Some time in the early years of his life Illinois born John Charles Carter decided to change his name. An imposingly tall figure with a ruggedly chiseled face, he made being a leading man on the big screen look as easy as breathing on a clear day. As I write this the world is mourning his death. Would that have been the case had he not dubbed himself Charlton Heston? Maybe.
Maybe it would have been John Carter who got the chance to recite some of the most memorable movie lines ever.
“Soylent Green is people!” he might have shouted as Det. Thorn to a crowded theater from his 2-dimensional stage.
“Let my people go!” a sandal clad John could have demanded as Moses from the Egyptian ruler.
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” Carter playing astronaut Taylor may have growled.
Maybe John Carter would have done just as well as Charlton Heston did in the acting business, but how many men named Charlton have you known — or will probably meet — in your life? Had I not been enthralled by so many of his performances I still would have respected him at least for choosing such an uncommon handle for himself. It was a risky gamble I wouldn’t have taken. I think it paid off in spades for Mr. Carter.
As a boy growing up in LA’s San Fernando Valley I was carried along on so many fantastic trips by Heston’s sheer strength in front of a camera. He was the original blockbuster magnet. Every look given from his characters’ faces would make me want to know why they happened and what was going to happen next.
I saw “Soylent Green” on its public premier night in a Hollywood theater; I had never seen an audience cheer so loudly for light and shadows being cast on a silvery backdrop. Had Heston actually been there we would have all tried to carry him out on a blanket of humans. I bet it was the same reaction in theaters when “Ben Hur” premiered; of course, I can only guess because Hur was released in the same year I was born.
I read a bio of him recently. It was undoubtedly written by some modern Hollywood-type because it had to end with a line about how Heston was spending his later life advocating “right-wing” causes. Like it fucking matters what the man’s personal beliefs were. Like it fucking matters what any person playing pretend for a living in La-La-Land thinks about politics. One would have to be very full of themselves or think very little of their audience to place so much emphasis on the assumed power of one’s own celebrity.
I would probably NOT want to waste one minute hanging out with most of the actors I can’t get enough of on the big screen. Yet, that doesn’t even enter into my respect for their on-screen talents.
No, I do not think Heston was perfect or a greater soul than any of the unsung heroes I’ve personally known in my life; however, even though he’s quoted as saying, “The Internet is for lonely people. People should live.” I think in Heston’s case I might have enjoyed his company. He had class. He was a man of his generation, a family man, married to one woman since 1944, put the work before his persona, never missed an opportunity to praise the writers and directors he worked with while crediting them for his success. I would imagine it must be a gargantuan undertaking to retain even the slightest amount of humility while knowing there is hardly a corner of the planet that doesn’t know the name Charlton Heston.
Thank you, Mr. Blockbuster, for so many years of fun and escape you gave me. Rest now and live on forever.