...from my cold, dead hands!
Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008).
Just a note: As far as I have been able to determine to this point, Mr. Heston was not a Mason.
Quoting from Wikipedia:
Heston is known for playing heroic roles, such as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Colonel George Taylor in Planet of the Apes and Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur. Early in his career, he was one of a handful of Hollywood actors to speak out against racism and was active in the civil rights movement. During the latter part of his movie career, he starred in films such as The Omega Man and Soylent Green, which have a strong environmental message. He was president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.
Heston was born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Lilla (née Charlton) and Russell Whitford Carter, a mill operator. (However the 1930 Census for Richfield, Michigan, where the family then lived, reports that Russell Whitford Carter was a Real Estate Salesman. Their 6 year old son is already referenced in this cenus by the name "Charlton"). Heston has stated that he was part Native American and a "blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux." When he was ten, his parents divorced. Shortly thereafter, his mother married Chester Heston. The new family moved to well-off Wilmette, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. Heston (his new surname) attended New Trier High School.
Heston enrolled in the school's drama program, earning a drama scholarship to Northwestern University from the Winnetka Community Theatre in which he was also active. While in high school, he played in the silent 16 mm amateur film adaptation of Peer Gynt made by David Bradley. Several years later the same team produced the first sound version of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which Heston played Mark Antony.
In 1944, Heston left college and enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. He served for two years as a B-25 radio operator/gunner stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands with the Eleventh Air Force, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant.
While in the service, Heston married Northwestern student Lydia Marie Clarke in 1944. After the war, the two lived in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, where they worked as models. They have a son, Fraser Clarke Heston and an adopted daughter, Holly Ann Heston.
Seeking a way to make it in theater, Heston and his wife Lydia decided in 1947 to manage a playhouse in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1948, they went back to New York where Heston was offered a supporting role in a Broadway revival of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, starring Katharine Cornell. He also had success in television, playing a number of roles in CBS's Studio One, one of the most popular anthology dramas of the 1950s.
Heston's most frequently played roles on stage include the title role in Macbeth, Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. He cited Mister Roberts as one of his favorite roles, and tried unsuccessfully to revive the show in the early '90s.
In 1950, Heston earned recognition for his appearance in his first professional movie, Dark City. His breakthrough came with his role of a circus manager in The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952. Heston was Billy Wilder's first choice to play Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953). However, the role was given to William Holden, who won the Oscar for it. Heston became an icon for portraying Moses in The Ten Commandments, reportedly being chosen because director Cecil B. DeMille thought the muscular, 6 ft 3 in, square jawed Heston bore an uncanny resemblance to the statue of Moses by Michelangelo.
Heston went on to leading roles in a number of fictional and historical epics— Ben-Hur (1959), El Cid, 55 Days at Peking, The Agony and the Ecstasy (as Michelangelo), and Khartoum. After Burt Lancaster turned down the role of Ben-Hur, Heston accepted the role, going on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, one of the eleven unprecedented Oscars the film earned. (In 1995, Heston denied a claim by Ben-Hur screenwriter Gore Vidal that there is a gay subtext to the film. Vidal says he wrote the script with such an implication, but never mentioned the subtext to Heston [though he did so to Stephen Boyd, who played Ben-Hur's friend Messala].) Heston would be identified with the Biblical epic more than any other actor and voiced the role of Ben-Hur for a cartoon version of the Lew Wallace novel in 2003.
In 1965, Heston became president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 to 1971.
In 1968, he starred in the hugely successful Planet of the Apes . In 1970, Heston portrayed Mark Antony again in a Technicolor film version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. His co-stars in the nearly all-star cast included Jason Robards as Brutus, Richard Johnson as Cassius, John Gielgud as Caesar, Diana Rigg as Portia, Robert Vaughn as Casca, and Richard Chamberlain as Octavius. He starred in Soylent Green (1971). In 1972 Heston made his directorial debut with Antony and Cleopatra, an adaptation of the William Shakespeare play he performed during his earlier theater career, and portrayed Mark Antony. Hildegarde Neil was Cleopatra, and Eric Porter was Enobarbus. After receiving scathing reviews, the film never went to theaters, and rarely turns up on television. It has not been released on DVD. He subsequently starred in the The Omega Man (1973), and Earthquake (1974), many of these hugely successful films have since becoming classic or cult films.
Beginning with playing Cardinal Richelieu in 1973's The Three Musketeers, Heston was seen in an increasing number of supporting roles, cameos and theater. From 1985 to 1987, he starred in his only prime-time stint on series television with the soap, The Colbys. With his son Fraser, he starred and produced several TV movies, including remakes of Treasure Island and A Man For All Seasons. In 1992, Heston appeared in a short series of videos on the A&E cable network reading passages from the King James Version of the Bible, called Charlton Heston Presents the Bible. It was filmed in the Middle East and received excellent reviews, achieving great success on video and DVD. In 1993, he appeared in a cameo role in Wayne's World 2 (in a scene wherein main character Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) requests that a small role be filled by a better actor). That same year, he hosted Saturday Night Live. He had cameos in the films Hamlet, Tombstone and True Lies. He especially worked at the Los Angeles Music Center where he appeared in such plays as Police Story, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and as Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood opposite Jeremy Brett as Dr. Watson, who would later win acclaim for his own interpretation of the great detective. In 2001, Heston made a cameo appearance as an elderly, dying chimpanzee in Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes. Heston's last film role was as the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in My Father, Rua Alguem 5555, which had limited release (mainly to festivals) in 2003.
Heston campaigned for Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and John F. Kennedy in 1960. When an Oklahoma movie theater premiering his movie was segregated, he joined a picket line outside in 1961. During the civil rights march held in Washington, D.C. in 1963, he accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. In later speeches, Heston said he helped the civil rights cause "long before Hollywood found it fashionable."
In 1968, following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Heston appeared on The Joey Bishop Show and, along with fellow actors Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas and James Stewart, called for public support for President Johnson's Gun Control Act of 1968. He opposed the Vietnam War and said he voted for Richard Nixon in 1972.
By the 1980s, Heston opposed affirmative action, supported gun rights and changed his political affiliation from Democratic to Republican. He campaigned for Republicans and Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Heston resigned from Actors Equity, claiming the union's refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian role in "Miss Saigon" was "obscenely racist." He said CNN's telecasts from Baghdad were "sowing doubts" about the allied effort in the 1990-91 Gulf War.
At a Time Warner stockholders meeting, he castigated the company for releasing an Ice-T album which included the song "Cop Killer", which depicted the killing of police officers.
According to his autobiography In the Arena, Heston recognized the right of freedom of speech exercised by others. In a 1997 speech, he deplored a culture war he said was being conducted by a generation of media, educators, entertainers, and politicians against:
"...the God fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle- class Protestant-or even worse, evangelical Christian, Midwestern or Southern- or even worse, rural, apparently straight-or even worse, admitted heterosexuals, gun-owning-or even worse, NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff-or even worse, male working stiff-because, not only don’t you count, you are a down-right obstacle to social progress. Your voice deserves a lower decibel level, your opinion is less enlightened, your media access is insignificant, and frankly, mister, you need to wake up, wise up, and learn a little something from your new-America and until you do, would you mind shutting up?"
In an address to students at Harvard Law School entitled Winning the Cultural War, Heston expressed his disdain for political correctness, stating "If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys - subjects bound to the British crown." He stated "Political correctness is tyranny with manners". He went on to say that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride.
Heston was the President and spokesman of the NRA from 1998 until he resigned in 2003. At the 2000 NRA convention, he raised a hand-made Brooks flintlock rifle over his head and declared that presidential candidate Al Gore would take away his Second Amendment rights "from my cold, dead hands." In announcing his resignation in 2003, he again raised a rifle over his head, repeating the five famous words of his 2000 speech. He was an honorary life member.
In the 2002 documentary film Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore interviewed Heston in his home, asking him about an April, 1999 NRA meeting held in Denver, Colorado, shortly after the Columbine high school massacre. Moore criticized Heston for the perceived thoughtlessness in the timing and location of the meeting. Heston, on-camera, excused himself and walked out on the interview. Moore was later criticized for his perceived ambush of the actor.
Actor George Clooney joked about Heston having Alzheimer's Disease. When questioned, Clooney said Heston deserved whatever was said about him for his involvement with the NRA. Heston responded by saying Clooney lacked "class," and said he felt sorry for Clooney, as Clooney had as much of a chance of developing Alzheimer's as anyone else.
Heston opposed abortion and gave the introduction to a 1987 pro-life documentary by Bernard Nathanson called Eclipse of Reason which focuses on late-term abortions. Heston served on the Advisory Board of Accuracy in Media, a conservative media watchdog group founded by Reed Irvine.
Illness and death
In 1998, shortly after he was elected President of the National Rifle Association, Heston had a hip replacement. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998. Following a course of radiation treatment, the cancer went into remission. In August 2002, Heston publicly announced he was diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease. In July 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from President George W. Bush. In March 2005, various newspapers reported family and friends were apparently shocked by the progression of his illness, and he was sometimes unable to get out of bed. In August 2005, a rumor circulated Heston was hospitalized at a Los Angeles hospital with pneumonia, but this was never confirmed by the family. In April 2006, various news sources reported Heston's illness was at an advanced stage and his family were worried he might not survive the year.
Heston died on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at his home in Beverly Hills, California with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side. He was 84. The cause of death is currently unknown.
1 Post Chronicle. "Actor Charlton Heston Dies: Moses, Ben-Hur and Taylor Passes On", 2008-04-06. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.
2 MSNBC. Charlson Heston dead at 84.
3 http://www.ancestry.com Date confirmed through 1930 US Census
4 Film Reference Biography.
6 Vidal, Gore. Palimpsest-A Memoir. 1995. pp.303-307
7 SAG Presidents, Screen Actors Guild
8 Variety, 12 February 2004
9 Mathews, Jay. "Charlton Heston, Statesman On the Set; For the 'Colbys' Star, Acting Is Only Part of the Job", The Washington Post, May 2 1986, pp. D1. (English)
10 Taylor, Quintard (1998). In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West. W. W. Norton & Company, 285.
11 Goodrich, Terry Lee. "Heston decries political correctness at fund-raiser", Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 13, 2000, pp. 5.
12 David Plotz; Slate. NRA President Charlton Heston.
13 Slate. Charlton Heston, Gun-Controller!
14 Pulera, Dominic J. (2006). Sharing the Dream: White Males in Multicultural America. Continuum International Publishing Group, 254.
15 Raymond, Emilie (2006). From My Cold, Dead Hands Charlton Heston and American Politics. [[University Press of Kentucky]], 6.
16 McDowell, Charles. "Charlton Heston, the Gun Lobbyist", Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), September 14 1997, pp. B1. (English)
17 Raymond, p.276
18 a b Thomas, Bob. "Film Legend Charlton Heston Dead at 84", Associated Press, April 06, 2008.
21 Heston, Charlton. Winning the Cultural War. 16 February 1999.
22 Internet Movie Database
23 a b Johnson, Jeff. "Heston to Step down as NRA President", The Nation, April 25, 2003.
24 Stewart, Fiona. "Charlton Heston suffering from Alzheimer's", The Scotsman, 10 August 2002. (English)
25 Johnson, Bradley. "Adages", Advertising Age, 20 October 1997, pp. 8. (English)
26 Russo, Tom. "Opposites Attract (Bowling for Columbine review)", Boston Globe, August 24, 2003.
27 Ebert, Roger. "'9/11': Just the facts?", Chicago Sun-Times, June 18, 2004, p. 55. (English) "In some cases, [Moore] was guilty of making a good story better, but in other cases (such as his ambush of Charlton Heston) he was unfair..."
28 What's up with George Clooney? WorldNetDaily.com. 20 January 2003.
29 Heston Slams Clooney For Alzheimer's Joke. TheBostonChannel.com. 23 January 2003. "
30 FAQ. Accuracy in Media. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.
31 Charlton Heston has Alzheimer's symptoms. CNN News. 9 August 2002.
32 Actor Charlton Heston dead at 84. MSNBC.com. 5 April 2008. Accessed 6 April 2008.
33 Welkos, Robert W. and Susan King. "Charlton Heston, 84; actor played epic figures." Los Angeles Times. 5 April 2008. Accessed 6 April 2008.
34 Charlton Heston Dies at Beverly Hills Home. FoxNews.com. 5 April 2008. Accessed 6 April 2008.
35 Alcoa Premier: The Fugitive Eye (1961). IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-02-06.
36 The Mountain Men (1980). IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-02-05.