literature, the title was still cryptic.  It comes from "Adonais," an elegy written by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley for his dead friend, John Keats.

He took the name from Adonis, the ancient Greek god of masculine beauty.

So audiences were supposed to expect a god of masculine beauty?

They got one: 37 year old Michael Forest as Apollo, an alien who was mistaken for a god by the ancient Greeks, and who still expects worship.  It takes a femme fatale scientist to subdue him.


The heterosexist plotline didn't detract from the image of Michael Forest as Apollo, clad in a toga, with a laurel leaf, his bare chest, shoulders, and arms visible, one of the iconic beefcake shots of the Boomer generation.

Although never a beefcake star of the Henry Willson stable, Michael managed to display his bare chest several times during the 1950s, in guest-spots in Westerns (as an Indian) and swinging-bachelor dramas, and in horror-sci fi movies like Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), 

He fell somewhat short of the superlative physique necessary to cash in on the 1960s bodybuilder craze; his only peplum was Atlas (1961), directed by Roger Corman.




But he worked steadily through the 1960s, with guest spots across the tv dial, and starring roles in movies.

One of his most important was Deathwatch (1966), based on the Jean Genet play about two prison inmates, Maurice (Paul Mazursky) and Lefranc (Leonard Nimoy) competing for the affections the hot, muscular Green-Eyes (Forest).

That's right, Leonard Nimoy playing a gay character, a year before he became Spock.

(This actually wasn't his first; he played a hustler in Jean Genet's The Balcony in 1963)..

After Star Trek, Michael continued to take off his shirt a lot, playing Achilles (1972), a motorcycle thug (1972), a spaghetti Western Man with No Name (1972), and Agamemnon (1973).  Plus theater and lots of voice-over work (look for him in the 2008 documentary Adventures in Voice Acting).

In 2013, he reprised the character of Apollo on the web series Star Trek Continues (2013).

Apparently heterosexual in real life, he has retired to Walla Walla, Washington.