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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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
(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