After 84 years, they can finally pry the gun from Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands. The Hollywood legend and staunch gun rights activist died at his home in Beverly Hills, CA. on April 5. The actor made his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s public in 2002. Heston died with his family by his side, but a family spokesperson declined to reveal details of his death.
Heston, an Academy Award winner starred in groundbreaking Hollywood films such as “The Ten Commandments” and “Planet of the Apes.” Perhaps Heston’s most defining role was played in “Ben-Hur,” the 1959 epic picture that garnered Heston an Oscar for best actor, and the film is still the model for epic pictures today.
During his prolific acting career, when Heston was not performing such roles as Moses, Judah Ben Hur and George Taylor, he served in multiple leadership roles. He acted as President of the Screen Actors Guild, was Chairperson of the American Film Institute and even marched in civil rights movements of the ’60s.
“If Hollywood had a Mt. Rushmore, Heston’s face would be on it,” Heston publicist Michael Levine told various media outlets. “He was a heroic figure that I don’t think exists to the same degree in Hollywood today.”
In the 1970s Heston, a long time Democrat became heavily involved with the Republican Party, as he felt that the Democratic Party had “abandoned him.” Ronald Regan followed in his footsteps.
Later in his life, Heston became a lightning rod for controversy when he became heavily involved in conservative politics, specifically on the issue of gun ownership rights. A long time member of the National Rifle Association, Heston was elected its president in June 1998 and held that position until 2002. For his work in promoting gun rights, Heston was awarded the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2003.
Many will remember Heston for his famous poses during NRA rallies while gripping a rifle high above his head. These images were later emblazoned on advertisements for the organization. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore interviewed Heston on the subject of second amendment rights in his film “Bowling for Columbine” which ended up being his final appearance on screen.
What made Heston a groundbreaking actor, was not just his versatility but the fact that his roles seemed to mirror his actions in life. In “Planet of the Apes,” George Taylor was a gun wielding military leader of the future, which highlights Heston’s gun advocacy background. Heston’s portrayal of Moses highlighted his off-screen social leadership positions held during the time that “The Ten Commandments” was released.
His son Fraser, daughter Holly and his wife Lydia survive Heston.
Matt Lamabrdo is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ML606516@wcupa.edu.