Charlton Heston
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

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To the world, you are America.
(recognizing responsibility as public figure; being a good role model; Neptune in 10th, Mars in Virgo?)

In a speech to the Harvard Law School on February 16, 1999, Heston said the following:
"But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist. I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe. I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite. Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh."

"So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobedience of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men,"

"I don't seem to have a 20th century face" Charlton Heston quotes "You can spend a lifetime, and, if you're honest with yourself, never once was your work perfect."


Charlton Heston (born October 4, 1924), born John Charles Carter, is an American film actor noted for heroic roles. Later in his life, Heston became famous as a conservative activist, especially as president of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Heston was born in Evanston, Illinois to Lila Charlton and Russell Whitford Carter. The family settled in rural Saint Helen, Michigan, where Heston, an only child, spent much of his time reading and practicing acting.
Before he was 10 his parents divorced. Some years later, his mother married Chester Heston. The new family moved Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where young Heston attended high school. He enrolled in the school's drama program, where he performed with such outstanding results that he earned a scholarship to Northwestern University for drama in 1942. There he played in the 16mm amateur film adaptation of Peer Gynt made by a fellow student. Several years later the same team produced Julius Caesar, in which Heston played Marc Antony.
In 1944, Heston left college and enlisted in the Air Force for three years. When he returned from service in World War II he moved to New York, where he met Lydia Marie Clarke, whom he married in 1944. The two lived in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, where they worked as modelss. Seeking a way to make it in theater, they decided to manage a playhouse in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1947, they went back to New York where Heston was offered a role in the Broadway play Antony and Cleopatra, for which he earned acclaim. He also had success in television, playing a number of roles in CBS's Studio One, one of the most popular anthology dramas of the 1950s.
Film career
Heston felt the time had come to move to Hollywood and break into film. In 1950, he earned recognition for his appearance in his first professional movie, Dark City. His breakthrough came in 1952 with his role of a circus director in The Greatest Show on Earth. But he became a megastar by portraying Moses in The Ten Commandments. He has played leading roles in a number of fictional and historical epics—such as Ben-Hur, El Cid, 55 Days in Peking, and Khartoum—during his long career. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1959 performance in the title role of Ben-Hur. Heston has played also in various science fiction films, some of which, like Planet of the Apes, have become classics. Heston continues acting, increasingly in TV movies.
Heston fought at times for his artistic choices. In 1958, he maneuvered Universal International into allowing Orson Welles to direct him in Touch of Evil, and in 1965 he fought the studio in support of Sam Peckinpah, when an attempt was made to interfere with his direction of Major Dundee. Heston was also president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1966 to 1971.
In 1971 he made his directorial debut with Antony and Cleopatra, an adaptation of the William Shakespeare play that he had performed during his earlier theater career.
Starting with 1973's The Three Musketeers, Heston began playing an increasing number of supporting roles and cameos. Despite this, his immense popularity has never died, and he has seen a steady stream of film and television roles ever since. Heston has an instantly recognizable voice, and is often heard as a narrator.
Off screen
In 2002, Heston publicly announced that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He has also had to battle prostate cancer. In July 2003 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Political beliefs
In his earlier years, Heston was a civil rights activist, accompanying Martin Luther King Jr during the civil rights march held in Washington, D.C in 1963. In subsequent years, he embraced conservative causes, such as anti-affirmative action and anti-gun control, about which he makes at times provocative statements. As an honorary life member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its president and spokesman from 1998 until 2003, Heston sought an unprecedented fourth term in 2001 as president, at which time he declared, while holding an American Revolutionary War era musket over his head: "I have only five words for you — From my cold, dead hands." Heston also serves on the National Advisory Board of Accuracy in Media, a conservative media watchdog group.

Charlton Heston was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1950s, a rugged leading man known for his roles in epics like The Ten Commandments (1956, as Moses) and Ben-Hur (1959, winning Heston an Oscar as best actor). In the 1960s and '70s Heston was still a box-office draw in adventures and westerns, including Planet of the Apes. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1966-1971. On october 1997, he was ranked #28 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. In 1997 he was elected 1st Vice-President, National Rifle Association and was elected president of the National Rifle Association on Charlton Heston's career as a commanding male lead has provided a one-person Hollywood trek through the pages of world history and a forceful, conservative vision of a world in which America always wins. The Northwestern University acting student's first film appearances were in ambitious amateur 16mm productions of "Peer Gynt" (1941) and "Julius Caesar" (1949), both directed by fellow student David Bradley. After WWII service, he and his wife Lydia Clarke worked as models in New York and ran a theater in Asheville, North Carolina before Heston found success on Broadway in Katharine Cornell's production of "Antony and Cleopatra" (1947). He also made a vivid impression on early TV, especially in a flurry of dashing romantic leads (Heathcliff, Rochester, Petruchio) on the famous drama anthology "Studio One". By the time he went to Hollywood to act in William Dieterle's moody film noir "Dark City" (1950), Heston was already a star, listed in the credits ahead of the more established Lizabeth Scott. Over the next four decades he rarely had less than top billing.

