Heston at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington
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John Charles Carter or Charlton Heston studied acting at school and went on to win a drama scholarship to the local Northwestern University, before enrolling in the U.S.. Air Force in 1944.. That same year, he married fellow Northwestern student Lydia Marie Clarke.. After three years in the force and rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant, Heston returned home, where he continued to pursue his passion for acting with a stint in theater.
With his regal posture, searing blue eyes, perfect jawline and a baritone voice bred for noble declarations, Heston was the ideal vessel for Hollywood grandeur. In the 1950s and 60s, the era of the movie epic — those three-hour extravaganzas with a cast of thousands and the passionate enunciation of high ideals — he was the epic hero; it's almost impossible to imagine the genre without him. To any of these films he added millions in revenue, plenty of muscle and 10 I.Q. Points.
"Charlton Heston is an axiom," the French film critic Michel Mourlet famously wrote in a 1960 Cahiers du Cinema essay so acute and fervid that it was quoted a bit more of it. "He constitutes a tragedy in himself, his presence in any film being enough to instill beauty. The pent-up violence expressed by the somber phosphorescence of his eyes, his eagle's profile, the imperious arch of his eyebrows, the hard, bitter curve of his lips, the stupendous strength of his torso — this is what he has been given, and what not even the worst of directors can debase... Through him, mise en scène [a film's visual strategy] can confront the most intense of conflicts with muted rage."
He was born on October 4th 1924 in Evanston, Illinois. His career as a commanding male lead 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.
Charlton Heston as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
After service in World War II, he and his wife Lydia Clarke worked as models in New York and ran a theater in Asheville, NC before he found success on Broadway in Katharine Cornell's production of "Antony and Cleopatra" (1947).... However Heston firmly stamped himself as genuine leading man material with his performance as circus manager 'Brad Braden' in the Cecil B. DeMille spectacular The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), also starring James Stewart and Cornel Wilde.
Renowned for playing a long list of historical figures, particularly in epics, the tall, well built and ruggedly handsome Charlton Heston is one of Hollywood's greatest leading men and remained active in front of movie cameras for over sixty years. With features chiseled in stone, who else but Charlton Heston could you picture as Michelangelo, as Ben-Hur, as Moses?
Heston's movie career took off with The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and reached light speed with Ben-Hur (1959)...Although he has played a pantheon of larger-than-life roles, he usually prefers to talk about the day-to-day daily grind of the movie business, and especially credits the writers and directors he has worked for much of his success. The now very popular actor remained perpetually busy during the 1950s, both on TV and on the silver screen with audience pleasing performances in the steamy thriller The Naked Jungle (1954), as a treasure hunter in Secret of the Incas (1954) and another barn storming performance for Ceci B. DeMille as "Moses" in the blockbuster The Ten Commandments (1956). Heston delivered further dynamic performances in the oily film noir thriller Touch of Evil (1958), and then alongside Gregory Peck in the western The Big Country (1958) before scoring the role for which he is arguably best known, that of the wronged Jewish prince who seeks his freedom and revenge in the William Wyler directed Ben-Hur (1959). This mammoth Biblical epic running in excess of three and a half hours became the standard by which other large scale productions would be judged, and it's superb cast also including Stephen Boyd as the villainous "Massala", English actor Jack Hawkins as the Roman officer "Quintus Arrius", and Australian actor Frank Thring as "Pontius Pilate", all contributed wonderful performances. Ben-Hur was awarded a total of 11 Oscars, including Best Picture - a feat only equalled by 1997's Titanic and 2003's The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
Charlton Heston on movie set with cast of "Ben Hur" candid photo.
The role of long-suffering Judah Ben-Hur fell to Charlton Heston.
He suffered as a gallery slave, found fame as a chariot racer,
was given a drink of water by Jesus Christ …
and came away with the best actor Oscar
Heston remained the preferred choice of directors to lead the cast in major historical productions and during the 1960s he starred as Spanish legend "Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar" in El Cid (1961), as a US soldier battling hostile Chinese boxers during 55 Days at Peking (1963), played the ill-fated "John the Baptist" in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), the masterful painter "Michelangelo" battling Pope Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstacy (1965), and an English general in Khartoum (1966). In 1968, Heston filmed the unusual western Will Penny (1968) about an aging and lonely cowboy befriending a lost woman and her son, which Heston has often referred to as his favorite piece of work on screen.
“When will you make an end?” asks Rex Harrison’s testy pontiff.
“When I am finished!” replies Heston’s bearded Michelangelo,
preparing to daub yet another fresco on the roof of a Sistine Chapel
lovingly recreated on the soundstages of Rome’s Cinecitta studios.
