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Charlton Heston (born John Charles Carter) a.k.a. "Moses"; (1923—2008) was an American actor, Screen Actor's Guild union president (1965-71), and the figurehead of the National Rifle Association for many years. As an actor he appeared in over 100 films over the course of 60 years, and is a half decent one by most accounts, but his acting career, unfortunately, has been largely overshadowed by his legacy as a gun rights spokesperson.
Heston's role as an N.R.A. activist is perhaps best remembered for his use of the slogan
"Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!" "from my cold, dead hands." Contrary to popular opinion, he did not coin it. In his 2002 documentary film Bowling for Columbine filmmaker Michael Moore ambushed conducted an interview with Heston in which it was apparent that the actor was quite obviously suffering from dementia, but Moore still used the footage to stand as an explanation for the logic of Second Amendment activists. Then Moore filmed himself shouting at an empty driveway and spliced footage of Heston walking away over it.
Heston's legacy stands as a reminder of how complex and contradictory human beings can be: While he had a solid career and worked for good causes, in all likelihood he will, unfortunately, be remembered for his embrace of an extreme position in later life.
Reasons to like him
Because of his gun totin' antics in later life, people forget his achievements, especially those of a so called "liberal" character:
- He was a vocal campaigner for the cause of African-American equality, and one of the most prominent white celebrities to support the civil rights struggle.
- He opposed the Vietnam War at the time (although later recanted).
- He was open about his problems with alcohol and Alzheimer's Disease.
- He starred in Planet of the Apes, an excellent satire of religious fundamentalism, and racism.
- He also starred in Ben-Hur, The Big Country, El Cid, Touch of Evil, Major Dundee, The Three Musketeers, The Omega Man, Soylent Green, The Agony and the Ecstasy and many other great performances.
- If four-hour biblical epics are your kick, The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told are worth seeing. They're good. For that sort of thing.
The case the other way
Heston seems to have undergone a kind of political transformation in the 1980s. Maybe he just became a grumpy old man.
- He narrated some dodgy documentaries on various aspects of pseudohistory, etc.
- He supported the Iraq war (so did Hitchens, if that means anything).
- He supported Reagan, and both the greater and the lesser George Bush.
- He was a creationist.
- He was a gun nut
- According to IMDB, Heston was hired by the FBI to provide the voice of God when talking to David Koresh in an attempt to reason with him.