Charlton Heston Biography

(Actor and Political Activist )

Birthday: October 4, 1923 (Libra)

Born In: Evanston, Illinois, United States

Charlton Heston was an American actor best known for playing historical figures and literary characters. He was critically acclaimed for portraying ‘Moses’ in the epic film ‘The Ten Commandments.’ Heston 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 popular books. His 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 the ‘Northwestern University.’ After serving in ‘World War II’ for a couple of years, he began to determinedly work on his acting career. He started appearing on Broadway and soon got noticed for his acting skills as well as his well-built physique and chiseled features. After entering 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. Apart from being an actor, he was also a political activist who campaigned for the cause of civil rights with Martin Luther King.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John Charles Carter

Died At Age: 84


Spouse/Ex-: Lydia Clarke

father: Russell Whitford Carter

mother: Lilla Carter

children: Fraser Clarke Heston, Holly Ann Heston

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Charlton Heston Actors

Height: 6'3" (190 cm), 6'3" Males

Died on: April 5, 2008

place of death: Beverly Hills, California, United States

Ancestry: Canadian American, British American

Diseases & Disabilities: Hip Replacement, Prostate Cancer, Alzheimer's

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

City: Evanston, Illinois

U.S. State: Illinois

More Facts

education: Northwestern University

Childhood & Early Life

Charlton Heston was born John Charles Carter on October 4, 1923, in Wilmette, Illinois, USA, 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. His mother eventually married a man named Chester Heston.

Charlton attended ‘New Trier High School’ where he developed an interest in dramatics. He used to act out characters from books that he read, and actively participated in his school plays. As part of the school’s drama program, he appeared in an amateur silent 16 mm film adaptation of ‘Peer Gynt,’ which was released in 1941.

His acting skills earned him a drama scholarship to the ‘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 two years later when he appeared in ‘Antony and Cleopatra.’ He also became active in television during this period. He adopted the screen name ‘Charlton Heston’ at the beginning of his acting career.

His growing popularity as a stage actor led to Hollywood offers and he appeared in his first major 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 his many historical roles. ‘Moses,’ one of his most prominent historical roles, which he played in the film ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956) catapulted 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 and participated in Martin Luther King's 1963 civil rights march in Washington, D.C. He was also the president of the ‘Screen Actors Guild’ from 1965 to 1971.

Even though he sometimes experimented with his roles, he predominantly played either historical figures or literary characters. He played ‘Mark Antony’ in ‘Julius Caesar’ (1970) and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ (1972). He portrayed ‘John Thornton’ in ‘Call of the Wild’ (1972) and then played ‘Cardinal Richelieu’ in ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973) and its sequel ‘The Four Musketeers’ (1974).

Some of his other films include ‘Solar Crisis’ (1990), ‘True Lies’ (1994), and ‘Hamlet’ (1996). He also narrated films like ‘Hercules’ (1997) and ‘Armageddon’ (1998). During his later years, he served as the president of the ‘National Rifle Association’ (1998–2003).

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Major Works

Charlton Heston played ‘Moses’ in the epic film ‘The Ten Commandments,’ a dramatized version of the biblical story of Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who leads enslaved Hebrews to deliverance. It was one of his most famous historical roles.

His portrayal of ‘Judah Ben-Hur,’ a Jewish prince of Jerusalem, in the historical drama ‘Ben-Hur’ is one of his most popular roles. The film was a huge commercial as well as critical success, garnering several ‘Academy’ and ‘Golden Globe Awards.’ Today, ‘Ben-Hur’ is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.

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Awards & Achievements

Charlton Heston won the ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Actor’ in 1960 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.”

He was honored with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ in 1960.

In 1977, he was honored with the ‘Order of Lincoln’ (the state’s highest honor) under the ‘Performing Arts’ category by the governor of Illinois.

In 2003, the 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 64 years until his death in 2008.

He suffered from several health problems during the 1990s. He underwent a hip replacement surgery in 1996. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998.

In the early-2000s, it was disclosed that he had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Heston died on April 5, 2008, after suffering from pneumonia. He was 84.

Charlton Heston Movies

1. Ben-Hur (1959)

  (History, Adventure, Drama)

2. The Ten Commandments (1956)

  (Drama, Adventure)

3. Planet of the Apes (1968)

  (Sci-Fi, Adventure)

4. The Big Country (1958)

  (Romance, Western)

5. Touch of Evil (1958)

  (Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller)

6. El Cid (1961)

  (History, Biography, Romance, War, Adventure, Drama)

7. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

  (Biography, History, Drama)

8. Will Penny (1967)

  (Romance, Western)

9. Soylent Green (1973)

  (Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Sci-Fi)

10. The Naked Jungle (1954)

  (Thriller, Drama, Adventure)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1960 Best Actor in a Leading Role Ben-Hur (1959)
Golden Globe Awards
1962 World Film Favorite - Male Winner
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