Born: October 04, 1924
Date of Birth: October 4, 1924
Born John Charleton Carter in Evanston Illinois, Charlton Heston originally trained in the classics in Northwestern University's drama program, gaining early experience playing the lead in a 1941 filmed school production of Peer Gynt. He also performed on the radio and attended Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) prior to serving in the Air Force for three years during WWII.
After his discharge, he worked as a model in New York, where he met his wife, fellow model Lydia Clarke, to whom he remained happily married until his death in 2008. The two operated a theater in Asheville, North Carolina where Heston honed his acting skills. He made his Broadway debut in the 1947 production of Anthony and Cleopatra and subsequently became a star when he became a staple of the highly-regarded New York-based Studio One live television anthology. Heston would play such classic characters as Heathcliff, Julius Caesar and Petruchio.
He made his Hollywood film debut in the 1950 film noir Dark City playing opposite Lizabeth Scott. Even though she was more established in Hollywood, it was Heston who received top billing. Later projects included The Savage (1952) and Ruby Gentry (1952).
Heston had hit the big times when Cecil B. DeMille cast him as the bitter circus manager in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). In other films, Heston began developing his persona of an unflinching hero with a piercing blue-eyed stare and unbending, self-righteous Middle American ethics. Heston's heroes could be violent and cruel, but only when absolutely necessary. He played such characters in films such as Pony Express and then The President's Lady (both 1953). Heston reached the tip of his career when when DeMille cast him as the stern Moses in the lavish The Ten Commandments (1956).
From there, Heston went on to headline numerous spectaculars which provided him the opportunity to play every one from John the Baptist to Michelangelo.
In 1959, Heston won the Best Actor Oscar for the title role in Ben Hur. But by the mid sixties, the popularity of epic films fell and Heston began to work in westerns and war dramas such as Will Penny (1968), and Midway (1976). He also did sci-fi films, the most famous of which included the campy satire Planet of the Apes (1968), its sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and the cult favorite Soylent Green (1973).
The '70s brought Heston into a new kind of epic: the disaster film. He appeared in three, most notably Skyjacker (1972), Airport 1975 (1974), and Earthquake (1974).
From the late '80s though the '90s, Heston returned to television, appearing in series, miniseries and made-for TV movies. He also appeared in such films as Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996) and voiced the narrator for 1998's Armageddon.
Although Heston played a pantheon of larger-than-life roles, he usually preferred to talk about the day-to-day daily grind of the movie business, and especially credited the writers and directors he worked with for much of his success.
When not on set, Heston served six terms as the president of the Screen Actors Guild and also chaired the American Film Institute. Working in such charities as The Will Rogers Institute, he was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1977 Oscar ceremony. Known as a conservative Republican and proud member of the National Rifle Association, Heston worked closely with his friend President Reagan as the leader of the president's task force on arts and the humanities. And in 1997 he was elected president of the National Rifle Association.
With his wife, Lydia, Heston has two children, Holly Heston Rochell and director, Fraser Clark Heston. Heston, who died April 5, 2008, is also survived by three grandchildren.