Sunday, April 6, 2008

If you can't say something nice . . .

. . . you might be a liberal. News of Charlton Heston's death predictably caused the DailyKos crowd to spew bile. (Hat-tip: Sean Hackbarth.)

Attacks on Heston's politics are one thing, but politically-motivated attacks on his ability as an actor are absurd. Matthew Yglesias is dismissive, though he is at least civil. TBogg, on the other hand:
[I]t was from Charlton Heston . . . that I started to understand the concept of "acting" and "actors" and how really bad Heston was at this acting thing. . . . 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 not sure what it is about bad actors that causes right wingers to clutch them to their chicken-breasted bosoms. . . .
TBogg's rant, uh, forges ever onward from there, but you get the drift. It's the "heroic mien" that he rejects.

Yes, of course, if you despise the characteristics of the traditional hero -- the stoic resolve, the "grim determination" -- you must hate Heston. On the other hand, if you admire those qualities:
Dignity was the essence of Heston's onscreen appeal. He was barely 30 when DeMille cast him as Moses, but already possessed the mature dignity needed to play the mighty prophet, and Heston was as believable as the gray-bearded Hebrew lawgiver as he was as the young Egyptian prince.
The theme of human dignity runs like a thread through Heston's career, both on and off the screen. Heston was seemingly typecast as the voice who speaks for the dignity of downtrodden mankind, whether enslaved by Egyptians or Romans, oppressed by apes, or euthanized and ground up for food in Soylent Green. . . .
Read the whole thing, but only if you're in a mood to forge ever onward in fond remembrance of the late, great Charlton Heston.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer Harper saw that same Newsbusters account, and she and I crafted the following paragraph for her 2nd-day obit of Heston:

    "Warner Todd Huston, who monitors liberal media for the conservative watchdog Newsbusters, yesterday drew attention to the Daily Kos, citing dozens of contributors who called Mr. Heston a "gun nut" — that"s one of the printable epithets — shortly after his death was made public."

    As for Heston as an actor, I'm gonna say this carefully.

    Heston was a Big Actor -- and I'm not referring to his size or his build (though they're not irrelevant) but to his voicy and dramatic style. It was made for larger-than-life heroic roles (and there was no better actor of this type than Heston), but it's nevertheless a style that's somewhat out-of-fashion, for reasons having nothing to do with the NRA, Time Warner and Ice-T, or any of that. It's perfectly sane -- if a bit tactless on this day -- not to like Heston as an actor or to note that he made some rather bad movies (as did most stars of his era or the studio era).

    That said, though my aesthetic preference is for more-understated styles, I still insist part of being a great actor is knowing what you can do well and getting that roles that fit you. John Wayne said "I've been playing John Wayne for 30 years and I've been doinfg pretty good, I think." Now Heston had far more range than Wayne, but was still an icon who could never do a light romantic comedy, say. But **if a role called for an icon,** there was nobody better in his generation (his peers were usually about 10 years older -- Wayne, Cagney, Peck, Mitchum, Douglas, Lancaster). If ever there was a movie that needed Charlton Heston in the lead role, it was PLANET OF THE APES and his unforgettable presence and heroic performance turned a lengthy Twilight Zone episode into a classic. Kenneth Branagh has trying every casting gimmick known to man or beast, often with ludicrous results, but the one that paid off the most handsomely was having Heston play the Player King in his 1996 film of HAMLET, when Heston recorded on film for all time what he could really do on stage.