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Charlton Heston

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The Agony And The Ecstasy... Charlton Heston portrays the talented painter Michelangelo in the artful... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

Gray Lady Down DVD 1,450 feet underwater and no way out. Charlton Heston stars in 1978's... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

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The Planet Of The Apes: The Legacy... The legacy of the "Planet of the Apes" series is in its full glory in this... more info $49.98was $49.98 Buy Now

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Studio Classics: Set 4 DVD Four religion themed epics are highlighted in this 4-disc "Studio Classics, Set... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

Also Known As: John Charles Carter Died: April 5, 2008
Born: October 4, 1924 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Evanston, Illinois Profession: actor, producer, director, author, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Charlton Heston's career as a commanding male lead has 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. After WWII service, he and his wife Lydia Clarke worked as models in New York and ran a theater in Asheville, North Carolina before Heston found success on Broadway in Katharine Cornell's production of "Antony and Cleopatra" (1947). He also made a vivid impression on early TV, especially in a flurry of dashing romantic leads (Heathcliff, Rochester, Petruchio) on the famous drama anthology "Studio One". By the time he went to Hollywood to act in William Dieterle's moody film noir "Dark City" (1950), Heston was already a star, listed in the credits ahead of the more established Lizabeth Scott. Over the next four decades he rarely had less than top billing. With his role as the ill-tempered circus manager in his second film, Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952), Heston began...

Charlton Heston's career as a commanding male lead has 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. After WWII service, he and his wife Lydia Clarke worked as models in New York and ran a theater in Asheville, North Carolina before Heston found success on Broadway in Katharine Cornell's production of "Antony and Cleopatra" (1947). He also made a vivid impression on early TV, especially in a flurry of dashing romantic leads (Heathcliff, Rochester, Petruchio) on the famous drama anthology "Studio One". By the time he went to Hollywood to act in William Dieterle's moody film noir "Dark City" (1950), Heston was already a star, listed in the credits ahead of the more established Lizabeth Scott. Over the next four decades he rarely had less than top billing.

With his role as the ill-tempered circus manager in his second film, Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952), Heston began his reign as the actor of choice for Hollywood epics. Solidly built, with a lithe walk and boasting an iron jaw, a granite-carved profile and sonorous voice, he could intimidate opponents with just a glare. Few actors could dish up righteous anger with such force, yet even though many of his screen creations could be unpleasantly hostile, the power of his presence invariably commanded respect, conveyed integrity (even in villainous roles) and often managed to be likable. There was something timeless about his rueful expression and his brand of gritty heroism. At the same time, though, he glorified a concept of the power of the individual which was perfectly in step with middle America's vision of how the world should be. Consequently, even though Heston never quite disappeared into his roles, he was perfect for Hollywood's writing of an Americanized world history picture book and its equally splashy renditions of the Bible.

Heston's take on Buffalo Bill in "The Pony Express" (1953) was the first in a long line of historical and Biblical characters that have included Andrew Jackson ("The President's Lady" 1953; "The Buccaneer" 1958), Moses (in DeMille's landmark second version of "The Ten Commandments" 1956), El Cid (in the 1961 film of that title), John the Baptist ("The Greatest Story Ever Told" 1964), Michelangelo ("The Agony and the Ecstasy" 1965), General Charles Gordon ("Khartoum" 1966), Cardinal Richelieu ("The Three Musketeers" 1973 and its 1975 sequel), Henry VIII ("Crossed Swords" 1977) and Sir Thomas More ("A Man for All Seasons", TNT 1988). Indeed, he seemed to possess the power to transform fiction into fact when his Oscar-winning turn in "Ben-Hur" (1959) elevated the story of a Jewish charioteer transfixed by the sight of Christ to the stuff of legend. As French critic Michel Mourlet infamously rhapsodized, "Charlton Heston is an axiom of the cinema."

Less indecisive and rebellious than Robert Mitchum, less Everymannish than William Holden, Heston, like these fellow 50s icons, was frequently called on to suffer, and frequently with his shirt off. Perhaps it all started with Moses making bricks, but Heston was still stripping down to either get down to work or be punished well into the 80s. As historical epics gradually became passe in the late 60s, Heston made more Westerns, war sagas and, interestingly, science fiction films to take up the slack. 1968 marked a banner year with two fine landmark roles: the anguished hero of the highly entertaining, futuristic "Planet of the Apes", and the aging, reflective cowpoke of "Will Penny", one of his finest films. The 70s brought the cult classic sci-fi pic "Soylent Green" (1973) ("It's people!!") and a series of routine roles in "Battle of Midway" (1976) and "Gray Lady Down" (1977) titled major, colonel or general. Some later parts, though, traded in wastefully on his iconic value, for instance, his cameo in "True Lies" (1994).

