Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charleton Heston

I have two books on tape from Knowledge Products that I bought maybe 10 or 12 years ago. One is on St. Thomas Aquinas, the other on St. Augustine and both are narrated by Charleton Heston. Other than when I first got them back in California I haven't listened to them for at least a decade, but about a week ago something made me want to play them again on the way into work.

So I listened to the 2 tape set on St. Thomas this past week and at the end I began to wonder how Mr. Heston was doing since he was afflicted with Alzheimer's and I hadn't heard anything about him for a while. That made me look him up on Wikipedia where they mentioned his health and that relatives had said in 2006 that he was not doing well.

Now, 2 days after I did that, he's dead.

This has happened to me a few times before when famous people died. Charleton Heston was the star of several of my favorite movies, by all accounts an honorable man, and I admired him quite a bit. I wonder if, sometimes, you can pick up on things like this.

At any rate, everybody knows Charleton Heston was head of the NRA and proclaimed that his gun would have to be pried from his "cold, dead hands." But how many know that he marched to Washington with Dr. King in 1963 and fought for civil rights? How many know that he supported the Gun Control Act of 1968 and opposed the Viet-Nam War? Yes, he endorsed Ronald Reagan and George Bush but he also endorsed Adalai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.

How remarkably more complex a human life can be than the one-dimensional cartoon version so often drawn by the usual information sources.

Of course I will always see his face when I imagine Moses or Michelangelo. But two of my favorite Charleton Heston films are Soylent Green ("Soylent Green is people!!) and Planet of the Apes ("You cut out his brain, you bloody baboon!!"). Another is Will Penny, which doesn't have a single memorable line I don't think, but is so well played -- by Heston and his co-star, Joan Hackett.

What a fine body of work, personal and professional, he leaves behind: Following your conscience, playing gigantic, memorable roles. Thank you, Mr. Heston, for it all.

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