Why Heston Deserves a Stamp of Approval

December 10th, 2010 at 3:02 pm | 41 Comments |

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Almost three years after his passing at age 84 from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease, Hollywood — and Republican — icon Charlton Heston is once again “starring” in a new campaign: this time to honor his considerable body of work in film and on stage with a U.S. Postal Stamp commemorating him.

On Wednesday, December 8th, a press event near Heston’s star at 1628 Vine Street on the Hollywood Walk of Fame helped drum up support.

The US Post Office launched its “Legends of Hollywood” series over 20 years ago, with previous honorees including Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, and John Wayne (along with naturalized legends like Alfred Hitchcock and Audrey Hepburn, and small-screen superstars like Jackie Gleason, Ozzie and Harriet, and Ed Sullivan.)

For those whose only remembrances of Heston are in a few fading-color 1950s epics on TCM — or worse, in what even many liberal critics consider Michael Moore’s nadir,  an interview for Bowling for Columbine taped when he was nearly 80 and already battling senility and Alzheimer’s (he still managed to hold his own against Moore) – here are a few highlights.  Born in 1923 and raised in the Depression as a child of divorce, Heston was as quintessentially self-made as any of his main characters, earning a drama scholarship to Northwestern before leaving to fight World War II, and making his stage debut in 1948 in Antony and Cleopatra.

Heston was noticed by Hollywood after starring on several early TV showcases of live theatre (most notably Studio One), and by 1956, played his most iconic role of all — Moses — in Cecil B. DeMille’s blockbuster The Ten Commandments. He worked with Orson Welles (cast somewhat less-than-credibly as a Mexican-American) in Touch of Evil, largely considered (along with Psycho, which also starred his Touch co-star Janet Leigh) as the last of the great Hollywood “film noirs.”  In 1959, he returned to the historical epics with Ben-Hur, for which he won the Oscar, followed by El Cid, a role as Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy, and a 1971 all-star production of Julius Caesar (with Diana Rigg, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn, and Jason Robards, among others.)

By 1968, he moved from the past to the future with the sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes followed by The Omega Man and Soylent Green, capping things off with the all-star “disaster movie” Earthquake in 1974.  He then moved on to TV (most notably the guilty-pleasure Dynasty spinoff The Colbys and several TV movies) and returned to the stage, becoming the virtual king of the Los Angeles Music Center, especially playing his first love of Shakespeare.

But what makes Heston notable is how he — perhaps even more than Wayne or Stewart — epitomized the political consciousness of the “Greatest Generation” of World War II and Korea, of which he was a part.  While today he is considered by many to be a strictly right-wing icon (due mainly to his outspoken membership in the National Rifle Association, which he directed from 1998 to 2003), the truth is far more interesting.  Heston campaigned avidly for John F. Kennedy in 1960, and even picketed the showing of one of his own movies at an openly segregated movie theatre, going on to march arm-in-arm with African Americans for civil rights “long before it was fashionable,” as he mordantly noted.  He even opposed the Vietnam War, and was approached in 1969 by the Democratic Party to run for Senate.

As the counterculture took control, though, Heston responded by taking the same journey many if not most of his fellow “demographic” did, appalled by the move to show-offy “identity politics” and the embrace of “gangsta” culture.  He spoke out against violent rap songs against the backdrop of the horrifying Rodney King riots of 1992, and said that political correctness was “tyranny with manners.”

When Heston died in 2008, Nancy Reagan and George and Barbara Bush both released statements that they were “heartbroken” at his passing, noting that he was “a man of character and integrity with a big heart.”  As befitting this legacy, the support for Heston’s commemorative stamp has been bipartisan, with quotes from industry figures from Mike Medavoy to Bruce Herschenson, plus 1600 signatures and counting.  To add your voice to the petition, you can post here.

