America lost a class act yesterday, whether you agreed with his politics or not. One of the last great connections to old-school Hollywood, Oscar-winner Charlton Heston passed away after a six-year struggle with Alzheimer's Disease.
Although best known for his roles in historical epics like The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and El Cid, as well as his classic turn in The Planet of the Apes, Heston did make some contributions to the horror genre in his later years, including cult sci-fi/horror faves The Omega Man and Soylent Green, and an appearance in the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired In the Mouth of Madness.
He was part of the first generation of American method movie actors that hit the scene after World War II, along with guys like Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, Rod Steiger, and of course, Marlon Brando. Some called his style hammy, and he certainly wasn't above chewing on some scenery here and there, but there's no question he was also iconic.
Unfortunately, his embrace of the conservative movement in the wake of Barry Goldwater's presidential bid, as well as his long-running association with the National Rifle Association alienated a segment of his audience. I remind those who are quick to judge that he also stood by Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights movement and actually fought for gun legislation in the wake of the King and Kennedy brothers assassinations.
But all that aside, today I choose to celebrate his art, and the contributions he made to the American film aesthetic. Whatever Chuck Heston was, there's one thing that can't be denied--he was larger than life. And there aren't many public figures about which that can still be said.