So, now that he is gone, what do you say about Charlton Heston? Something simple: He shouldn't be judged on the basis of one interview, given after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease to a door-stopping filmmaker known for his pranks.
He should be judged on his contribution to the movies -- doing gravitas better than anyone else, standing as our image of Moses, Ben-Hur, various military captains, the head of the CIA, and ultimately a particular kind of god figure. I never saw a Heston performance that didn't entertain me on some level.
And, in the interests of full disclosure, he should also be judged on his political activity. The simplistic analysis of the relationship between personal freedom and gun ownership offered by the National Rifle Association, which Heston did so much to bolster, seems outrageous to my Northern Irish ears. In his speeches to and on behalf of the NRA, Heston also sometimes seemed to lack empathy for the victims of gun crime, in his attempts to promote his contentious understanding of the U.S. Constitution.
At the same time, he was an early supporter of the civil rights movement, and even picketed a screening of one of his own films because it was being screened in a racially segregated cinema. He also made several films, such as Soylent Green, The Omega Man, and Planet of the Apes, that endorsed environmental and anti-nuclear causes at a time when it wasn't as easy to engage the public mind in these matters.
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