Judah Ben-Hur has left the building

Charlton Heston died last night at age 83. He was born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Illinois on Oct. 4, 1923, and derived his acting name from his mother's maiden name and his stepfather's last name.

He won an acting scholarship to Northwestern University in 1941 and that started him on his road to fame. The 6-feet-2 actor didn't have a particularly fast start but a DeMille remake of the 1923 silent film The Ten Commandments, proved to be just what Heston needed to propel him to lasting success. Interestingly enough, Heston's son, Fraser Clarke Heston, played the role of the infant Moses in the film.

This began a series of several films in which Heston portrayed Jews of the biblical era. The aforementioned Moses, Judah Ben-Hur (for which he won the 1959 Oscar for leading actor), and John the Baptist.

Ben-Hur was one of the first films that I remember watching on television. That was probably around 1965, 6 years after it was made. Movies didn't transition to television quickly in those days. Another of his films, Planet of the Apes, is the first film I remember seeing at a drive-in. That would have been when I was 7 years old. As I recall, there were several scenes that scared the bejesus out of me. I must admit I can't see how he ever got an Oscar but he certainly did have a memorable quality to his acting. Dare I say, overacting?

Heston, like Ronald Reagan, another actor of limited skills, was quite liberal in his younger years, marching in the civil rights movement of the 1950s as well as campaigning for Adlai Stevenson. However, like Reagan, Heston became quite conservative as he grew older. Eventually his politics, particularly his involvement with the NRA, nearly overshadowed his acting career.

It makes you wonder how far Heston would have gone had he ever tossed his hat into national politics instead of just campaigning for various conservative pols. He was a better actor than Reagan, cut an impressive figure, and had a great voice for orating. Since I tend towards the left, I'm glad Heston never went further in politics than his presidency of the Screen Actors Guild. I have a feeling Heston would have been able to achieve anything he wanted in politics.

Comments

Jean-Luc Picard said…
Yes, Heston would probably have made a good politician.

Michele sent me.
rashbre said…
Heston made iconic films like Ben Hur, played Moses, John the Baptist and Michaelangelo as well as futuristic and macabre films like Soylent Green and should be praised for these.

He took an early and proactive position against racism but I'm less sure of the way he promoted free use of guns as chair of the NRA.

Certainly larger than life and I'm sure will get a good Hollywood send-off.

rashbre
Teresa said…
I didn't particularly want to start my day with sad news... thanks!

I disagree with you regarding Heston's political greatness though. He would have become just another politico and his greatness would have been diminished. Politics is all about compromise and concensus and every time you compromise, you yourself are compromised. He was much better (as are most) in a role where he could stand up for what he believed without having to deal with the whole. Maybe I'm a cynic....
Into the Light said…
Okay... the math is bothering me. Either he was born in 1923 and is 84 or he wasn't and you can keep the 83 as his age. Timelines are a pet peeve of mine....
I have never understood the people who started off liberal and moved to a conservavtive position as the got older. I guess it really says something about their core values not being terribly firm to begin with....(I do not remember ever reading about Heston Marching in any Civil Rights Marches in the
50''s---maybe in the 60's, but I could be wrong....)
He was a particularly 'wooden'
actor, to my way of thinking....His involvement in these Blockbuster Bible Films was always Amazing to me, since his acting was nor exactly memorable.
I'm sorry to be so negative about him. And I certainly am sad that he died....
GA Girl said…
Yes, he overacted but his body was used to advantage as beefcake on some "early" films. He had great upper body muscles. As depicted in "Bowling for Columbine" I can't forgive him or the NRA for their habit of holding speeches at sites where recent shootings take place.
panthergirl said…
Thank god he never went into politics. While it's always somewhat sad to hear that a person died, I can't say I'm shedding any tears over him.

Here via michele.... long time no see!
rosemary said…
i saw him once on the 10 freeway in Calif...I waved, he waved. i like the new look...clean. I also like the description of you...exact.
Nina said…
I was sad to hear this news on my mom's behalf. She was a big fan. I never saw any of his movies, although I suppose it's not too late. Netflix.
kenju said…
I loved him in movies and much less so as a spokesman for the NRA.
Carmi said…
I echo Judy's sentiments: his NRA involvement diminished the brand he had established as an actor. His "cold dead hands" speech with the rifle held high over his head was an affront to anyone who's ever lost a close family member to violence.

Kinda sad, really, but there's no such thing as a perfect life anyway, even among so-called legends. We've all got warts.
Pearl said…
Don't know much abou him. I missed seeing that story. Saw Ben Hur tho.

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