Sunday, April 06, 2008

HestFest

I've always thought Charlton Heston was one of the better stars of the '50s and '60s when it came to choosing projects. With the collapse of the studio system, and star actors actually able to choose what movies they made and for whom, some stars made really bad choices. (See Brando, Marlon.) Heston made some bad movies, as everybody did, but he also picked some really interesting films that probably wouldn't have gotten made without him, like Will Penny (which he sometimes cited as his favorite).

He also had pretty decent taste in directors at a time when many stars preferred to work with hacks with whom they felt comfortable, or just didn't care who directed them; Heston most famously recommended Orson Welles for Touch of Evil, and also asked for Franklin Schaffner to direct Planet of the Apes. (Which is another movie that must have seemed fairly risky when he committed to it, given that it was produced by a man whose biggest previous credit was Dr. Dolittle.) He made a lot of good movies, and the reason his mannerisms are so easy to make fun of is that he was such a distinctive screen personality.

9 comments:

Thad said...

I watched Touch of Evil this morning - Heston did a great job in this film. R.I.P.

Beef said...

Good points re Charlton Heston's film career. He remained a major star well into the 1970s. I met him for about two seconds at a signing for his "Journals" autobiography (circa 1978), and the line to get his autograph stretched for over a block. (He was very pleasant, but it was disconcerting to see "Moses" in an obvious toupee!)
But I'm missing the connection between Franklin Shaffner and "Dr. Doolittle"?

Jaime J. Weinman said...

But I'm missing the connection between Franklin Shaffner and "Dr. Doolittle"?

Not him; the producer of Apes, Arthur Jacobs, had produced Dr. Dolittle (and before that, the expensive flop What a Way to Go! with Shirley MacLaine).

Beef said...

Sorry--I see now where you're referring to Jacobs, not Shaffner. Interesting that someone with a track record like his could produce a genuine classic like "Apes"!

moopot said...

I really hated Charlton Heston until I saw Touch of Evil. Now I just hate him quite a lot, and think he was in a good movie.
I always felt about Heston the way that Orson Welles does in 'Ed Wood'. "Universal wants me to make a film with Charlton Heston as a Mexican."

Jaime J. Weinman said...

I always felt about Heston the way that Orson Welles does in 'Ed Wood'. "Universal wants me to make a film with Charlton Heston as a Mexican."

Yeah, but the Ed Wood quote is so wrong that the writers of the movie even apologize for it on the commentary track. Not only was it Heston who got Welles the job directing the film, but it was Welles' idea to have Heston play a Mexican: in the original novel, the hero is an American married to a Mexican woman.

Anton said...

Seeing "Ben Hur" recently, it occurred to me that you would be hard-pressed to find an actor "big" enough to play the title role today. You need a guy like Heston to deliver heavy dialogue in a costume epic and not let the whole thing seem ridiculous.

Jenny said...

Thanks for pointing out what you have about Heston's obvious smarts and putting him in context, two things I found missing, especially in the radio commentaries I heard yesterday-most of which were limited to the most silly, superficial one liners. Too bad.

I'll add that our 7th grade class went to see him in "Macbeth" at the then-Music Center in downtown L.A. a-way back when; one of my classmates' brothers was in the production, and we went backstage to meet The Great Man afterwards. How gracious he was--and how incredibly tall.
Saw him again periodically (in the years just before he revealed his disability) at the Academy's various screenings--of all kinds of outre films, I might add. He seemed a great gentleman.

Anonymous said...

Producer Albert Zugsmith asked Welles to direct Touch, having just used him as an actor in Man in the Shadow. Heston seems to have inflated his importance, though he certainly endorsed the choice.