Sunday, April 06, 2008
Charlton Heston, R.I.P.
I find the New York Times' obituaries to be more thorough and thoughtful than anything I could ever write here, so I'll leave it to you to read here about the late Heston, who died over the weekend at age 84.
I've never been certain how I felt about Heston. Some of his politics were appalling, but I respect his support for the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Those that knew him and those who were just fans who met him once all seem to have thought of him as a nice, graceful, gentle man. He certainly was intelligent, defending his views on gun control on POLITICALLY INCORRECT and DENNIS MILLER back in the '90s. And I definitely appreciate the sense of humor he had about himself, as appearances on FRIENDS and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE prove.
Of course, as a movie star, Heston has my utmost respect. When I was growing up, Heston's greatest films were behind him, but he remained an incredibly busy leading man, and I loved so many of the films I saw on TV and in theaters as a kid: PLANET OF THE APES, THE OMEGA MAN, EARTHQUAKE, WILL PENNY, TWO MINUTE WARNING, MIDWAY (which, like EARTHQUAKE, was presented in Sensurround!). Many of these pictures aren't very good, but I still liked them.
Obviously, outside of PLANET OF THE APES, which is justifiably a science fiction classic, Heston's best films were made prior to the '70s: BEN HUR, EL CID, THE NAKED JUNGLE (with killer ants!). TOUCH OF EVIL, which is definitely one of his greatest films, only happened because Heston stuck up for Orson Welles and forced the studio to let the genius direct the film. Okay, so perhaps Heston was miscast as the Mexican police officer--and I firmly believe that Heston was always "Charlton Heston," no matter what character he was playing--but the oddball casting certainly adds to the charm of the offbeat film.
I think I admired Charlton Heston more than I thought.