How much did you know about Charlton Heston?

Sure, you knew he won an Oscar for his physically punishing role as the chariot-bound Jewish prince in director William Wyler’s 1959 classic Ben-Hur.  And perhaps you recall his muscular performance as an 11th century warrior who drove the Moors from Spain director Anthony Mann’s  1961 extravaganza, El Cid.

Both were huge hits — El Cid cost some $6.5 million to make and wound up grossing some $26 million in North America alone — and both are now unthinkable today without Heston’s powerful presence.  Director Martin Scorsese puts it this way about the Heston effect in El Cid:

There are very few actors commanding enough to work on a film of this scale — it’s easy to be diminished by the scope of such a production. Heston had a unique presence, a beautiful speaking voice as well as a sense of stillness and of dynamic movement, and he could hold the screen…

There’s something truly monumental about Heston at his greatest — he doesn’t play it but embodies it.

Ok, let’s get to the answers to our CH Quiz.  As usual, you can check on the questions by scrolling down to the blog below.  Here we go:

1) Answer: Charlton Heston’s outsized, “voice of God roles” include the following: a) as Moses in 1956’s The Ten Commandments; b) as John the Baptist in 1965’s The Greatest Story Ever Told; c) a Jewish prince in 1959’s Ben-Hur; and d) manager of a circus in 1952’s The Greatest Shown on Earth. 

2) Answer: The flagging career of (c) Orson Welles received an extraordinary boost when Heston suggested in a telephone call to Universal Pictures that Welles direct, write as well as act in the now-classic 1958 thriller Touch of Evil, set on the Texas-Mexican border with Heston as an upright lawman of Mexican heritage tracking down corrupt sheriff Welles. Heston, supposedly the lead, is obviously miscast in the picture but Welles is strongly effective — making the film one of the director-actor’s finest. Yes, Heston wielded that kind of star clout; Welles landed one of the best jobs of his career based on Heston’s mere telephone suggestion.

3) Answer: According to author Marc Eliot‘s recent biography  Charlton Heston: Hollywood’s Last Icon, the actor first realized he was losing sharpness mentally when (c) he found himself getting lost while driving to Paramount studios, a route he had taken countless times before. He went public with his condition in 2002, and died in 2008 of effects related to Alzheimer’s Disease.

4) Answer: Heston and Sophia Loren comprised the star duo in 1961’s epic hit, El Cid. The Italian actress and Heston, a upright sort from the American Midwest, didn’t exactly hit it off. He complained that she (a) was often late to the set, keeping the elaborate production waiting. She said simply that she was NOT a morning person, and shrugged.

5) Answer:  Heston was a man of diverse views, socially liberal but not a fan of PC.  He ruffled Hollywood feathers by (b) his strong advocacy of citizen gun rights. He was president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

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