Charlton Heston was indeed one of the greatest actors of his generation.  No one played more heroic or memorable roles than did he – whether as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Judah Ben-Hur, El Cid, or Colonel George Taylor in The Planet of the Apes. He was one of the original inductees in 1960 into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his star was placed in front of the famous Brown Derby. We are happy to endorse your efforts to secure the stamp in his memory. —Leron Gubler, President & CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce

He is a true American hero for the things known by all and things not known by most. … He traveled often to South Vietnam during the war to meet with our troops there. He did it without fanfare, stating that his reward was to see our troops and to be with them. —Bruce Herschensohn, American political commentator and senior fellow at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy

Charlton Heston was an iconic American actor known everywhere in the world … As a friend and family man, patriotic and very giving to his community, in my opinion he deserves to have his image on a US stamp. —Mike  Medavoy, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • DifferentFrumer

    Oh for Christ’s sake. Yeah, Heston was a Hollywood icon. That ****alone**** speaks to recognizing him. But you’ve turned this into Post Office Affirmative Action for his political views. Sorta ruins the whole idea for me.

  • Watusie

    Another imagined slight from the clueless right who love to portray themselves as victims.

    Newsflash: it is USPS policy not to issue a stamp until at LEAST five years after the individual’s death.

  • armstp

    A good gun-totting christian soldier or shameless bigot.

    It was way more than the NRA.

    “In December 1997, Heston delivered a speech before the shamefully right-wing Free Congress Foundation in which he made shamefully inflammatory remarks regarding women, gays and lesbians, and African Americans; while at the same time shamefully trivializing the Holocaust.”

    Insensitive pro-gun control statements made by Heston during the 1960s following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy and also following the Colmbine massacre.

    If he was not a popular actor, he would be written-off as just another right-wing nut.

    This guy was a true nut.

  • jakester

    Glad this was posted, I was losing sleep over this major affront to my sensibilities

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    He risked serious physical harm to support the civil rights movement at a time when (as noted above) it had yet to become a cause celebre. His homophobia was unfortunate (though I suspect it wasn’t as acute as that bilious old poseur Gore Vidal famously made it out to be), but homophobia was an unfortunate popular attitude of the times Heston grew up and lived in.

  • dugfromthearth

    I like Heston in his film roles. I want to think this is not just affirmative action for Republicans, but Heston is no where near a legend like those listed in this article.

    Here is how to persuade me – list two actors that have received stamps that are less hollywood legends than Heston (1 can be a fluke, but 2 is enough to show they are accepting lesser legends).

    It is not a question as to whether Heston appeared in a lot of films or even in popular films, it is a question as to whether he is more deserving than others who are being given stamps.

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    WaStateUrbanGOPer, your homophobiaphobia is unfortunate. Why do you have an irrational fear of Judeo-Christian morality?

  • Watusie

    Well Fairy – long time no see. Sorry, bub, but you still aren’t allowed to use your mythical sky deity to advocate hatred of and discrimination against your fellow citizens.

  • rodica

    Ditto Watusie on the five year rule…the only exception to which is made for U.S. Presidents. Even they have to wait until the first anniversary of their death.

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    I see now it is theophobes as well as Christophobes. Wow, alot of hangups on this forum.

    Oh no Watusie, it is the sodomites who advocated hatred and sow disease. The worst thing about it is they start with themselves as the object of their hate and work their way to those around them.

    And as for your indirect slam on Creation: you aren’t allowed to justify evil by reference to a random swerve eons ago.

  • Watusie

    LOL, Fairy – good luck to you with that Judeo-Christian morality of yours. Your obsession with what consenting adults do with the genitals is really, really unappealing.

    Happily the Founders were much more interested in the other axis of our shared heritage – the Greco-Roman one. So we have a framework of rational laws, not the Bronze Age superstitions that you embrace. Ever thought of joining the Taliban? You’d feel right at home.

  • drdredel

    Judeo-Christian morality
    If ever there was an oxymoron!
    The most bloodthirsty, anti-human, vile, barbaric, disgusting litany of violence and hate.
    Fairy, if you’re so fond of your morality, I urge you to hurry up and stop being a hypocrite and volunteer to be stoned to death for the myriad ways in which you’ve betrayed the laws of your creator, and earned said punishment.
    No? Not interested in death for working on the Sabbath or eating shrimp?

    clown.

