Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston

It’s hard for me to write about Charlton Heston who died yesterday. You see, at one time, I considered him my favorite actor. Oh, he was pretentious, posturing and somewhat larger-than-life (to use a line from several obits) but he was a powerful and enjoyable performer when cast in roles that fit his particular abilities and eccentricities. One of my all-time favorite actor biographies was Heston’s collection of journal entries entitled THE ACTOR’S LIFE from the late seventies. My problem with him came when he was cast in the role of the head of the National Rifle Association. Now this is NOT a political blog so I am NOT going to get into any gun debates with readers but, in my opinion, the political lobbying forces behind the once valuable NRA organization cast Heston just as DeMille or any Hollywood producer, director or casting director had ever done. He played his role well, but the character he played eventually turned my stomach.
I first saw Charlton Heston in the second PLANET OF THE APES movie where his Taylor character turns up only in brief bits in the beginning and at the apocalyptic ending. By the time I saw the first movie a year or so later, I had become a fan of him through television runs of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. I saw SOYLENT GREEN on Good Friday of 1973 at the International 70 theater in downtown Cincinnati. School got out at noon that day and I walked a block to a bus stop and headed straight across the river to the theater. I enjoyed it so much that I sat through it twice that day (you could DO that then.)! Never cared for BEN-HUR but his sly portrayal of Cardinal Richelieu in Richard Lester’s Musketeers films is another favorite. Going backwards, Heston was great as the Mexican cop in Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL (Okay, so his accent wavered and he didn’t really look Mexican in any way but it’s all about the illusion isn’t it?). WILL PENNY, EL CID, AIRPORT 1975 (with Linda Blair!)
I sold my copy of THE ACTOR’S LIFE at one point but remembering how good it was, I was pleased when cousin Rick (from Mail It To Team-Up) got me a signed copy of Heston’s later autobiography. It wasn’t the same, though. He wasn’t the same. With my permission (and for the deliberate irony), I later let my wife auction off the signed volume on E-bay specifically to get enough money to send one more Mom to the Million Mom March for Safer Gun Laws in 2000. When C-Span covered the March live, you could see Rosie O’Donnell giving my wife a high five after she had just told that story to her.
Various websites have gone with the obvious joke about Heston’s passing so I will just offer condolences to his family and add thanks for the enjoyable performances over the years.


  1. My feelings about Heston are pretty much the same as yours, and in that context, I have to say your story about the Million Mom March is indeed something to be proud of and I'm gratified to read it.

  2. yeah, there are some gray areas there that have mixed up my feelings about his passing, but, in the end, to me, it has all come down to PLANET OF THE APES, OMEGA MAN, and SOYLENT GREEN, three of my all-time favourite science-fiction movies ( actually, APES is one of my all-time favourite movies, full-stop ). each of these films, apart from just plain old great entertainment, were quite brave, socially conscious works for their time. somewhere along the way, charlton heston lost his way, it happens, i guess, but his body of work was a damn impressive body of work. i, for one, am saddened at his passing.

  3. Heston was a great American and actor. He did not lose his way. He just didn't agree with you. Big difference. All this liberal self-righteousness is getting pretty annoying.

  4. Hey, what did I say about no debates with readers? Not gonna delete your comment but drop it, please.

  5. You violated your own rule when you injected politics (i.e., the Mom march) into this "non-political" blog. What you're saying is you won't tolerate dissent on this blog.

    I, too, am sick and tired of your self-annointed, self-righteous liberals. Heston was a great American and I was thrilled when he took leadership of the NRA.

    It's your OWN statement that you should delete. I despise Rosie O'Donnell and everything she stands for. Meanwhile, she has armed bodyguards. Not enough to have a retinue of hulking bruisers trained in hand-to-hand?

    As for deleting our comments, that will just confirm that we're living in a hypocrisy, not a democracy.