Though hampered by budgetary restrictions, Heston directed his first feature in 1971 with a decent adaptation of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" and did double duty again with "Mother Lode" (1982), which was written and produced by his son Fraser. After a fifteen year absence, the actor returned to the small screen as the star of the CBS miniseries "Chiefs" (1983) and later found work as a series regular on the primetime soap opera "The Colbys" (ABC, 1985-87) before settling into a succession of starring roles in telefilms. He directed and starred in a 1988 TNT remake of "A Man for All Seasons", reprising his stage role as Sir Thomas More. Heston went on to essay iconic fictional characters Long John Silver and Sherlock Holmes in two TNT movies adapted and produced by his son. "Treasure Island" (1990) and "The Crucifer of Blood" (1991). Although features allowed him to portray God ("Almost an Angel" 1990) and provided ample opportunity for him to use his marvelous voice as a narrator (e.g., "Armageddon" 1998), Heston continued to find his best roles on TV, adding to his gallery of historical figures with a turn as Brigham Young in TNT's "The Avenging Angel" (1995).

Throughout his career, Heston has been active in the industry, serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild (1966-71) and chairman of the American Film Institute. During the 80s, he was head of President Reagan's task force on the arts and humanities, and remained active in charity work (e.g., The Will Rogers Institute) and politics, earning a reputation as a staunch Republican and a supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA). He assumed a higher profile in 1998 with a guest appearance as himself on NBC's "Friends" and as the NRA's newly elected president. Later that year, he made the rounds in support of the re-release of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" (1958), in which he had starred as the virtuous Mexican government official (sans accent but sporting some nifty black hair) opposite Welles' supremely debauched police captain. Heston, who had been responsible for Welles getting the directing assignment, received a "special thanks" credit on the re-edit fashioned from a 58-page director's memo and has repeatedly avowed his agreement with Cahiers du Cinema that "Touch of Evil" is "beyond any question the greatest B movie ever made."

Heston made a cameo in 2001's "Planet of the Apes" remake as Tim Roth's father, meaning his role was so small he can in no way be blamed for the film's many flaws. This was one of his rare appearances in film or television, though he has stayed active in his political causes. In 2002, he lent his voice to an animated version of "Ben-hur" which was produced by his son Fraser and shortly after announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.er's.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  A Man For All Seasons (1988) Director
2.
  Mother Lode (1982) Director
3.
  Antony And Cleopatra (1970) Director

CAST: (feature film)

3.
4.
5.
 Bowling for Columbine (2002) Himself
6.
7.
 Order, The (2002)
8.
 Cats & Dogs (2001) Voice Of The Mastiff
9.
 Town & Country (2001) Mr Claybourne--Eugenie'S Father
10.
 Forever Hollywood (1999) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Grew up in St. Helen, Michigan, a small town of 100 residents
:
Family moved to Winnetka, Illinois where Heston attended high school
:
Performed on Chicago radio stations
1941:
Made acting debut in a student production of Henrik Ibsen's play, "Peer Gynt"
1943:
Served in the US Air Force during WWII; during one 18-month stint was radio operator on B-29 stationed in the Aleutians
:
Moved with wife Lydia Clarke into New York's Hell's Kitchen; supported themselves for a time by working as models
1947:
With wife Lydia Clarke, co-founded Thomas Wolfe Memorial Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina
1947:
Directed a revival of F. Hugh Herbert's stage comedy "Kiss and Tell" at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Theatre
1947:
Broadway debut, "Antony and Cleopatra" starring Katharine Cornell
1948:
TV debut as Marc Antony in a production of "Julius Caesar" staged for the dramatic anthology series, "Studio One"
1949:
Returned to Broadway in the Joseph Hayes' play, "Leaf and Bough" at the Cort Theatre
1950:
Made Hollywood (and 35mm) film acting debut in the leading role of director William Dieterle's film noir, "Dark City"
1952:
First of three collaborations with Cecil B DeMille, "The Greatesu Show on Earth"
1952:
Performed in a radio version of "Double Indemnity"
1953:
Narrated the radio series, "Kaleidoscope"
1956:
Became an icon for portraying Moses in "The Ten Commandments"; second collaboration with DeMille
1958:
Starred alongside Janet Leigh and Orson Welles in Welles' "Touch of Evil"
1958:
Played the Beast (opposite Claire Bloom as Beauty) in the NBC TV presentation of "Beauty and the Beast"
1958:
First film with director William Wyler, "The Big Country"
1960:
Earned Best Actor Oscar for his starring role in Wyler's "Ben-Hur"
1963:
Narrated the short film, "The Five Cities of June"
1963:
First TV-movie, "The Patriots" (NBC) playing Thomas Jefferson
1965:
Formed production company, Court Films, which co-produced (with Universal Pictures) "The War Lord"
1965:
Portrayed Michelangelo in "The Agony and the Ecstacy"
:
Played Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's play, "A Man for All Seasons"; appearing in several versions of the play off-Broadway in the '70s and '80s
1968:
First film with director Tom Gries, "Will Penny"
1968:
First science-fiction film, "Planet of the Apes"; directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
1968:
Last dramatic role on TV for 15 years, Essex in "Elizabeth the Queen" (NBC)
1971:
Feature directorial debut, "Antony and Cleopatra"; also adapted and starred; produced under newly formed production company, Folio Films; first non US-production (British) and first of six collaborations with executive producer Peter Snell
1973:
Played first supporting role (Cardinal Richelieu) in a major Hollywood feature, "The Three Musketeers"
1982:
Directed (also starred) "Mother Lode"; written and produced by son Fraser
1983:
First TV acting role in 15 years, the CBS miniseries "Chiefs"
1985:
TV series debut, as Jason Colby on the ABC primetime soap, "The Colbys"; a spin-off from "Dynasty"
1988:
TV directorial debut, "A Man for All Seasons" (TNT); reprised stage role of Sir Thomas More; son Fraser was one of producers
1990:
TV producing debut, "Treasure Island" (TNT); also starred as Long John Silver; written and directed by son Fraser
1991:
Portrayed Sherlock Holmes in "The Crucifer of Blood" (TNT); directed by Fraser Heston
1992:
Hosted the four-part miniseries "Charlton Heston Presents the Bible" (A&E)
1995:
Portrayed a publisher in John Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness"
1997:
Became contributing columnist to <i>Guns & Ammo</i>
1998:
Played himself on an episode of NBC's "Friends"
1998:
Made the rounds supporting the rerelease of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil"
2001:
Made cameo appearance as Tim Roth's ape father in the Tim Burton-directed adaptation of "Planet of the Apes"
2002:
Lent his voice to an animated version of "Ben-Hur"; produced by his son Fraser
2002:
Appeared in Michael Moore┬┐s Oscar-winning documentary, "Bowling for Columbine"
2003:
Last film role was as the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in "My Father, Rua Alguem 5555"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New Trier High School: Winnetka , Illinois -
Northwestern University: Evanston , Illinois -
Northwestern University: Evanston , Illinois -