  • politicalfan

    Fairy Hardcastle-

    I will start a campaign to have your image on a stamp!

  • DifferentFrumer

    “Judeo-Christian morality”

    Snicker. Snort. Is that what the Texas GOP was expressing when they complained their Jewish leader wasn’t Christian enough?

    Really, Fairy Boy. Shouldn’t you be off praying to a statue or something.

  • Nanotek

    “Why do you have an irrational fear of Judeo-Christian morality?”

    as opposed to a rational fear of it?

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    “…your homophobiaphobia is unfortunate.”

    Dearest Fairy HardCLOSET: With the holiday season in full swing, I’m tempted to be charitable (how’s that for “Judeo-Christian morality” ?) and assume your not really an antihomosexual bigot, but just some ironical clown (perhaps Sasha Baron Cohen or Russell Brand?) having some spoofy fun with the folks here on the FF comments thread.

    But, that temptation aside, what more would you like me to say with regards to the fact of Charlton Heston’s homophobia? I didn’t inscribe a plus (or even much of a negative) sign next to that fact, just put it into historical context. I imagine most of the posters on this thread probably think my remarks a little too light on Heston’s homophobia, but they haven’t uttered a peep, and you, in a sort of Twilight Zone ethos of inversion, have called me out for…being a PC scold? What a farce.

    Would you maybe feel better if I apologized to Gore Vidal for calling him a poseur– which I will not do unless someone can explain to me the literary pleasures of being talked down to for five hundred pages, or how someone can gain a reputation as a literary giant by producing two readable novels, “Julian” and “The Smithsonian Institution,” out of nearly twenty attempts– and call him a “faggot” or a “sod” instead? But even if I were homophobic, what would that solve? Don’t you think the experience would be… a bit anticlimactic and degrading even for a true homophobe? William F. Buckley (who, despite anitquated views on homosexuality, I greatly admire) called Vidal a fag on a nationally televised live news broadcast; he looked a total fool for having done so, and regretted his remarks for years.

    Fairy, please do everyone on this thread (and in your family) a favor and come out of your (Hard-) closet. It’ll be a cathartic experience that you’ll be greatful for for the rest of your life– and, as a token of my happiness for you in your new found emotional life, I’ll see to it that Andrew Sullivan sends you one of his nifty limited-time-only Daily Dish t-shirts!

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    politicalfan: Even though I’m barely getting by on unemployment insurance, I’ll support your Fairy HardCLOSET stamp campaign, granted Fairy is pictured eating a twinky with a faded image of Dan White in the background.

  • SFTor1

    Sure, give Charlton Heston a stamp. He made a living giving cartoonish portrayals of imaginary religious figures. That’s thirsty work right there.

    Just down ask me to agree that he held his own in the Michael Moore interview.

  • politicalfan

    WaStateUrbanGOPer- Mr. Hardcastle is okay, a tab bombastic but he will be enlightened if he decides to be.

  • Kurlis

    Illiberal, intolerant and undemocratic: The American Left have so thoroughly betrayed the principles of the enlightenment that they cannot credibly call themselves “liberal”.

    All REAL liberals are Republicans.

  • ktward

    All REAL liberals are Republicans.

    Today’s Republicans? How so?
    I buy into precious few absolutes, but I might more easily be persuaded that “all real” liberals are either Libertarian or Green. But ‘Pubs?

  • Kurlis

    The American Left has made common cause with the most illiberal elements around the world. From the Chicoms to Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Hezbullah and Hamas, they identify with a visceral hatred of America and its freedoms, its representative form of government which is openly hostile to the American Left. The American Left wants to impose a much different society on the United States. The American Left wants powerful, expansive, government full of rules, regulations and mandates. They want a nanny state from cradle to grave in which individualism, productivity and wealth are forsaken in the name of communal redistributionism and “social justice”.

