Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston, 1924-2008

There goes another icon. It's easy now to look at Charlton Heston's clenched-jaw acting style and his histrionics in Soylent Green or The Omega Man and make fun of him, but even though the performances are often hammy and stilted, they still work, they still have an impact on an audience thanks to their power and intensity. Heston came of age as an actor in the pre-Method era and was simply a different kind of actor, one who was best at playing larger-than life icons. Heston's Moses or Judah Ben-Hur or Neville from The Omega Man are big, bold performances driven by strong, broad emotions, and they're great. Nobody else, then or now, could do what Heston did.

Even if Heston had rigid political positions, he was still an advocate for civil rights and against McCarthyism, and he leaves us performances in movies from The Greatest Show on Earth to Touch of Evil to Major Dundee to Earthquake to Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. I think my personal favorite performance from him would have to be as Taylor in Planet of the Apes, because it's so perfectly iconic, and because it's his most intense, angry slow burn in of career of slow burns. Who doesn't know "Get your hands off me, you damn dirty ape!"

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