With his role as the ill-tempered circus manager in his second film, Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952), Heston began his reign as the actor of choice for Hollywood epics. Solidly built, with a lithe walk and boasting an iron jaw, a granite-carved profile and sonorous voice, he could intimidate opponents with just a glare. Few actors could dish up righteous anger with such force, yet even though many of his screen creations could be unpleasantly hostile, the power of his presence invariably commanded respect, conveyed integrity (even in villainous roles) and often managed to be likable. There was something timeless about his rueful expression and his brand of gritty heroism. At the same time, though, he glorified a concept of the power of the individual which was perfectly in step with middle America's vision of how the world should be. Consequently, even though Heston never quite disappeared into his roles, he was perfect for Hollywood's writing of an Americanized world history picture book and its equally splashy renditions of the Bible.

Heston's take on Buffalo Bill in "The Pony Express" (1953) was the first in a long line of historical and Biblical characters that have included Andrew Jackson ("The President's Lady" 1953; "The Buccaneer" 1958), Moses (in DeMille's landmark second version of "The Ten Commandments" 1956), El Cid (in the 1961 film of that title), John the Baptist ("The Greatest Story Ever Told" 1964), Michelangelo ("The Agony and the Ecstasy" 1965), General Charles Gordon ("Khartoum" 1966), Cardinal Richelieu ("The Three Musketeers" 1973 and its 1975 sequel), Henry VIII ("Crossed Swords" 1977) and Sir Thomas More ("A Man for All Seasons", TNT 1988). Indeed, he seemed to possess the power to transform fiction into fact when his Oscar-winning turn in "Ben-Hur" (1959) elevated the story of a Jewish charioteer transfixed by the sight of Christ to the stuff of legend. As French critic Michel Mourlet infamously rhapsodized, "Charlton Heston is an axiom of the cinema."

Less indecisive and rebellious than Robert Mitchum, less Everymannish than William Holden, Heston, like these fellow 50s icons, was frequently called on to suffer, and frequently with his shirt off. Perhaps it all started with Moses making bricks, but Heston was still stripping down to either get down to work or be punished well into the 80s. As historical epics gradually became passe in the late 60s, Heston made more Westerns, war sagas and, interestingly, science fiction films to take up the slack. 1968 marked a banner year with two fine landmark roles: the anguished hero of the highly entertaining, futuristic "Planet of the Apes", and the aging, reflective cowpoke of "Will Penny", one of his finest films. The 70s brought the cult classic sci-fi pic "Soylent Green" (1973) ("It's people!!") and a series of routine roles in "Battle of Midway" (1976) and "Gray Lady Down" (1977) titled major, colonel or general. Some later parts, though, traded in wastefully on his iconic value, for instance, his cameo in "True Lies" (1994).

Though hampered by budgetary restrictions, Heston directed his first feature in 1971 with a decent adaptation of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" and did double duty again with "Mother Lode" (1982), which was written and produced by his son Fraser. After a fifteen year absence, the actor returned to the small screen as the star of the CBS miniseries "Chiefs" (1983) and later found work as a series regular on the primetime soap opera "The Colbys" (ABC, 1985-87) before settling into a succession of starring roles in telefilms. He directed and starred in a 1988 TNT remake of "A Man for All Seasons", reprising his stage role as Sir Thomas More. Heston went on to essay iconic fictional characters Long John Silver and Sherlock Holmes in two TNT movies adapted and produced by his son. "Treasure Island" (1990) and "The Crucifer of Blood" (1991). Although features allowed him to portray God ("Almost an Angel" 1990) and provided ample opportunity for him to use his marvelous voice as a narrator (e.g., "Armageddon" 1998), Heston continued to find his best roles on TV, adding to his gallery of historical figures with a turn as Brigham Young in TNT's "The Avenging Angel" (1995).

