Charlton Heston R.I.P.
When Charlton Heston played contemporary characters, I found him cold and off-putting. But—needless to say—in his many period pieces he was outstanding. Some criticize Heston for being of the clenched-jaw school of 1950s acting. While there is some truth to that observation, it misses the larger impact of his work. Think of his Michelangelo in The Agony and Ecstasy. He became that tortured figure, consumed with his art to such an extent that his manhood is left somehow wounded and incomplete. Amazingly his face even came to resemble Michelangelo’s.
A Heston movie I liked a lot that is not well known is The Warlord (1965), in which he plays a Norman knight who is given a fiefdom by his lord in reward for service, but who then does a wrongful and selfish thing, sparking a bloody revolt by the peasants in his territory. Though he is guilty, his guilt does not prevent him from successfully defending his tower from the rebellion. His lieutenant, played by Richard Boone, who was especially condemning of him for his sinful act, nevertheless stands manfully at the side in the battle.
The movie dramatizes a type of multileveled, tragic consciousness that has been lost in the West. Traditional Western man knows he is not perfect, knows he has committed sins, and knows he has to pay for them; but that does not take away his will to fight for the right and defend his own. Starting in the 1960s, however, when The Warlord was made, the people of the West adopted the suicidal liberal attitude that if they have any moral flaws (moral flaws according to liberalism, of course), they have no right to preserve their society from its enemies.
Tim W. writes:
I need to see The Warlord. It sounds like an excellent film. I still love watching Heston in Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, even though I’ve seen those films many times. He went through an interesting sci-fi phase about forty years ago, with Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man. All of those films are well-regarded by enthusiasts of that genre. It was always a bit strange seeing him in films set in the future after he had appeared in so many historical epics, but I guess it’s the mark of a successful actor that he could pull it off. Heston remained married to the same woman for 64 years, which speaks volumes about his character in a place like Hollywood.Mark E. writes:
Here is (liberal) actor Richard Dreyfuss’s sincere, moving tribute to Charlton Heston (NRO, 2002), after Heston announced that he had Alzheimer’s.LA writes:
One thing I want to mention, because it’s organic to Heston’s unique ability to play heroes in period pieces (past or future), is his heroic, “larger-than-life,” yet natural-looking physique. I don’t know by what regimen he achieved it (or maybe no regimen), but it was so strikingly different from the artificial, mass-produced-in-a-gym, “puffed-out” look of actors’ physiques today.Ben W. writes:
For me Charlton Heston came from a generation of actors in which men were shown as men. Then sometime after the 60s we got the mousy, little shrimp type.LA writes:
Here are Diana West’s thoughts on Charlton Heston, at her blog. I like the way she talks about Heston. That he was stiff, but give him a historic role, and he could inhabit it as no other actor could.Mark Jaws writes:
I completely agree with you about Charlton Heston and your take on the lessons learned from the movie, “The Warlord.” But what you said about the imperfect yet enduring qualities of western man could be said for just about any movie made before 1965. We have seen the recent remake of the Alamo, in which the legendary Davie Crockett was depicted as a self-doubting, PC pipsqueak. Could you imagine how contemporary screen writers and directors would pervert the heroic actions so superbly brought to the screen in the 1965 classic “Zulu?”Paul K. writes:
It’s generally not a good idea to expect too much from an actor based on the roles he plays, or else we’d be disappointed when we learn that Sylvester Stallone demands fluffy pink towels in his dressing room or that the actor playing James Bond can’t drive a stick shift and is afraid of guns. However, there must be something within an actor that he brings to in his roles, or else every good actor could play a wider range of parts than they do. Clint Eastwood makes a convincing tough guy in a way that Tom Cruise does not—and never will. It’s just not in him.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 07, 2008 02:03 AM | Send