You are being redirected - hold on tight!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Film: Heston Dies -- Officially OK to Pry Gun From His Hands Now

An Appreciation by Noah Mallin

Actor, Civil Rights activist and former President of the National Rifle Association Charlton Heston has died at the age of 84. Heston's greatest stardom was in the 1960s and 1970s when he starred in films like Planet of The Apes and Earthquake.

Heston's political views, once liberal and pro gun control, morphed as his career cooled in the late 70s and he became a die-hard conservative opposing abortion and gun control.

Heston started in film in a silent production of Peer Gynt at the age of 16 done in 1941 by Northwestern University. His official debut was as Antony is a low-budget Chicago set Julius Caeser in 1950. It was his performance in Cecil B. DeMille's Academy Award winning The Greatest Show on Earth that made him a star.

In DeMille's final film The Ten Commandments (1956) he was a memorable Moses, competing with a bravura red sea parting and a ridiculous performance by Edward G. Robinson.

In 1958 came Orson Welles' brilliant Touch of Evil with Heston playing a Mexican born lawman south of the border with new wife Janet Leigh and stuck in Welles sinister web. Heston brings verve to his role as a paragon of straight-arrow justice in Welles dark depraved world.

He won an Oscar in 1959 for Ben-Hur an epic set at the time of Jesus and featuring the now famous chariot race. Ben-Hur became known later for it's homosexual subtext set forth by co-screenwriter Gore Vidal, and which Heston vehemently denied. Still he gives a riveting performance in a big overstuffed epic, something that would become a specialty for him in films like Antony Mann's El Cid (1962) and as John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

Planet of the Apes in 1968 took Heston to a new pinnacle of fame in one of his best films as an astronaut who lands on the titular simian world. The film was massively successful and Heston helped sell the inverted racial allegory with a particularly bullheaded performance.

1971 saw him starring in The Omegaman a film based on the same Richard Matheson source as Will Smith's recent film I Am Legend but done in a very different way (think albinos with afros). His last great sci-fi-er was Soylent Green as a detective in a dystopian world uncovering a major conspiracy -- it's now best known for his plaintive wailed discovery of what the ubiquitous food source Soylent Green is actually made of.

Heston benefited from the disaster craze of the 70s in Skyjacked, Airport '75 and Earthquake. Though he would continue to work well into the 90s in films like Wayne's World 2 and True Lies he had become a celebrity first and foremost.

He also had a short run on TV's Dynasty and starred in knockoff soap The Colbys, which had a brief life.

No comments: