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Charlton Heston: Hollywood Legend and Political Firebrand

Full Name John Charles Carter
Born October 4, 1923 in Wilmette, Illinois
Died April 5, 2008 at age 84
Spouse Lydia Clarke (m. 1944-2000, her death)
Children Fraser Clarke Heston, Holly Heston Rochell
Height 6‘ 3"
Net Worth $40 million

Charlton Heston was an iconic Hollywood star who appeared in almost 100 films over 60 illustrious years. With his commanding voice and imposing physique, he portrayed legendary heroes and timeless characters that enthralled audiences across the world.

As a political activist, he was a prominent champion for civil rights and gun ownership rights. He lived a remarkable life both on screen and off.

Here is an in-depth look at the incredible career and principles that defined this unforgettable actor and activist.

Early Life and Background

Heston was born John Charles Carter on October 4th, 1923 in No Man‘s Land, Illinois. His parents divorced when he was 10 and his mother remarried. In 1941, Heston graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois where he was active in the drama program.

He received a scholarship to Northwestern University, but his education was interrupted when he enlisted to serve during World War II…

Wartime Service in the Military

In 1944, Heston volunteered for the United States Army Air Forces. He served for two years as an aerial gunner and radio operator stationed in Alaska‘s Aleutian Islands…

Rise to Fame as an Actor

After the war, Heston returned to complete his studies at Northwestern before making his acting debut on television and eventually films…

Starring in Legendary Epics

Heston‘s big breakthrough came when he was cast by director Cecil B. DeMille in the 1956 biblical epic The Ten Commandments as Moses…

Some of his most iconic starring roles were in epics like:

  • Ben-Hur (1959) – won Academy Award for Best Actor
  • El Cid (1961)
  • 55 Days at Peking (1963)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968) – cemented his sci-fi legacy

With his imposing physique and background in classics, Heston transitioned naturally into these larger-than-life roles and made them legendary.

Political Activism and Controversy

Originally a Democrat, Heston gravitated toward conservatism later in life. He was an active civil rights supporter, even marching with Martin Luther King Jr. However, as NRA president from 1998-2003, he advocated gun rights ardently which contrasted with his early civil rights positions…

While often a polarizing figure politically, Heston was universally respected for his integrity and gift for powerful speeches.

Later Career and Life

In the 1970s and 1980s, Heston continued working in theater and appeared in sci-fi films along with disaster movies. His career wound down in the 90s and early 2000s, transitioning to cameo roles.

Heston was married for 64 years to Lydia Clarke until her death in 2000. They had two children. In 2002, he publicly announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer‘s disease. He passed away April 5, 2008 at the age of 84, leaving behind an unmatched cinematic legacy.

Cultural Legacy

As a pop culture icon, Charlton Heston has been widely referenced and parodied:

  • His epic film lines are extensively quoted and sampled, especially Planet of the Apes.
  • Heston has voiced cartoon versions of himself on Family Guy, The Simpsons, etc.
  • Comedians like Ben Stiller and Phil Hartman have parodied his famous characters.
  • His commanding cinematic persona is often imitated as the prototypical movie hero.

Though best known for serious roles, the humor in pop culture homages displays the breadth of his impact on multiple generations.

Interesting Facts About Charlton Heston

  • His stage name originated from his stepfather‘s last name (Charlton) and mother‘s maiden name (Heston).
  • Heston posed as a nude model for art students during college.
  • He met his future wife, Lydia Clarke, in a college acting class.
  • In 1944, the bomber plane Heston trained on crashed after he was removed from the mission due to illness. The crew was rescued.
  • Heston‘s lines in a Charlie Chan movie were dubbed by Keye Luke, who originally played Chan‘s #1 son Lee.
  • His role as Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers was first offered to Orson Welles.
  • Heston cast his son Fraser as his on-screen baby, child and adult self in various films.

Conclusion: Unforgettable Actor and Activist

In his six decade career, Charlton Heston cemented his status as one of classic Hollywood‘s greatest stars. He portrayed legendary heroes in epics like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur with an imposing, larger-than-life screen presence.

As an activist, Heston was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in – from civil rights to gun ownership – even if it challenged Hollywood conventions. He is remembered for his integrity and gift for powerful oratory.

Though a divisive political figure later on, Charlton Heston‘s contributions to cinema are utterly undeniable. His portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and other monumental characters are forever etched into Hollywood‘s legacy.