Charlton Heston

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Charlton Heston at the 1963 Civil Rights March.

Charlton Heston (b. October 4, 1923, Evanston, Illinois - d. April 5, 2008) was a famous Hollywood actor known for plHestaying larger than life roles including Moses, Michaelangelo, Marc Antony, John the Baptist, and Andrew Jackson and, most of all, his Academy Award-winning performance in the Christian tale of Ben Hur. Later in life he channeled his passion for the Second Amendment of the Constitution and became an effective leader of the National Rifle Association, serving as its president from 1998 to 2001 as its membership amended ts rules to enable him to hold that office longer than customary. Heston was outspoken in debunking an attempt to put a homosexual spin on the conflict portrayed in the movie Ben Hur.

Heston's greatest performance influenced the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, leading pro-Second Amendment Tennessee to vote shockingly against its own favorite son, Al Gore, thereby enabling Republican George W. Bush to win:

on May 20, 2000, when at the NRA’s 129th convention the actor held up a Revolutionary War-era flintlock rifle and announced that if the government (and “especially you, Mr. Gore,” meaning Al Gore, who was running for president) wanted to confiscate the gun, they’d have to take it from his “cold, dead hands.”[1]

He was born John Charlton Carter in Evanston, Illinois. Following his parents' divorce and his mother's subsequent marriage to a Mr. Heston, Charlton's surname was changed. He studied at Northwestern University for two years and then fought in World War II, serving in the United States Army Air Forces as a B-25 Mitchell aerial gunner assigned to the 77th Bombardment Squadron.

A strapping man with chiseled features, he is best remembered for his portrayals of Moses in The Ten Commandments, Taylor in the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes, and Rodrigo in El Cid. His movie Ben Hur is also a classic. Heston used the influence he had developed as a well known actor to help others and champion causes for American liberty. He was President of the Screen Actors' Guild from 1966 to 1971 and the president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2001 as well as being an early supporter of the civil rights movement where he walked with Martin Luther King. He even once picketed outside a movie theater in 1961 that was showing a film of his that had just come out, but would not allow blacks into the theater. Heston did not like the form that ongoing affirmative action took in later years believing that removed the equality that was being sought. Political pundits bring up the idea that Heston changed his political views, but Heston himself spoke admiringly about his early civil rights support throughout his life and even after his political positions were categorized by others as turning conservative. The difficulty was in the pundits who could not grasp that having a deep desire to see black people treated as equals wasn't the same as believing in the ongoing entitlement programs in affirmative action.

Making a moving public speech to America in 2002 that he had been diagnosed with symptoms related to Alzheimer's disease, he was seldom seen in public after that. When leftist actor George Clooney heard of it, he took the opportunity to make a public joke at Heston's expense. When called to task for his statement, Clooney defended it because he said Charlton Heston deserved it. Heston, ever the gentlemen, did not respond in kind, but simply said that George should be careful since he had just as much chance to come down with the disease as anyone else.[2]

Married to Lydia Clarke (born 1923) for 64 years, he died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, aged 84. Heston is survived by her, their son and their adopted daughter.

His autobiography In the Arena was written in 1995 in which he discussed his views on all of his major movies as well as stances he took on issues important to him throughout his life.

In 2003 Charlton Heston was award the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, the highest award available to a civilian.

Selected Films

  • The Ten Commandments (1956)
  • Touch of Evil (1958)
  • Ben-Hur (1959)
  • El Cid (1961)
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes
  • The Omega Man (1971)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (1972)
  • Soylent Green (1973)
  • Tombstone (1993)
  • Armageddon (1998)
  • Any Given Sunday (1999)
  • Planet of the Apes (2001)


  • "There's no such thing as a good gun. There's no such thing as a bad gun. A gun in the hands of a bad man is a very dangerous thing. A gun in the hands of a good person is no danger to anyone except the bad guys." [3]
  • "From my cold, dead hands!" (famous quote from his association with the National Rifle Association)

See also


  2. |Charlton Heston Made History
  3. Charlton Heston's Quotable Quotes, newsMax, April 23, 2003
  4. The Big Curmudgeon: 2,500 Irreverently Outrageous Quotations from World ...‎ - Page 478, By Jon Winokur 2007

External links