Throughout his career, Heston has been active in the industry, serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild (1966-71) and chairman of the American Film Institute. During the 80s, he was head of President Reagan's task force on the arts and humanities, and remained active in charity work (e.g., The Will Rogers Institute) and politics, earning a reputation as a staunch Republican and a supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA). He assumed a higher profile in 1998 with a guest appearance as himself on NBC's "Friends" and as the NRA's newly elected president. Later that year, he made the rounds in support of the re-release of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" (1958), in which he had starred as the virtuous Mexican government official (sans accent but sporting some nifty black hair) opposite Welles' supremely debauched police captain. Heston, who had been responsible for Welles getting the directing assignment, received a "special thanks" credit on the re-edit fashioned from a 58-page director's memo and has repeatedly avowed his agreement with Cahiers du Cinema that "Touch of Evil" is "beyond any question the greatest B movie ever made."

Heston made a cameo in 2001's "Planet of the Apes" remake as Tim Roth's father, meaning his role was so small he can in no way be blamed for the film's many flaws. This was one of his rare appearances in film or television, though he has stayed active in his political causes. In 2002, he lent his voice to an animated version of "Ben-hur" which was produced by his son Fraser and shortly after announced he is has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's


Charlton Heston (b. October 4th, 1924)
a.k.a Charles Carter
Steely jawed, hard bodied, terse in speech, Charlton Heston is an American man's man, an epic unto himself. While he has played modern men, he is at his best when portraying larger-than-life figures from world history, preferably with his shirt off. He was born John Charleton Carter on October 4, 1924 and originally trained in the classics in Northwestern University's drama program, gaining early experience playing the lead in a 1941 filmed school production of Peer Gynt. He also performed on the radio, and then went on to serve in the Air Force for three years during WWII. Afterwards, he went to work as a model in New York, where he met his wife, fellow model Lydia Clarke, to whom he is still happily married. Later the two operated a theater in Asheville, North Carolina where Heston honed his acting skills. He made his Broadway debut in Katharine Cornell's 1947 production of Anthony and Cleopatra and subsequently went on to be a staple of the highly-regarded New York-based Studio One live television anthology where he played such classic characters as Heathcliff, Julius Caesar and Petruchio. The show made Heston a star.

He made his Hollywood film debut in William Dieterle's film noir Dark City playing opposite Lizabeth Scott. Even though she was more established in Hollywood, it was Heston who received top billing. He went on to appear as a white man raised in Indian culture in The Savage (1952) and then as a snob who snubs a country girl in King Vidor's Ruby Gentry (1952). His big break came when Cecil B. DeMille cast him as the bitter circus manager Brad Braden in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).

In subsequent films, Heston began developing his persona of an unflinching hero with a piercing blue-eyed stare and unbending, self-righteous Middle American ethics. Heston's heroes could be violent and cruel, but only when absolutely necessary. He began a long stint of playing historical characters with his portrayal of Buffalo Bill in Pony Express and then Andrew Jackson in The President's Lady (both 1953). Heston's star burned at its brightest when DeMille cast him as the stern Moses in the lavish The Ten Commandments (1956). From there, Heston went on to headline numerous spectaculars which provided him the opportunity to play every one from John the Baptist to Michelangelo to El Cid to General "Chinese" Gordon. In 1959, Heston won an Academy Award for the title role in William Wyler's Ben Hur. By the mid-1960s, the reign of the epic film passed and Heston began appearing in westerns (Will Penny) and epic war dramas (Midway). He also did sci-fi films, the most famous of which were the campy satire Planet of the Apes (1968), its sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and the cult favorite Soylent Green (1973). The '70s brought Heston into a new kind of epic, the disaster film, and he appeared in three, notably Airport 1975. From the late '80s though the '90s, Heston has returned to television, appearing in series, miniseries and made-for TV movies. He also appeared in such films as Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996) and 1998's Armageddon (in which he was spared extensive humiliation by only having to act as the film's narrator).

Outside of his filmwork, Heston served six terms as the president of the Screen Actors Guild and also chaired the American Film Institute. Active in such charities as The Will Rogers Institute, he was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1977 Oscar ceremony. Known as a conservative Republican and proud member of the National Rifle Association, Heston worked closely with his long-time colleague and friend President Ronald Reagan as the leader of the president's task force on arts and the humanities. Sandra Brennan


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