Screen Legend Charlton Heston Dead at 84

In a 1998 interview with The Sunday Telegraph of London, he broadly attacked the "fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition; the feminists who preach that it is the divine duty for women to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with another, and New Age apologists for juvenile crime."

Later on, after hearing unkind public remarks from George Clooney, the nephew of singer Rosemary Clooney, Heston fought back. "It's funny how class can skip a generation, isn't it?"

Still, his life's work on-screen and off-screen left him with supporters who looked beyond the politics and saw a man deeply driven by his beliefs.

"Chuck has done so much for the cultural life of the country and for our town of Los Angeles," actor Gregory Peck told ABC Radio in an interview in the late 1990s.

Many in Hollywood came to his defense after Michael Moore's anti-gun documentary, "Bowling for Columbine," in which the filmmaker looped a clip of Heston at an NRA rally holding up a rifle and declaring, "From my cold, dead hands."

In the film, Moore hounds Heston for an interview and Heston eventually invites him into his home for a filmed chat, in which Moore confronts him, some say unfairly, about youths killed in gun-related violence.

The interview occurred before Heston publicly announced his struggle with Alzheimer's, but the movie was released afterward, leading some to say Moore should have cut the ambush interview, which made Heston look vague and confused.

In 2003, Heston won the next of his impressive trophies, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A Career Honed From Pretend Games

Born Oct. 4, 1923, in Evanston, Ill., Charlton Carter was the son of a mill operator and a homemaker. His parents divorced when he was young and he adopted the last name of his stepfather, Chet Heston.

The family eventually relocated to rural St. Helens, Mich., where the closest theater was 25 miles away.

"All kids play pretend games," Heston said. "And because of the isolated nature of my boyhood, I went on doing it longer than most kids."

In high school, he started acting, earning a scholarship to Northwestern University in Chicago, where he studied drama alongside Tony Randall and Patricia Neal.

Struggling as a cash-strapped undergrad, Heston would later recall jumping the turnstile on the Chicago El and posing nude for art students for extra money. While still in school, he met Lydia Marie Clarke. They married in 1944.

During World War II, Heston served a three-year stint in the Air Force, mostly in the Aleutian Islands, rising to the rank of staff sergeant.

Upon his discharge from the military, he resumed his acting career, heading to New York and making his Broadway debut in 1948 in "Antony and Cleopatra."

Heston and his wife, who celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2004, have two children, Lydia and Frasier.

With Frasier, a director, Heston established a production company, Agamemnon Films, which has released an animated version of "Ben-Hur" on DVD, and the video "Charlton Heston Presents the Bible."

In later life, Heston had hip replacement surgery and fought prostate cancer, declaring himself cancer-free in 2001. Throughout it all, he continued to swim, play tennis and advocate for the NRA. In 2003, he stepped down as the organization's president after serving for five years.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...