Charlton Heston

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Charlton Heston

Post  BoG on Thu Apr 30, 2015 6:46 pm











I ran across the Cinemorgue Wikia site and checked up on how Heston's screen deaths were listed there - http://cinemorgue.wikia.com/wiki/Charlton_Heston - so this finally addresses the number of movie deaths for his character: it counts up to 16 on-screen deaths there (though some happen off screen; we just find out the character had been killed afterwards). Unfortunately, the list there was incomplete: it was missing The Call of the  Wild, his King character in Crossed Swords (77), and The Awakening, so I added these in. It also includes his Player King character in Hamlet (96), who dies on stage, acting as if he died, so if we don't count that, the total is 15 deaths. This is his movies only, not TV.  Here is the list over there (after my additions - and keep in mind that these are all SPOILERS on how these films end):

Ruby Gentry (1952) [Boake Tackman]: Shot in the chest by James Anderson in the swamp while Charlton is talking to Jennifer Jones.
El Cid (1961) [Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid]: Shot with an arrow during a battle with the Moors; does not die immediately, he stays alive long enough to lead his army into battle the next day before finally expiring.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) [John the Baptist]: Decapitated (off-screen) by Jose Ferrer's soldiers.
Khartoum (1966) [General Charles 'Chinese' Gordon]: Stabbed in the chest with a spear by a Muslim soldier as he approaches them; his severed head is later presented (out of camera frame) to Laurence Olivier.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) [George Taylor]: Shot by James Gregory; Charlton's hand falls on the switch of a doomsday bomb as he falls, destroying the Earth.
The Omega Man (1971) [Robert Neville]: Impaled with a spear when Anthony Zerbe throws it at him.
The Call of the Wild (1972) [John Thornton]: killed by Yeehat Indians with arrows and left trapped under the ice of a frozen lake.
Antony and Cleopatra (1972) [Marc Antony]: Commits suicide by throwing himself on his sword; he dies shortly afterwards while talking to Hildegarde Neil.
Earthquake (1974) [Stewart Graff]: Drowned when he falls into the sewer system while trying to save Ava Gardner.
Midway (The Battle of Midway) (1976) [Captain Matthew Garth]: Killed in a plane crash when he tries to land his damaged fighter on an aircraft carrier.
Crossed Swords (The Prince and the Pauper) (1977) [King Henry VIII]: dies of sickness in bed, muttering of "monks" and as his court jester weeps nearby.
The Awakening (1980) [Matthew Corbeck]: killed by the evil reincarnated queen Kara (Stephanie Zimbalist), who brings down a sarcophagus and a stone wall on top of him.
Mother Lode (Search for the Mother Lode: The Last Great Treasure) (1982) [Silas McGee/Ian McGee]: Falls to his death after being shot by Nick Mancuso.
Hamlet (1996) [Player King]: Feigns being poisoned when another actor pours poison in his ear in a play-within-the-play sequence, while Kenneth Branagh watches Derek Jacobi's reaction in the audience.
The Order (2001) [Professor Walter Finley]: Shot in the chest in the crossfire of a shoot-out in the street; he dies shortly afterwards while talking to Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Planet of the Apes (2001) [Zaius, Thade's Father]: Dies of old age, while talking to his son (Tim Roth). (Both Charlton and Tim are wearing ape make-up for this film.)

Another thing to note: this doesn't include several films of Heston in which it's hinted or suggested that his character probably dies soon after the film concludes, notably The War Lord (1965), Soylent Green (1973) and The Last Hard Men (1976). However, it is true that he is still alive at the conclusion of these films, so they can't be included. The one other questionable one is Number One (1969) - it's not certain that he died and there are rumors of a deleted scene at the end showing him in a hospital, still alive. Also, I never realized until now how he has two films almost in a row - The Greatest Story Ever Told and Khartoum - in which his character gets decapitated.

The site also lists his TV deaths and these are much less in number, but it looks to me like it's also missing at least one  - A Man For All Seasons (TV-1988). But, I don't have time to edit it now and will get to it the next day, perhaps.

Recently, I realized I had a couple of books which examined Hollywood's treatment of real history and real historical figures: THE HOLLYWOOD HISTORY OF THE WORLD  by George MacDonald Fraser and HISTORY GOES TO THE MOVIES by Joseph Roquemore. It's the first book - by Fraser - which is more interesting; particularly interesting is his chapter on the Tudors and, especially, King Henry VIII, a subject which falls in line with the above listing of Heston's historical roles.

The first actor who portrayed the famous king that Fraser discusses in the book - and maybe the most famous portrayal - is Charles Laughton, who played the king in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), which won him the Oscar. But, Fraser seems not to like that performance, writing that Laughton made him a childish buffoon, without any intelligence. Also, the real Henry was a giant, 6' 3" and broad, resembling a later actor - and we'll get to that...

Fraser wrote that the famous king was better served by other actors - Montagu Love, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton, Charlton Heston and Keith Michell. Of these, Burton was the least convincing to Fraser, remaining Burton with a beard (Anne of a Thousand Days/1969). He thought Shaw had a great gaze and played a mad tyrant well (in A Man For All Seasons), though he didn't look like Henry. Then Fraser wrote of his favorites in the role:
Physically, Keith Michell and Heston were ideal casting.  Michell, who played Henry both on television and in the cinema, achieved the difficult feat of aging the subject from youth to old age; if Heston is my favorite, it is for personal reasons, and also because for all his imposing height he had to overcome the disadvantage of looking not in the least like Henry Tudor. Make-up and his own immersion in the character turned him into a very proper tyrant - a hulking, gross giant, mottle-faced and lurching along on his 'sorre legge,' darting piggy-eyed wicked glances at his court, growling his lines, pawing at ladies-in-waiting, and dying at last defiantly in the shadows, muttering "Monks, monks, monks!" while his jester whimpered at the foot of the bed. That, for the record, is how Henry went in fact.
Anyone who needs to explain Heston's acting ability to a naysayer should certainly try to use that example...
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