Dead, Charlton Heston on April 5, 2008 at the age of 84, he was an American actor and political activist.
Born John Charles Carter on October 4, 1923, to Lila (née Charlton; 1899–1994) and Russell Whitford Carter (1897–1966), a sawmill operator. Many sources indicate he was born in Evanston, Illinois.
In his autobiography, Heston refers to his father participating in his family’s construction business.
When Heston was an infant, his father’s work moved the family to St. Helen, Michigan.
It was a rural, heavily forested part of the state, and Heston lived an isolated yet idyllic existence, spending much time hunting and fishing in the backwoods of the area. Heston’s first professional movie appearance was the leading role in Dark City, a 1950 film noir. His breakthrough came when Cecil B.
DeMille cast him as a circus manager in The Greatest Show on Earth, which was named by the Motion Picture Academy as the best picture of 1952. In 1953, Heston was Billy Wilder’s first choice to play Sefton in Stalag 17.
However, the role was given to William Holden, who won an Oscar for it. In 1954, he played the lead in Secret of the Incas, which was shot on location at the archeological site Macchu Picchu and had numerous similarities to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Filmed a quarter century before the latter film, “Incas” included a tomb scene with the revelatory shaft of light pointing out a clue on a map and featured Heston’s roguish antiquities thief’s costume and light beard; Raiders’ costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis noted that it was “almost a shot for shot similar” to the film that she worked on.
Heston campaigned for Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1956, although he was unable to campaign for John F. Kennedy in 1960 due to filming on El Cid in Spain.
Reportedly, when in 1961 a segregated Oklahoma movie theater was showing his movie El Cid for the first time, he joined a picket line outside.
Heston made no reference to this in his autobiography, but describes traveling to Oklahoma City to picket segregated restaurants, to the chagrin of the producers of El Cid, Allied Artists.
During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom held in Washington, D.C. in 1963, he accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. in later speeches; he said he helped the civil rights cause “long before Hollywood found it fashionable.”
In 1968, Heston starred as time traveling astronaut “George Taylor”, in the terrific Planet of the Apes (1968) with it’s now legendary conclusion as Heston realizes the true horror of his destination.
He returned to reprise the role, albeit primarily as a cameo, alongside fellow astronaut James Franciscus in the slightly inferior sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970).
Next up, Heston again found himself facing the apocalypse in The Omega Man (1971) as the survivor of a germ plague that has wiped out humanity leaving only bands of psychotic lunatics roaming the cities who seek to kill the uninfected Heston. And fourthly, taking its inspiration from the Harry Harrison novel “Make Room!, Make Room!”, Heston starred alongside screen legend Edward G. Robinson and Chuck Connors in Soylent Green (1973).
During the remainder of the 1970s, Heston appeared in two very popular “disaster movies” contributing lead roles in the far fetched Airport 1975 (1974), plus in the star laden Earthquake (1974), filmed in “Sensoround” (low bass speakers were installed in selected theaters to simulate the earthquake rumblings on screen to movie audiences).
He played an evil Cardinal in the lively The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge (1974), a mythical US naval officer in the recreation of Midway (1976), also filmed in “Sensoround”, an LA cop trying to stop a sniper in Two-Minute Warning (1976) and another US naval officer in the submarine thriller Gray Lady Down (1978).
In 2002, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and did appear in a film or TV production after 2003.