Charlton Heston (1923 - )

Heston - In the Arena

A man for all seasonsIf there was ever an epic hero then it was Charlton Heston. Everytime a Hollywood director needed someone to play one of the great leaders of men, noble and perferably saintly, they sent for Heston: tall, deep-voiced, chiseled-featured and broad-chested - an attribute he always gave us an opportunity to admire.

He was born in Evanson, Illinios, in 1923 and made his movie dedut while at college in an amateur version of Peer Gynt (1941). Producer Hal Wallis saw him acting on TV and signed him to a contract, starting with Dark City (1950). De Mille used him for The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) in which he was supposed to be another good looking peice of screen furniture but he proved to be much more. He played Moses in the Ten Commandments for the same director in 1956. A biblical Epic which was a unrivalled success at the time and is still in the top ten grossing movies of all time.

His greatest role came in 1959 when he played the lead in William Wyler's Ben-Hur for which he won a well deserved oscar. He first went behind the camera in 1972 and has starred in all the films he has directed including Antony And Cleopatra (1972) and Mother Lode (1982)

He is also the National Rifle Association president and has recently made headlines due to his stand on the right of all Americans to bare arms as dictated in the American constitution. Although this stance is admirable, it has made him popular with right-winged political groups such as the KKK and White Power Neo-Nazis. It is ironic that a man who stood shoulder to shoulder with Martin Luther King in civil rights marches in the 1960's should be honoured in the 1990's by the very people he protested against with Doctor King.

Chris Browne 2000


Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

"Charlton Heston is an axiom. By himself alone he constitutes a tragedy, and his presence in any film whatsoever suffices to create beauty." Few at the time agreed with this off-the-wall 1960 tribute to the imposing leading man by-who else-a French critic, and today's "hip" filmgoers are likely to be convulsed by it. But they're wrong too. Heston was and is an actor of absolutely undeniable presence, and was never more so than during his late-1950s/early-1960s heyday, when Hollywood needed all the presence it could get to compete with television.

Heston's earliest screen performances were seen in independently made productions ofJulius Caesar and Peer Gynt in the 1940s. But neither his Hollywood debut in 1950's Dark City nor his subsequent leading-man assignments (in the likes of Lucy Gallant and The Greatest Show on Earth could foretell the impact he would make as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's spectacular The Ten Commandments (1956), which started him on a long string of historical parts, including the title role in William Wyler's 1959Ben-Hur for which he won a Best Actor Oscar.

Chuck and the lovely Sophia Loren in El CidHeston went on to play the title role in Anthony Mann's excellent wide-screen epic El Cid (1961), and portrayed Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). He also worked in a number of Westerns, including Peckinpah's Major Dundee (1965) and Will Penny (1968, one of Heston's personal favorites). In 1968 he played an astronaut trapped on a simianrun Earth in Planet of the Apes reprising the role in its first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). The brief sci-fi vogue of those years also saw him inThe Last Man on Earth remake, The Omega Man (1971), and the eco-cannibal thriller Soylent Green (1973).

Heston was a near-constant presence in 1970s disaster films, including the notorious Earthquake (1974). While he turned up less and less on the big screen in the 1980s, he could be seen more and moreironically enough-on TV, both as a spokesperson for the many conservative issues he espouses and in many made-forcable period pieces, including remakes of A Man for All Seasons (1988, which he also directed) and Treasure Island (1990). In 1991 he went rather against type, portraying distinctly un-rugged detective Sherlock Holmes in the made-for-cable The Crucifer of Blood He was directed in this, and several other recent productions, by his son Fraser. He published a diary, "The Actor's Life," in 1978.

A rare signed photo of Charlton Heston from the Planet of the ApesOTHER FILMS INCLUDE: 1953: Pony Express 1954: The Naked Jungle 1955: The Far Horizons (as Bill Clark of Lewis and Clark); 1958: The Buccaneer (as Andrew Jackson), The Big Country 1965: The War Lord 1966: Khartoum 1969: Number One 1970: Julius Caesar, The Hawaiians 1972: Call of the Wild 1973: Antony and Cleopatra (also directed and adapted); 1974: Airport 1975, The Three Musketeers (as Cardinal Richelieu); 1975: The Four Musketeers 1976: The Last Hard Men, Midway, Two-Minute Warning 1978: Crossed Swords 1982: Mother Lode (also directed); 1990: Almost an Angel (a cameo, as God), Little Kidnappers (made for TV); 1992: Solar Crisis 1993: Tombstone, Wayne's World 2 (as the "Good Actor"); 1994: True Lies 1995: In the Mouth of Madness

Copyright © 1994 Leonard Maltin, used by arrangement with Signet, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.