But the critics were unimpressed by the star’s OTT acting style.
Heston hits the ceiling”, ran one typical review
Interestingly, Heston was on the verge of acquiring an entirely new league of fans due to his appearance in four very topical science fiction films (all based on popular novels) painting bleak future's for mankind. In 1968, Heston starred as time traveling astronaut "George Taylor", in the terrific Planet of the Apes (1968) with it's now legendary conclusion as Heston realizes the true horror of his destination. He returned to reprise the role, albeit primarily as a cameo, alongside fellow astronaut James Franciscus in the slightly inferior sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970).
In middle-age, Heston adapted his muscular screen image
to the sci-fi genre,kicking off with his powerhouse role
as the imperilled astronaut who crash-lands on a monkey planet.
Heston would reprise the film’s immortal final lines –
Ah, God damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
during a brief cameo in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake.
Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Allstar
Next up, Heston again found himself facing the apocalypse in The Omega Man (1971) as the survivor of a germ plague that has wiped out humanity leaving only bands of psychotic lunatics roaming the cities who seek to kill the uninfected Heston. And fourthly, taking its inspiration from the Harry Harrison novel "Make Room!, Make Room!", Heston starred alongside screen legend Edward G. Robinson and Chuck Connors in Soylent Green (1973). During the remainder of the 1970s, Heston appeared in two very popular "disaster movies" contributing lead roles in the far fetched Airport 1975 (1974), plus in the star laden Earthquake (1974), filmed in "Sensoround" (low bass speakers were installed in selected theaters to simulate the earthquake rumblings on screen to movie audiences). He played an evil Cardinal in the lively The Four Musketeers (1974), a mythical US naval officer in the recreation of Midway (1976), also filmed in "Sensoround", an LA cop trying to stop a sniper in Two-minute Warning (1976) and another US naval officer in the submarine thriller Gray Lady Down (1978).Heston was also well-known for his work behind the scenes, serving as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965-1971, and as chairman of the American Film Institute.. Away from Hollywood, Heston became a prolific Civil Rights activist in the 1950s and 60s, and later went on to become the President of the National Rifle Association in the 1990s.. In 1993, Heston was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S.. He is survived by his wife Lydia, their son Fraser Clarke Heston and their adopted daughter, Holly Ann Heston. Heston's Hollywood mansion is filled with memorabilia from his career. He and his wife have lived in the same house near Los Angeles's Mulholland Drive for more than forty years. Built by the actor's father after Heston won the Academy Award for best actor in Ben Hur (1959), the postmodern style home - inside and out - is filled with the memorabilia. Sitting on a table in the back yard is the figure of a Roman, whip in hand, lashing vigorously at four straining horses harnessed to a chariot. Mounted on the entrance of his study are the two great brass ring knockers from the movie set's House of Hur. Hung above the fireplace is a painting of a lumbering Conestoga wagon and, nearby, a pencil sketch of friend Sir lawrence Olivier portraying King Lear. From most windows sparkle views of canyons. In the home's central hallway hang twenty paintings of Heston in signature roles: Ben-Hur, Moses, Richelieu, Michelangelo, the Planet of the Apes (1968) marooned astronaut Commander Taylor, the steel-willed Major Dundee, _Soylent Green (1973)_ detective Thorn, Andrew Jackson in The President's Lady (1953), tough ranch foreman Steve Leech riding through The Big Country (1958), and cattle poke Will Penny (1968). With his classically chiseled looks and basso profundo speaking voice, Charlton Heston was an icon of old-school Hollywood. Heston embodied a noble, heroic ideal -- small wonder he was the man who injected a sense of gravitas, as well as intelligence and fallibility, to big, bold epics and historical dramas. And if the kind of grandiosity Heston brought to every role -- even others -- might seem old-fashioned in these ironic times, there's still something thrilling in seeing an actor of such rugged intensity giving every role his all."If Hollywood had a Mount Rushmore, Heston's face would be on it. He was a heroic figure that I don't think exists to the same degree in Hollywood today." His former publicist Michael Levine, who worked with Heston for 20 years, told Associated Press. The actor's passing represented the end of an iconic era for cinema. Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. Truly, he is one of the legendary figures of US cinema.
Heston died on Saturday, April 5, 2008, at his home in Beverly Hills, California, with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side. He was also survived by his son, Fraser Clarke Heston, and an adopted daughter, Holly Ann Heston. The cause of death was pneumonia.
Thank you Mr. Heston for the wonderful moments you gave us in your movies.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Ray Hamel