Charlton Heston has died at the age of 84. In life he never got
the appreciation he deserved — damned with faint praise as an actor of
limited range, damned in more direct terms for his right wing politics
and defense of gun rights. As an artist, however, he was a
It was Heston who lobbied Universal to give Orson Welles the job as director of Touch Of Evil
(above), at a time when no one else in Hollywood would give Welles the
time of day, and he single-handedly kept Sam Peckinpah on Major Dundee by offering to kick back his own salary into the production.
In movies, presence is sometimes more important than range — one might
argue that it's always more important than range — and presence
requires more than mere personality. It requires its own kind of
craft and courage. There was no other actor of his generation who
could have held his own in El Cid, and his “presence” helped make that film a masterpiece. It also elevated The Planet Of the Apes from a B-picture to a pop classic.
I am personally grateful to him for Touch Of Evil
— mangled as it was by the studio it's still one of the great American
films, and it wouldn't exist without the artistic heroism of Charlton
And for those of you who can't get past his efforts on behalf of the NRA,
remember that he also stood with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March
On Washington — one of the few Hollywood celebrities with the guts to
take a public stand like that in 1963.