Hollywood Loses A Legend – Charlton Heston

Oscar-winning actor, political activist and American Icon Charlton Heston has taken his Final Taxi at age 84. I have so many favorite memories of this wonderful film actor.

Just after President Clinton signed the Brady Bill into law ( the law where you have to wait 5 days before you get a handgun) Heston showed up that week on Saturday Night Live. Heston, during that time, was the spokesman for the NRA and he played in one of the fake SNL ads.
This was for the NRA Gun Loaner Store. While you are waiting your 5 days for your registered gun the NRA would loan you a gun of similar style. They even had a rent two guns and get the third one free. It was one of SNL funniest moments thanks to Heston having a little fun himself.

Who can forget the last scene of the movie “Planet of the Apes?” Heston is riding on a horse away from Ape City thinking that he was on a foreign planet only to come up on a broken and buried Statue of Liberty. In acting splendor he falls from the horse and falls to the ground in disbelief. As he slams his fists into the sand below him he cries out “You blew it up…”

Charlton Heston as Moses

Charlton Heston appeared in or leant his vocal talents to nearly 300 films, documentary films, TV shows and specials.

Born John Charles Carter on Oct. 4, 1923, in Evanston, Ill, Heston lived an almost idyllic boyhood, hunting and fishing. He entered Northwestern University’s School of Speech in 1941 on a scholarship from the drama club. While there, he fell in love with a young speech student named Lydia Clarke. They were married March 14, 1944, after he had enlisted in the Army Air Forces. It was a marriage that lasted over 64 years.

After the war,he made his Broadway debut in Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” as Proculeius, Caesar’s aide-de-camp. He changed his working name with a combination of his mother’s maiden name, Charlton, and the last name of his stepfather, Chester Heston.

In 1949, he attracted the attention of veteran film producer Hal Wallis. Without an audition, Wallis signed Heston to an independent contract for five pictures with the option he could accept other roles. Heston’s first picture for Wallis was the 1950 film noir “Dark City” in which he played a troubled World War II veteran, and the film did respectable business.

Next up was Cecil B. Demille’s circus epic “The Greatest Show On Earth.” Heston leads an all-star cast which won a Best Picture Oscar that year. He played US President Andrew Jackson in two films during the 1950s. The first was the 1953 romancer “The President’s Lady” opposite Susan Hayward. Next was in the 1958 war film “The Buccaneer.”

Two films from the 1950s defined Charlton Heston’s screen persona. He became the go-to-guy for historical figures following Cecil B. Demille’s epic “The Ten Commandments.” His larger-than-life Moses was memorable. For years we knew that ABC would give us a re-air of this classic every Easter.

In 1959 Charlton Heston again starred in a biblical epic. This time, the depth of his performance as a Jewish Prince who comes to know Christ with his heart and mind showed that Charlton Heston was an outstanding actor. William Wyler’s “Ben-Hur” is considered the greatest film of Charlton Heston’s career. His Best Actor Oscar was well deserved.

Charlton Heston remained one of the biggest A-List actors during the 1960s. His films from that decade are for the most part epic in scope. He began the decade with “El Cid” opposite Sophia Loren. The romanticized historical epic dealt with the war to drive North African Moor invaders from Spain in 1060. “Diamond Head,” “55 Days at Peking,” “Khartoum” and “The War Lord” followed. Of all the epics of the 1960s none was better than “The Agony and the Ecstasy.”
Heston was wonderful as the artist Michelangelo struggling to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

In the classic 1968 film “Planet of the Apes” Heston played an American astronaut that hated his world so much that he was willing to go on a space trip that would take him away from his time forever. Instead of landing back on their own Earth many years later it was a world full of human- like primates. When Heston is captured he spouts a classic line, ” ..Get your hands off of me you damn stinking ape…” The sci-fi classic spawned a series of feature film sequels, a TV series and a remake in 2001. Charlton Heston appeared in the first sequel “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” .

You should dismiss the recent Will Smith remake of “I Am Legend” and instead rent Heston’s 1971 sci-fi film “The Omega Man.” Heston is Dr. Robert Neville the last man on earth and it follows the book more closely that the current release. He stayed with sci-fi in 1973’s “Soylent Green” and it resulted in a classic of the genre. Heston played a homicide cop who was coming too close to the secret of a new food that is feeding all the starving people of the world. The last line of that film is also a classic.

Another thing I will remember Heston for is the disaster movies of the 1970’s. These were big movies with big effects for the time and they need big stars. Most have many famous actors in them – including Heston, but I will never forget the cheesy effect of ‘Sensurround’ sound. This was huge speakers that would shake you in your seats. Who could forget films like “Skyjacked,” “Airport 1975,” “Earthquake,” “Midway,” “Two-Minute Warning” and “Gray Lady Down.”

The 1980s saw Charlton Heston move from the film to TV. He was best known to 1980s TV fans as Jason Colby in the TV series “Dynasty” and its spin-off “The Colbys.” Mr. Heston returned to directing with the 1988 TV version of “A Man For All Seasons.” Heston played Sir Thomas More opposite John Gielgud and Vanessa Redgrave.

Charlton Heston began the 1990s with a father/son project. Charlton Heston’s son Fraser directed the 1990 TV version of “Treasure Island” while Charlton Heston starred Long John Silver to Christian Bale’s Jim Hawkins. He also played in the sci-fi stinker “Solar Crisis” and the great made for TV movie “Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232.”

Otherwise Mr. Heston’s work in the 1990s consisted of a number of memorable cameo appearances. Charlton Heston added spice with memorable cameos in the tough Western “Tombstone,” “True Lies,” Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday,” “Wayne’s World 2,” John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet.”

Charlton Heston was active in civil rights during his lifetime. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and fought to end racism in America. He was present in Washington D.C. when Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. As president of the NRA from 1998 to 2003 Heston drew heat from anti-gun rights activists. He was President of the Screen Actors Guild for six terms; he received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award.


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