Monday, 7 April 2008

A Legend has passed

Sad to hear about the passing of Charlton Heston. A real larger than life character. I also feel he was a slight enigma being associated with both civil rights causes and gun control. Nonetheless as a fellow libertarian I salute him!

Obituary: Charlton Heston

Heston struggled in his early years as an actor
Whether starring as Judah Ben-Hur, Michelangelo or Moses, Charlton Heston personified the larger-than-life heroes of the Hollywood epic.
Charlton Heston's life story reads like a film script. From the backwoods of Michigan, he became one of the world's most famous faces, a high-profile campaigner for Civil Rights and an unapologetic president of America's National Rifle Association.
He was born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Illinois.
By his own admission "shy, skinny, short and pimply", he studied acting before serving for three years in the US Air Force.
Big screen presence
Back in civilian life, Heston and his wife, Lydia, went through hard times, while waiting for his first break as an actor.
Living in a single room in Chicago, at one time they posed for artists, at $1.25 an hour, before Heston finally attracted Hollywood's attention.

Ben Hur won Heston an Oscar and made him a global superstar
In 1952, after working on Broadway, Heston starred as the ringmaster in the movie, The Greatest Show on Earth. Four years later, he appeared as Moses in The Ten Commandments, the role which would define his career.
Physically imposing at six foot four, with granite-hewn features and a deep, sonorous voice, he radiated screen presence.
No role was too big for Heston. In The Greatest Story Ever Told, he was John the Baptist; he played El Cid, along with Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy and General Gordon in Khartoum.
And, in 1959, he won an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Ben-Hur.
Civil Rights supporter
On stage, he was Sir Thomas More in A Man for all Seasons, Macbeth and Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.
Although later identified with traditionally conservative causes, Charlton Heston was a vocal supporter of Martin Luther King and the 1960s Civil Rights movement.
After King's assassination, and the murder of Robert Kennedy, Heston called for gun controls. He later said that he was "misguided".
The science fiction film, Planet of the Apes, proved a big commercial success in the late 1960s, and Heston almost became a fixture in 1970s disaster movies like Earthquake and Skyjacked.

Heston served as president of the Screen Actors Guild
And his big-screen performance in the environmentally-tinged sci-fi thriller, Soylent Green, brought him cult status among a younger audience.
Traditional heroes
The 1980s saw a rare foray onto television, as Jason Colby in The Colbys.
But, later in his career, Heston turned increasingly back to the stage, and to fighting for his political beliefs.
During his six years as president of the Screen Actors Guild , he decried the trend for undermining traditional American heroes.
And, having grown up in the Michigan woods where poor people sometimes shot their next meal, Heston became embroiled in a passionate national debate over gun laws.

Heston's political activism dominated his later lifeA high-profile president of the National Rifle Association, he once vowed that the only way the government would take away his gun was from his "cold, dead hands".
On 9 August 2002, he issued a statement, announcing that his doctors had diagnosed "a neurological disorder whose symptoms are consistent with Alzheimer's disease".
A self-avowed Anglophile, he was a hugely enthusiastic reader of the Aubrey/Maturin novels of the late Patrick O'Brian and was co-chairman of the American Air Museum in Britain.
Heston once said of himself, "I have played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses in my career. If that doesn't create an ego problem, nothing does."
But, while his screen giants gave him the stature to champion his causes, Charlton Heston, along with many critics, felt his best film performance was as the shy, awkward ranch hand in Will Penny.
And while Charlton Heston will always be identified with heroes who lived before the birth of his country, it was perhaps the American pioneer who was closest to his heart.


Phil A said...

Re Charlton Heston “I also feel he was a slight enigma being associated with both civil rights causes and gun control” - Not so strange really.

Both issues concern the rights and liberties of individuals. On one issue the individuals concerned could be grouped as being of African American decent. On the other they could be grouped by asserting their rights to keep and bear arms under the second amendment.

It is an artefact of the old left/right thinking that puts Civil rights in the left’s camp and the right to bear arms in the right. It only looks incongruous in that light.

You may have already seen this but it is clear and never hurts to be repeated – Thanks for the link by the way, I have returned the compliment.

Paul said...

Good point Phil I agree. Cheers. Personally I believe individuals in the UK should have the right to bear arms so longs as they do not have a criminal record or history of mental illness. I think it is a scandal that semi trained coppers carry powerful weapons as well as criminals why not the ordinary citizen?

Phil A said...

Re the right to bear arms – Absolutely.

I am reminded of the words of Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria-Bonesana (1738-1794 Italian philosopher criminologist and politician)

“False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction.

The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty... and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer?

Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.

They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree."