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 Moses has left the building...

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Moses has left the building...   Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:23 pm

No one could ham it up like Charlton Heston. A true original actor has exited stage right.

Quote :
Charlton Heston's epic acting style defined an era
By Mike Clark, USA TODAY

Because movie blockbusters that maintain their popularity are indelible, Charlton Heston probably will endure more for his chariots and quoted Commandments than for his political activism.

But it says something that Heston's political image even comes close to matching Ben-Hur and other classics, cinema equivalents of those gargantuan tail fins on luxurious '50s cars.

The beefcake superstar who became president of the National Rifle Association died Sunday in Beverly Hills at 84, six years after revealing that he had symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's and a little more than half a century after his role as Moses in The Ten Commandments made him one of the top marquee names in the world.

And what a moniker — "Charlton Heston" — to fill a bill chiseled in stone when it came to signifying an epic star whose mere presence could bankroll a widescreen bank-breaker.

But while Elvis Presley inspired parents to name baby boys after him, "Charlton" elicited no such boom. This is fitting because Heston's acting style was not replicated in the post-World War II era.

Think of Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford from a later generation or Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck and Johnny Depp from today's. None is even imaginable doing what to Heston came naturally: holding stone tablets or looking at home in a loincloth.

Like John Wayne, he could dominate a Panavision frame of hundreds, yet no one would have even tried to cast Wayne as a galley slave. And where stars of today look unconvincing and out of place away from the 20th century (such as Cruise in 2003's The Last Samurai), Heston was at his best in biblical or medieval times.

Take 1965's The War Lord, made when historical epics were on the wane. With co-star Richard Boone wasted and little else to look at beyond co-star Rosemary Forsyth's beauty, Heston makes you believe him as an 11th-century Norman authority figure, though it's obvious that even the exteriors he's acting against are on Universal's back lot.

Yet even in his heyday, Heston was tough to size up. Give him a comic or conventional romantic role that any relaxed B-lister could ace, and he could appear stiff and even pompous. But give him a role littered with minefields or even unplayable, and he could give you a movie Moses or El Cid for the ages.

Heston's big-screen career enjoyed uncommonly good fortune from the beginning, which is not to say he lucked out overnight. Born in 1923 as John Charles Carter, he studied acting at hometown Evanston, Ill.'s Northwestern University, where he also met his wife of 64 years, Lydia Clarke, who was at his bedside when he died.

Before World War II service in the Air Force, he appeared at 17 in a 1941 version of Peer Gynt for filmmaker David Bradley — then as Marc Antony in Bradley's postwar Julius Caesar, often shown in '50s and '60s high school English classes. The budget was low (someone's comment about the "roaring Tiber" is followed by a shot of what looks like bath water), but stage experience combined with many late-'40s roles in early TV gave Heston enough of a reputation to land the lead in his first Hollywood feature.

It was in 1950's film-noirish Dark City, whose limited delights today come mostly from watching its young star slap Jack Webb around. But on just his second picture, Heston caught a huge break. He hooked up with Cecil B. DeMille, the one director of the day who, even more than Alfred Hitchcock, had box office clout to equal that of Hollywood's biggest stars.

The result was The Greatest Show on Earth, 1952's biggest hit and an intentionally over-the-top movie often cited as the worst film to ever win the best-picture Oscar. As a circus manager, Heston is appealing and even easygoing, a quality missing from most later endeavors.

But the real advantage to the DeMille connection was putting Heston in line for the lead in the last and biggest film DeMille directed: the gargantuan remake of his own The Ten Commandments. Artfully ludicrous for 31/2 hours, the 1956 Commandments is the most durable year-end blockbuster from a year packed with them: Giant, Around the World in 80 Days and War and Peace.

As both the young and old Moses, Heston keeps his head above water in a sea of entertaining excess (Edward G. Robinson's snarling Dathan, Anne Baxter's next-to-nympho Nefretiri), his confident don't-mess-with-God demeanor an effective contrast to Yul Brynner's Rameses, who always seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Putting aside Orson Welles' black-and-white Touch of Evil (1958), highly placed on critics' lists of the greatest American movies, Commandments is probably Heston's most durable film. Its rival is 1959's Ben-Hur, an all-or-nothing gamble that saved MGM from bankruptcy while taking 11 Oscars (best picture and Heston's own included). Its acclaim is spurred mostly from the famed chariot race sequence, which ironically William Wyler didn't direct.

