( b. Oct 04, 1923 Evanston, Illinois, USA - d. Apr 05, 2008 Beverly Hills, California, USA ) Male
Charlton Heston, who appeared in some 100 films in his 60-year acting career but who is remembered chiefly for his monumental, jut-jawed portrayals of Moses, Ben-Hur and Michelangelo, has died. He was 84.
Every actor dreams of a breakthrough role, the part that stamps him in the public memory, and Mr. Heston’s life changed forever when he caught the eye of the director Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille, who was planning his next biblical spectacular, “The Ten Commandments,” looked at the young, physically imposing Mr. Heston and saw his Moses.
When the film was released, in 1956, more than three and a half hours long and the most expensive that De Mille had ever made, Mr. Heston became a marquee name. Whether leading the Israelites through the wilderness, parting the Red Sea or coming down from Mount Sinai with the tablets from God in hand, he was a Moses to remember.
After his success in “The Ten Commandments,” Mr. Heston tried a change of pace. Working for another legendary Hollywood director, Orson Welles, he played a Mexican narcotics investigator in the thriller “Touch of Evil,” in which Welles himself played a murderous police captain in a border town. Also starring Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich, the film, a modest success when it opened in 1958, came to be accepted as a noir classic.
But the following year Mr. Heston stepped back into the world of the biblical epic, this time for the director William Wyler. The movie was “Ben-Hur.” Cast as a prince in ancient Judea who rebels against the rule of Rome, Mr. Heston again dominated the screen. In the film’s most spectacular sequence, he and his co-star, Stephen Boyd, as his Roman rival, fight a thrilling duel with whips as their horse-drawn chariots career wheel-to-wheel around an arena filled with roaring spectators. “Ben-Hur” won 11 Academy Awards — a record at the time — including those for best picture, best director and, for Mr. Heston, best actor.
He went on to star opposite Sophia Loren in the 1961 film “El Cid,” battling the Moors in medieval Spain. As a Marine officer at the Forbidden City in 1900, he helped put down the Boxer Rebellion in Nicholas Ray’s 1963 epic “55 Days at Peking.” In “Khartoum” (1966), he played Gen. Charles (Chinese) Gordon, who was killed in a desert uprising, led in the film by Laurence Olivier’s Mahdi. When George Stevens produced and directed “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965, there was Mr. Heston, back in ancient Judea, playing John the Baptist to Max von Sydow’s Jesus.
He portrayed Andrew Jackson twice, in “The President’s Lady” (1953) and “The Buccaneer” (1958). There were westerns (“Major Dundee,” “Will Penny,” “The Mountain Men”), costume dramas (“The Three Musketeers” and its sequel, “The Four Musketeers,” with Mr. Heston as the crafty Cardinal Richelieu in both) and action films aplenty. Whether playing a hard-bitten landowner in an adaptation of James Michener’s novel “The Hawaiians” (1970), or a daring pilot in “Airport 1975,” he could be relied on to give moviegoers their money’s worth.
In 1965 he was cast as Michelangelo in the film version of Irving Stone’s novel “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” Directed by Carol Reed, the film pitted Mr. Heston’s temperamental artist against Rex Harrison’s testy Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to create frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Mr. Heston’s performance took a critical drubbing, but to audiences, the larger-than-life role seemed to be another perfect fit. Mr. Heston once joked: “I have played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses. If that doesn’t create an ego problem, nothing does.”
Mr. Heston was catapulted into the distant future in the 1968 science-fiction film “Planet of the Apes,” in which he played an astronaut marooned on a desolate planet and then enslaved by its rulers, a race of anthropomorphic apes. The film was a hit. He reprised the role two years later in the sequel, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.”