Notes

Heston supplied the voice-over for the Anheuser-Busch environmental campaign.

He underwent treatment for prostate cancer in December 1998

Heston has served as the US delegate to the Berlin Film Festival.

Besides winning an Oscar, Heston has received Germany's "Bambi", Italy's "David di Donatello" and Belgium's "Uilenspiegel", winning the latter three times.

Favorably reviewing the 1968 feature film "Planet of the Apes", film critic Pauline Kael notes, "All this wouldn't be so forceful or so funny if it weren't for the use of Charlton Heston in the (leading) role. With his perfect, lean-hipped, powerful body, Heston is a godlike hero; built for strength, he's an archetype of what makes Americans win. He doesn't play a nice guy; he's harsh and hostile, self-centered and hot-tempered. Yet we don't hate him because he's so magnetically strong; he represents American power--and he has the profile of an eagle." --From "5001 Nights at the Movies" by Pauline Kael (NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1991)

"Heston ... says he hates being described as a star or a celebrity. 'I find those words distateful ... Although I dislike those descriptions, I suppose they are appropriate in my case." --quoted in "Page Six", New York Post, October 2, 1996.

He underwent hip surgery in November 1996.

Heston was elevated to the rank of Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in March 1997

On his experience with Orson Welles in "Touch of Evil": "He was a good actor, not great on lines. That's probably because he didn't study them. Actually, I remember when we finished, it was about six in the morning, we went to have some champagne and scrambled eggs, and we were telling each other how marvelous we were. I said to him, 'I think you only made one mistake in the picture.' He said, 'What is that, my boy?'--he always called me 'my boy.' I said, 'There are three short scenes that serve no point other than to remind the audience that I am the leading man and I have the best part, and that's not really true. This picture is about the decline and fall of your character, Captain Quinlan.' He said, 'Well, then I won't worry about them in the cutting room.' And he didn't--he cut them." --Heston to Time Out New York, September 10-17, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lydia Marie Clarke. Actor, photographer. Born c. 1923; married on March 17, 1944; met while Heston was a student at Northwestern; with husband co-founded the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Russell Whitford Carter. Mill operator.
mother:
Lilla Carter. Divorced from Russell Carter and later married to Chester Heston.
step-father:
Chester Heston. Timber mill owner.
son:
Fraser Clarke Heston. Screenwriter, producer, director. Born on February 12, 1955; at three months played the baby Moses in "The Ten Commandments"; made directorial debut with TV-movie, "Treasure Island" (1990), starring father; executive produced the A&E miniseries, "Charlton Heston Presents the Bible" (1992).
daughter:
Holly Ann Heston. Adopted in August 1961.
grandson:
Jack. Born in 1991.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Questions No One Asks About Willy"
"Mammoth Movies I Have Known"
"What I Want and Don't Want from My Director"
"Charlton Heston" Pyramid Books
"The Films of Charlton Heston" Citadel Press
"The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-76" Dutton
"Beijing Diary" Simon & Schuster
"In The Arena: An Autobiography" Simon & Schuster
"Charlton Heston's Hollywood: 50 Years in American Film" HarperCollins
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Contributions

Holz ( 2008-03-28 )

Source: not available

Somebody once approached Kirk Douglas and said they had enjoyed his performance in Ben-Hur (1959). So he said, 'That wasn't me, that was another fellow.' And the man said, 'Well, if you aren't Burt Lancaster, who the hell are you?'

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