Birthday: October 4, 1923
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: John Charles Carter
Born in: Evanston
Famous as: Actor
Height: 6'3" (190 cm), 6'3" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Lydia Clarke
father: Russell Whitford Carter
mother: Lilla Carter
children: Fraser Clarke Heston, Holly Ann Heston
Died on: April 5, 2008
place of death: Beverly Hills
Diseases & Disabilities: Alzheimer's
U.S. State: Illinois
education: Northwestern University, New Trier High School
Charlton Heston was an American actor best known for playing historical figures and literary characters. Critically acclaimed for portraying Moses in the epic film, ‘The Ten Commandments’, he was honored with the Academy Award for Best Actor for playing the title character in the historical drama film ‘Ben-Hur.’ He became interested in dramatics at a young age and used to act out characters from the books he had read while in high school. His teenage interest in acting took a serious turn when he auditioned for a high-school play and realized that he was meant to be an actor. Naturally bestowed with acting talent, he won a drama scholarship to Northwestern University. After serving in the World War II for a couple of years he began to determinedly work on his acting career. He began appearing on Broadway and soon got noticed for his acting skills as well as his well-built physique and chiseled features. Venturing into Hollywood, it did not take him long to establish himself as a popular character actor. The resounding success of ‘Ben-Hur’ earned him the reputation of being one of the best historical character actors in Hollywood. In addition, he was also a political activist who campaigned for the cause of civil rights with Martin Luther King.
Childhood & Early Life
Charlton Heston was born as John Charles Carter on October 4, 1923, to Lila (née Charlton) and Russell Whitford Carter. His father worked as a sawmill operator. Charlton was majorly of English, and partially of Scottish descent. He spent a part of his childhood in a rural, heavily forested area, living an idyllic life.
His parents divorced when he was ten years old and his mother eventually married a man called Chester Heston.
The young boy attended New Trier High School where he developed an interest in dramatics. He used to act out characters from books he read, and actively participated in his school plays. As a part of the school’s drama program, he appeared in the amateur silent 16 mm film adaptation of ‘Peer Gynt’, which was released in 1941.
His acting skills earned him a drama scholarship to Northwestern University where he received training under several prominent teachers including Alvina Krause.
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In 1944, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force where he served for two years as a radio operator and aerial gunner. He reached the rank of staff sergeant over the course of his military career.
After being discharged from the army, he moved to New York City in 1946 to pursue an acting career. He made his Broadway debut the following year in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ and also became active on television during this period. He adopted the screen name Charlton Heston during the beginning of his acting career.
His growing popularity as a stage actor soon led to Hollywood offers and he appeared in his first film, ‘Dark City’, in 1950. His performance caught the attention of prominent filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille who cast him as a circus manager in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ in 1952.
In 1953, he starred as Andrew Jackson in ‘The President’s Lady’, the first of many historical roles he would portray. Another one of his historical roles, that of Moses in the film ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956) would catapult him to the status of an icon in Hollywood.
In 1959, he appeared in yet another historical role in ‘Ben-Hur’ which cemented his reputation as one of the best character actors in American cinema. His success continued throughout the 1960s with films like ‘Khartoum’ (1966) and ‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968).
During the 1960s he was involved in political activism as well and participated in Martin Luther King's 1963 civil rights march in Washington, D.C. He was also president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965-71.
Even though he sometimes experimented with his roles, for most of the time he played either historical figures or literary characters. He twice played Mark Antony, in ‘Julius Caesar’ (1970) and in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ (1973), and portrayed John Thornton in ‘Call of the Wild’ (1972), Cardinal Richelieu in ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973) and its sequel ‘The Four Musketeers’ (1974).
Some of his later film roles include ‘Solar Crisis’ (1990), ‘True Lies’ (1994), and ‘Hamlet’ (1996). He was also a film narrator who lent his voice to Disney's ‘Hercules’ (1997) and ‘Armageddon’ (1998). During his later years he also served as president of the National Rifle Association (1998–2003).
Charlton Heston played Moses in the epic film ‘The Ten Commandments’ which was a dramatized version of the biblical story of the life of Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who leads enslaved Hebrews to deliverance. It was one of his most famous historical roles.
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His portrayal of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince of Jerusalem, in the historical drama ‘Ben-Hur’ is another one of his most popular roles. The film was a huge commercial as well as critical success that garnered several Academy and Golden Globe Awards. Today, ‘Ben-Hur’ is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.
Awards & Achievements
Charlton Heston won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1959 for his role as Judah Ben-Hur in the historical drama film ‘Ben-Hur.’
The Cecil B. DeMille Award was presented to him in 1967 for "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment".
In 1977, he was awarded the Order of Lincoln (the state’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in the area of Performing Arts.
In 2003, the veteran actor was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
Personal Life & Legacy
Charlton Heston married actress Lydia Marie Clarke on March 17, 1944. The couple had two children. Theirs was a happy marriage that lasted for 64 years until his death in 2008.
He suffered from several health problems during the 1990s. He underwent a hip replacement in 1996 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998 which eventually went into remission.
In the early 2000s it was disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Heston died on April 5, 2008, after suffering from pneumonia. He was 84.