What will he find out there, doctor? His destiny….
Since I live on the elitist American-hating West Coast I saw that Charlton Heston died last night, but I didn’t want to be the first to make the obligatory "cold dead hands" reference because, well, I’m a nice guy that way. Although I’m about the same age as Ann Althouse , I actually have seen most of Heston’ s movies as it was hard, as an avid movie-goer with a local theater around the corner (the Roxy) playing Saturday afternoon kiddie matinee double features, to not see them. Growing up I had a particular boyish fondness for films like Khartoum, The War Lord and Major Dundee (baby’s first Peckinpah… awwww), because they played to my adolescent male sensibilities. Later came the apocalyptrio of The Omega Man/ Soylent Green/Planet of the Apes which were very much a part of the late sixties/early seventies zeitgeist. The last starring role I saw him play was in Earthquake where the real star was the special effects as played by enormous bass speakers placed strategically within the Loma Theater that shook the shit out of the building when the earth supposedly moved (and not in the good way). Those of us who grew up in SoCal were not impressed.
I always enjoyed Heston films (The Ten Commandments excepted because it was penny dreadful and stiffer than Heston’s performance) and it was from Charlton Heston, more so than a John Wayne or John Derek, that I started to understand the concept of "acting" and "actors" and how really bad Heston was at this acting thing. This isn’t to say that there weren’t lots of bad actors then, we had Elvis and Frank Sinatra movies too but we weren’t supposed to expect much from them, they just needed to show up and "don’t forget to bring your aura". But Heston was a star and nuance was not in his repertoire; he was a slab of heroic beef who forged ever onward to the final credits with grim determination, gritted teeth and a heroic mien. I’m sure that persona is what made him so appealing as the putative president of the NRA which had the additional advantage of keeping the perpetually oily Wayne LaPierre in the back room where he belongs.
I’m not sure what it is about bad actors that causes right wingers to clutch them to their chicken-breasted bosoms. Possibly because they can’t handle any more colors than black or white and with the mediocre that’s about all you get. Or maybe it’s because these actors (Heston, Wayne, Bruce Willis) play idealized versions of American manhood that are unattainable or are out of reach to little boys who have never grown up and realized that they’re never going to be heroes writ large. But then, that’s what Saturday afternoon movies are for and that’s why they call Hollywood the dream factory.