    Republicans, on the other hand, stand for individualism, freedom of choice, liberty and democracy. It is Republicans who have inherited the mantle of freedom. The American Left have betrayed the principles of the enlightenment and are openly hostile to liberalism.

    I am a liberal. The American Left is not liberal.

  • Nanotek

    “All REAL liberals are Republicans.”

    an unusual claim

    “Republicans, on the other hand, stand for individualism, freedom of choice, liberty and democracy.”

    care to test that claim?

  • Kurlis

    The American Left has much to answer for. To whom does it owe its allegiance? Not to liberalism. Certainly not to the United States of America.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Heston was a great actor, I’d have no problem with him getting a stamp for that. For his politics, no. I’d prefer no actor to get a stamp for politics.

    Fairy,

    Heston was a sodomite, I believe. I’m still fine with him getting his stamp.

    Kurlis,

    How have liberals run from the Enlightenment?

  • Kurlis

    “How have liberals run from the Enlightenment?”

    First of all, they’re not really liberals. And the reason is because they identify with and advocate illiberal ideas and policies, illiberal and undemocratic regimes and economic systems. The American Left simply do not believe in individualism, and by extension, individual liberties and freedom of choice.

    The self interest of the individual is of less interest to the American Left than the importance of identity politics, victim hood and visceral hatred of wealth and productivity. The American Left couldn’t care less about freedom of choice and the individual. One cannot call them “liberal” in any real sense, not reasonably. The American Left long ago abandoned the principles of the enlightenment.

  • TJ Parker

    Charlton Heston??? Hey, if he gets a stamp, Roddy McDowall should get four of them. Roddy even had to wear the ape make-up.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Kurlis

    “The American Left simply do not believe in individualism, and by extension, individual liberties and freedom of choice.”

    This is the reading if you magnify — in my opinion make into a cartoon — just one of a number of aspects central to the Enlightenment. I think if you read the Enlightenment’s concerns through some Existentialists, or people like Ayn Rand, you get a focus on radical freedom to the exclusion of anything else. But this is clearly not a reductive description of what the Enlightenment as a movement is all about. Thinkers such as Rawls, who I would take to be pretty central to modern economic (and in some ways social) liberalism, is a clearly Enlightenment-influenced thinker, tracing his roots back to Kant and Locke, two central thinkers of the period. Rawls is no libertarian.

    With respect to identity politics, it’s a complicated subject, IMO. On some levels, in its worst cases, I’d agree with you, though I think in the worst cases segments of the right and left have gleefully appropriated identity politics. However, in its more moderate form, IP is simply concerned with the emancipation of the self and with obstacles to freedom, just as much as Enlightenment thinkers are.

  • Xunzi Washington

    TJ

    Well, in fairness to Heston, he did don the makeup in the Tim Burton remake.

  • Kurlis

    None of that explains the illiberal, intolerant behavior among the American Left: the antisemitism, the racism, the hatred and bigotry of Christianity and middle America, its mores and values. Something very wrong has happened to modern American liberalism. The American Left stopped defending freedom. The American Left takes its liberties for granted and doesn’t think much of preserving them or passing them on to their children. The American Left is ready and willing to give up our liberties in exchange for “social justice”, now their highest and best moral imperative. So this is progress?

  • Xunzi Washington

    Kurlis –

    Are you talking about liberalism as a philosophical movement, or are you talking about some liberals that you know or are upset with? If the former, which seems more important, then like I said there’s no disconnection between the Enlightenment and liberal thinking.

    If it’s the latter, then (a) I must admit that I don’t know many liberal racists, but surely some exist, but also (b) hell you can say the same thing about conservatives — so what’s your point? I happen to know quite a few conservative racists, but I don’t attribute this to any component of conservativism as a way of thinking. I just attribute it to the fact that these people are as*&#les.

    On social justice, again, you are greatly simplifying what the Enlightenment is about if that’s your point. Enlightenment thinking leads to more than just intuitions about radical Existential freedom of the will.

