Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get Your Stinking Paws Off Me

Category: Obituary

(Note: The title of this blog is from the movie Planet of the Apes. Spoken by Charlton Heston's character George Taylor, it was voted the #66 greatest movie quote of all-time by the American Film Institute.)

But now he's incommunicado
Leaving such a hole in a world that believed
That a life with such bravado
Was taking the right way home

-- Jimmy Buffett, "Incommunicado"

When the news of Charlton Heston's passing broke this morning I could not help but flash back nearly 29 years ago, when John Wayne died. We have had great actors and legendary actors and multiple Oscar-winning actors, but there are very few actors to grace the Silver Screen who truly deserve to be labeled "American icons." John Wayne was one; Charlton Heston was definitely another. Much like Wayne, Heston transcended the films he made. How many times have you heard him referred to as Ben-Hur or Moses -- not the role, the actual person?

That is the mark of a great actor -- one who did his job very, very well. And that describes Heston. We cried with him at the conclusion of Planet of the Apes when he realized just where he was and what had happened. We yelled, "Soylent Green is people!" along with him at the conclusion of that film. And, honestly, who isn't going to be a little disappointed if, when they meet Moses, he doesn't look like Chuck Heston?

Heston announced in 2002 that he had the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. "I can part the Red Sea," Heston said in his public announcement, "but I can't part with you [the audience], which is why I won't exclude you from this stage in my life."

Perhaps controversial because of his political stance (he was a civil rights champion when it was not "cool" to be so, and he served as the president of the National Rifle Association for years), Heston will nevertheless be missed by people who disagreed with him as much as people who agreed with him in that aspect of his life. That is because Charlton Heston was one outstanding actor.

Heston was 84.

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