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RevolutionSF Remembers Charlton Heston
© Joe Crowe
April 06, 2008

RevolutionSF remembers the man who looked for it, even though Dr. Zaius told him he might not like what he found.

Now is NOT the time to remember Charlton Heston for his political beliefs. Such things should be buried, as with Caesar, along with their bones. The only thing that matters, in the end, was the work.

Was he good at his job? The answer is yes. Hell, yes. Heston was never a macho character, but he was always a man. Consider the movie he's most closely associated with: Planet of the Apes. Taylor is an iconoclast, railing against the very society that sent him into space. Had they not "blew it all up," as in the movie, and a new, Utopian society had greeted the astronauts on their return, Taylor would have undoubtedly looked around, found something else not to like about civilization, and gone to live in the mountains. Heston informed masculinity and the role of same in so many of his movies, whether he was the leader of men, or just trying to get along from day to day. One of the best scenes in Soylent Green is when he and his buddy manage to scrounge enough real food to eat a meal.

Gusto, vigor, vitality, and even vulnerable, but never weak. Heston was one of the greats, in the same "man's man" category as Steve McQueen and John Wayne. For a generation of latchkey kids, fixing our own afternoon snacks and gleaning what we could of the world from a mixture of Mad magazine and cable television, those images of manhood imprinted upon us, unchecked, as a seminal influence. We received no real guidance save a nod of approval from Dad, when he was home, or an uncle, when he was around, whenever Heston, McQueen, or Wayne came up in a conversation.

We learned from Moses. We "got it" from Taylor. It made more sense, and in some ways, was more dependable, than dealing with the adults in our lives. They wouldn't have understood anyways; they thought a planet of intelligent apes was the apex of stupidity. I loved Charlton Heston. I didn't care about his politics. I excused them, the same way that you excused your grandfather for dropping N-bombs at Thanksgiving. He was from a different time and place. You ignored that, because there were other things about him that were of much greater value to you.

That stunt that Michael Moore pulled on him during his Bowling for Columbine movie really irritated me. It was akin to hiding your grandfather's cane and then telling him that those kids were back on his lawn, stealing his pecans. It wasn't funny. And in the end, it doesn't matter. Heston's work will long survive him. He vaults up into the canon, if he hadn't already done so years before.

Today's latchkey kids are watching ambiguous anime and Will & Grace marathons, instead of all five Planet of the Apes movies back to back.

They don't watch The Ten Commandments every single year. They've never seen Ben Hur. Without Heston to guide these fey little troglodytes, I weep for the future generation.

Godspeed, Charlton Heston. Tell the Duke howdy for us, will you? You will not be forgotten. -- contributing editor Mark Finn

Heston offered quite a conundrum. I loved many of his movies but loathed his political views. I respected his strength of conviction especially when a vast majority of his peers (and me) were polar opposites on many of Heston's stances. Such extreme machismo is an outmoded and often offensive trait to my sensibilities, but I loved the fact that Heston portrayed that quality with such style and fervor.

The opening scene in Planet of the Apes when Heston as Taylor puffs on his cigar while flying a spaceship was the perfect Heston moment. Of course he's smoking a cigar in a self-contained recycled air environment even though it's a stupid and potentially dangerous thing for him and his crew. He's Charlton Heston, he was Moses, he was God, and he could and he would do whatever he'd like.

For that I loved you, Chuck. May the afterlife, where no one can be hurt by them, allow you all the guns you'd want. -- contributing editor Rick Klaw

* * *

When he intones to Yul Brenner, “Let my people GO” you can’t help but get a shiver from the power in his voice. The addition of Heston to a movie as a cameo in his later years added an extra layer of cool. Just look at Tombstone, Branagh's Hamlet, the Planet of the Apes remake (his was the best scene), and his Nick Fury-style general in True Lies. -- staff writer Gary Mitchel. For more, go to Squid Ink.

* * *

Forget the man's politics. This man was in some of the greatest science-fiction/fantasy films of all time. And, yes, even seaQuest DSV -- the first season. -- staff writer Deanna Toxopeus. For more, go to Ubalblog.

* * *

My image of Heston is colored by Phil Hartman's impression on Saturday Night Live, but I grew to appreciate him because of it. It's fun to slap the back of your neck and growl "Damn."

My favorite thing he did: He read the Bible outdoors, where he wore a maroon ascot and leaned on a jeep while reading aloud. When he got to a passage he liked, he slapped the Bible with the back of his hand.

He acted when he didn't have to. He was pretaped probably decades ago to appear on a movie screen in the Earthquake stunt show at Universal Studios. When the ham-and-egger college kid host read off their lines, they called him "Mr. Heston." Damn straight. -- senior editor Joe Crowe

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