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Charlton Heston, RIP

Actor and political activist Charlton Heston died Saturday at the age of either 83 or 84, depending on which obituary you read.

He'd lead a good life. He was politically active , at different times in his life, on both the left and right. He marched with Martin Luther King in the 60's and later became president of the NRA. These are not as disparate as they seem. Both were about  fighting for people's rights.
The first involved repairing a deficiency in the work of our founding father's, the second involved restoring the work of our founding fathers. Each reflected a love of freedom you would expect from an actor whose most famous lines include "Let my people go!" (from The Ten Commandments) and " A policeman's job is only easy in a police state" (from Touch Of Evil).

As an actor, Heston was known primarily for his big epic movies, such as Ben-Hur (whose famous chariot race scene I have embedded below) and The Ten Commandments, and for the Planet Of The Apes movies. More recently, his role as a Mexican policeman in Orson Welle's 1958 film Touch Of Evil has become more well known. The 90's films Get Shorty and Ed Wood both have gag lines in them about "Charlton Heston playing a Mexican."

Heston probably was miscast. But acting was not his only contribution to Touch Of Evil. When he was first offered the part, he noticed that Orson Welles was also in the cast and assumed Welles was directing. Welles was not slated to direct at the time. When Heston found out, he was not happy and said he wouldn't be in it. The studio wanted Heston enough to make Welles the director.

This was an extremely important change. If the original director (whoever he was) had stayed on, TOE would be a forgotten B-movie instead of the classic it is now recognized to be. The famous tracking shot at the opening, the deep focus and wide-angle cinematography, and all the other things about this movie that are so widely praised would probably not be there if it weren't for Heston's insistence that Welles be the director.

Film lovers everywhere owe Heston an enormous debt to Heston for this. And besides, Charlton Heston playing a Mexican makes at least as much sense as Marlene Dietrich playing one.

Rest in peace Mr. Heston, and thanks for everything you did.

Here is the promised chariot race:

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I have unfortunately never seen "Touch of Evil". I know there are several cuts of the film, so I guess I should find the one Welles had the most influence on and go from there.

I always enjoyed Heston's brief cameo in Waynes World 2...