Friday, April 11, 2008

In Memory: Charlton Heston

Today is Thursday, 10 April 2008.

Theatre, acting … it often seems to me encapsulated in a quotation from Goethe’s Faust, which is inscribed on the gravestone of the great German writer, satirist, and anti-fascist Kurt Tucholsky (AKA “Peter Panter”, a nom de plume taken from the name of a fine cigar): “Everything which passes is only a riddle.”

Some actors are chameleons, who can become anyone. Others, such as Kate Hepburn and Charlton Heston, can only play themselves. Some of these latter are lucky enough to be cast in roles in which they authentically play themselves. Charlton Heston was one of these.

Touch of Evil. The Omega Man. Soylent Green. And, particularly for those of us of a certain (Cold War) age, that final scene in Planet of the Apes (HH’s thanks to LQ for reminding him of this) when Heston’s character realizes what humanity, in stupidity and greed, has done.

Heston was one of the first Hollywood stars to publicly champion civil rights for Blacks; he marched with Dr. King and was at the March on Washington in 1963. It is therefore a tragedy of virtually Shakespearean proportions that, in later life, he became a reactionary, and President of and advocate for the National Rifle Association, which should properly be styled the National Handgun Murder Association.

Without excusing Heston’s folly, let us honor his artistic achievements.


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