But Heston had enormous respect for the record 12-time best-director nominee, who the year before had nurtured one of the actor's best performances as a ranch foreman in The Big Country.

The last of Heston's "big three" historical epics was 1961's El Cid, a portrait of Spain's legendary hero that the actor thought was underrated (in terms of Robert Krasker's photography) but not the movie it could have been overall (intimating that director Anthony Mann wasn't Wyler).

Later, but long before Cid got a national theatrical reissue in 1993, Heston became one of the most thoughtful and articulate of actors when discussing the filmmaking craft. Had DVDs been invented earlier, we would have seen him all over the place spinning memories on bonus features.

Eventually, he would publish the journals he had compiled on the sets of his films as The Actor's Life (1977), still one of the most informative reads from a performer's point of view about the grunt work and sweat it takes to make movies — artful ones and bombs.

Yet he also had a sense of humor about a screen image that wouldn't let go. In the early '60s he joined Kirk Douglas for a gag appearance on a Milton Berle TV special: Heston in Ben-Hur duds and Douglas in full Spartacus apparel.

The 1960s marked the first time Heston became overtly political, but in ways that now surprise. Having supported Adlai Stevenson for president and then John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and appeared with other actors on national television after Robert Kennedy's assassination, urging public support for President Lyndon B. Johnson's Gun Control Act of 1968.

Something else happened in the '60s: the counterculture forced Heston into premature "emeritus" status. The movies in which he excelled went out of fashion, and you could almost predict that his efforts as Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy would elicit critics' comments pointing out which of the title's nouns ruled the result.

After El Cid, only 1968's Planet of the Apes was a major hit, though in a long litany of critical bombs, good work can be found. (He was always disappointed that in Will Penny, also from '68, went underappreciated in era when the movie Western was enjoying its last hurrah.)

He was a key contributor (as Cardinal Richelieu) in director Richard Lester's marvelous Three and Four Musketeers romps, was well-received as Sir Thomas More in a TV version of A Man for All Seasons and helped get James Cameron's True Lies rolling in a welcome cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger (a kind of Republican love fest).

But in the public's consciousness, he was increasingly identified with off-camera endeavors: presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, chairmanship of the American Film Institute and finally, in 1998, presidency of the NRA.

Heston's transformation from actor to conservative political symbol was perhaps more dramatic than even Ronald Reagan's. The 40th president, after all, was an affably minor Hollywood lead (no biblical figures here) for whom a midlife career change made sense. And that Heston (like Reagan) started out as a Democrat only made the story more interesting.

Heston, like Reagan, claimed the Democratic Party left him while his values remained the same — a personal sea change that by the Reagan '80s had turned Heston into one of the most prominently public Republicans. He supported gun rights and opposed affirmative action and political correctness.

His pro-gun stance led to director Michael Moore more or less ambushing Heston in his home for the climax of 2002's Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine— tastelessly, but also powerfully. It would be the last Heston big-screen scene to be seen by a significant number of viewers.

But TV movie stations exist to show and re-show the kind of epics that were his signature, so classic Heston remains, now — and perhaps evermore.

Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has said it best: "Charlton Heston might be said to achieve his apotheosis as Moses — unless one decides that it's Moses who's achieving his apotheosis as Heston."

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PostSubject: Re: Moses has left the building...   Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:34 am

He was awesome! My favorites were Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, and Soylent Green.
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PostSubject: Re: Moses has left the building...   Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:04 am

Schizophretard wrote:
He was awesome! My favorites were Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, and Soylent Green.

IT'S PEOPLE!!!! Curse Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Moses has left the building...   Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:28 am

I never much cared for Heston. As an actor he was a one-dimensional wooden statue, and as a human being he seems to have been an elitist, racist, snob.

A dinosaur from a bygone age.
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