Charlton Heston was famous for playing such larger-than-life historical roles as Moses, Michelangelo, Andrew Jackson, Buffalo Bill, Cardinal Richelieu, and Ben Hur, a fictional character who seemed more real than life in his portrayal.
Heston may have been Hollywood’s last real star, instantly recognizable with that stentorian baritone voice and imposing presence.
He died Saturday night at 84. Our condolences go to his two children and to Lydia, his wife of 64 years.
Just as he excelled at portraying larger-than-life characters, his own life partook of something of the same quality.
He was perhaps best known in recent years as president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003, but he also served seven terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild and marched — not supported from afar or simply wrote a check but went and marched — with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Observers said his politics switched from liberal to conservative, but like many Americans during the 1960s, he said, “My politics haven’t changed — it was the Democratic Party that changed.”
What remained consistent was his concern for individual rights — whether to be free from official discrimination because of the color of one’s skin, or to own a weapon some choose to demonize even though the evil it can do is in the user not the tool.
Although some treated him as a caricature, he was an actor of considerable skill and sensitivity who showed his range in such films as “Will Penny,” “A Touch of Evil,” “The Big Country,” and even “Planet of the Apes.”
He also stayed active on the stage, starring in “A Man for All Seasons,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” and several Shakespeare plays.
Orson Welles, who directed and co-starred with him in “A Touch of Evil,” called Charlton Heston “the nicest man to work with that ever lived in movies.” That’s a good way to remember him.