  • Kurlis

    The American Left have forfeit the right to call themselves liberal. The reason is because they are liberal no longer. They freely and unapologetically engage in sexism and racism in the pursuit of crass partisan political advantage, which, along with their abandonment of free inquiry, reason and the separation of church and state, paint them as traitors to the enlightenment. They’ve moved on to (in their view) more important things like “social justice”.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Kurlis,

    At this point you are not arguing, you are mouthing.

    The American Left have forfeit the right to call themselves liberal. The reason is because they are liberal no longer.

    So basically the reason why an X is not a Y is that it is not a Y because you say it is not. That’s very convincing.

    I’ve countered all of your points, but you seem to be content to just gloss over this and just repeat your conclusions as if merely uttering them again will be more convincing the second time around.

    Is that all you have?

  • Kurlis

    I have a great argument. I can see that it bothers you that I make it. It is absolutely true. The ugly truth is always nearly unbearable.

    You certainly tried to counter my argument. But mine is the more persuasive. I think we both know that.

    A paraphrase from George Orwell: It requires a constant struggle to see what is right in front of your nose.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Kurlis,

    If you honestly think that merely repeating a sentence like “liberals are bad, liberals are anti-Enlightenment” over and over again actually makes it true, then you’re not worth the time required for a discussion. Moreover, if you think that simply repeating a sentence demonstrates some kind of awe-inspiring argumentative authority over your discussion participants, then you’re way far gone over the cliff. To be honest, to say that you support the Enlightenment but eschew reason-based argumentation makes you as clear a case for irony as could exist.

    If you can’t put up an actual argument next time, I’ll move on to a different thread where people actually back up what they say with crazy esoteric things like “defensible reasons” (you know, like the Enlightenment folks liked).

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Yes, Kurlis, Orwell was right, it does “require a constant struggle to see what is right in front of one’s nose.” A bit of advice to keep in mind, especially if you are a troll who poaches on the wisdom of George Orwell while at the same time flacking for Sarah Palin.

    And I don’t disagree with you that the American Left has made some serious departures from the values of the Enlightenment, economic liberty being its main sticking point.

    But how did it ever enter your head that “bigotry for Christianity” [read: rejection of Christianity] is in any way in conflict with Enlightenment Values? Have you read so much as a word of Gibbon or Voltaire or Paine?

    And how on earth can you complain about “identity politics” and “victimhood” in the context of contemporary political culture without uttering a peep about how these pathologies, with the aid of demogogues like Palin and Jim Dobson, have warped the American Right? Jesse Jackson and Co. may have pioneered identity politics and victimology, but they’re certainly not the most recent public figures to promote them.

  • Xunzi Washington

    And I don’t disagree with you that the American Left has made some serious departures from the values of the Enlightenment, economic liberty being its main sticking point.

    I’m still waiting for someone to point out how a figure like John Rawls, who is central to modern liberal economic thinking, isn’t a straightforward product of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment doesn’t reduce in some simplistic and cartoonish fashion to libertarianism, much as some seem to wrongly believe it does.

    But how did it ever enter your head that “bigotry for Christianity” [read: rejection of Christianity] is in any way in conflict with Enlightenment Values? Have you read so much as a word of Gibbon or Voltaire or Paine?

    Or Hume. But I suspect that Kurlis learned his Enlightenment from Glenn Beck and similar folks.

  • Kurlis

    Bigotry against Christians is indeed antithetical to enlightenment values of tolerance and reason. But among the media and cultural elites, the vast majority of whom are leftists, there is only one allowable bigotry: against Christians, especially if they are white and Southern.

    I think the American Left has much to answer for. They don’t behave like liberals. Something else entirely.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Ah well, I’ll move on to the next discussion. Kurlis clearly likes to use vocabulary and technical terms in sentences he likes and has likely seen on TV or heard on his favorite talk radio show but which, alas, he doesn’t actually understand.

  • Kurlis

    I win.