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Charlton Heston

Actor, director, writer,
political activist, humanitarian, husband and father

Whether parting the Red Sea, racing chariots, painting the Sistine Ceiling, wrangling cattle, or facing off against a corrupt border sheriff, Charlton Heston brought uncompromising physical commitment to all of his work. Over the course of six decades, his chiseled features, deep voice and imposing physique kept the traditional notion of heroism alive.

Born John Charles Carter, in Evanston, Illinois, Charlton was the son of Russell and Lila Carter. As a young man, growing up in the back-woods of Michigan, the Illinois native acted out characters from the books he read. He took to the stage naturally at Nutrier High School, which led to his first film appearance, in the title role of a 16mm adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's PEER GYNT (1941). He went on to study drama at Northwestern University, and married actress Lydia Clarke, whom he met in drama class. Their marriage lasted 64 years, and they had two children, Fraser Clarke and Holly Ann.

Heston served his country in World War Two as a Staff Sargent and radio gunner in the 11th Air Force, flying missions in B-25’s from the Aleutian Islands over the North Pacific. After the war, Charlton and Lydia moved to New York, where they lived and struggled for years as young actors in a tiny flat in Hell’s Kitchen. Heston finally made his Broadway debut in Katharine Cornell's 1948 production of "Antony and Cleopatra", then caught producer Hal Wallis's eye as Heathcliff in a 1950 television adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. That led to his Hollywood debut in the film noir classic DARK CITY (1950). It was his second, picture, however, that created his image as a larger-than-life hero. Cecil DeMille's Best Picture Oscar®-winner, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952) also started Heston’s profitable working relationship with DeMille. They would re-team famously for one of the most successful pictures of all time, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) where Heston cemented his reputation with his iconic portrayal of Moses, and later in the DeMille-produced THE BUCCANEER 1958), where he played Andrew Jackson.

When Universal offered Heston the role of a Mexican lawman in TOUCH OF EVIL (1958), he accepted on condition that his co-star, Orson Welles, direct. Astonishingly, Universal agreed, and Welles accepted, resulting in one of Welles's – and Heston’s - best films. Charlton was fond of calling TOUCH OF EVIL, “the best B movie ever.” The same year, Heston made his first film for William Wyler, the western THE BIG COUNTRY (1958), with Gregory Peck, which put him in a perfect position to take on the title role in Wyler's next picture, BEN-HUR (1959). The film featured some of Heston's best work, winning him the Oscar® for Best Actor.

Heston followed with more larger-than-life heroic roles, such as EL CID (1961), Michelangelo in THE AGONY AND ECSTASY (1965) and hard-boiled U.S. astronaut Taylor in the ground-breaking sci-fi thriller, PLANET OF THE APES (1968). Yet he also found time for intriguing, smaller projects like the Western WILL PENNY (1968), which he considered his favorite film, and the science-fiction classics OMEGA MAN (1971) and SOYLENT GREEN (1973). In 1972 he made his directorial debut with an epic adaptation of Shakespeare’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, shot in Spain with producer Peter Snell, for which he also wrote the screen adaptation as well as starring in the title role.

In 1980, Heston and his son, filmmaker Fraser C. Heston, collaborated for the first time with the production of THE MOUNTAIN MEN, for which Fraser wrote the screenplay. The two Hestons founded their production company, Agamemnon Films in 1981, with the production of the adventure thriller MOTHER LODE, with Charlton directing and starring opposite Kim Basinger and Nick Mancuso. The film was written and produced by Fraser, a successful collaboration that both men treasured - and would repeat several times. Charlton and Fraser also, made three films for Ted Turner’s new cable network TNT, including A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, CRUCIFER OF BLOOD and TREASURE ISLAND (starring Charlton as Long John Silver, opposite a young Christian Bale as Jim); the latter two films were both written and directed and produced by Fraser Heston.

Charlton also continued his love affair with the stage, returning to the boards for productions of “ Macbeth", "The Crucible", "Long Day's Journey Into Night", "A Man for All Seasons", "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial", and performed in A.R. Gurney’s "Love Letters", with his wife Lydia Clarke, on stages around the word. Heston finished his career by bringing his considerable presence to supporting roles in films like TRUE LIES (1994), ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999) and as the Player King in Kenneth Branagh's HAMLET (1996), winning acclaim for his final Shakespearean performance.

Heston also dedicated his life to public service, serving on the board of the National Council on the Arts, three terms as President of the Screen Actor’s guild, and helped found the American Film Institute and served as its chairman for many years. He joined the Civil Rights movement early-on, and led the arts contingent in the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Heston also was active in politics, and campaigned vigorously for leaders from both parties, including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and was asked to run for Senate three times, once by the Democrats and twice by the Republicans – and declined them all. He also served as president of the National Rifle Association for an unprecedented three terms, weathering emotional criticism from many – though not all – of his fellow Hollywood filmmakers. Heston made several tours to combat zones for the USO, to visit troops under fire, including two tours to Vietnam. Heston earned numerous public accolades for his humanitarian and artistic works, including a second Oscar for the Academy’s Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Award, The Golden Globe’s Cecil B. DeMille Award, and the Screen Actor’s Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others. Heston also received the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2003 was awarded the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush. In 2014, his image was immortalized on a United States Postal stamp in the “Legends of Hollywood” Series.

Charlton Heston passed away in the arms of his beloved wife Lydia, his son Fraser and daughter Holly, in 2008, at his home in Beverly Hills.


"Steely jawed, hard bodied, terse in speech, Charlton Heston is an American man's man, an epic unto himself. "
Barnes & Noble

• 1941 Peer Gynt
• 1950 Julius Caesar
• 1950 Dark City
• 1952 The Savage
• 1952 Ruby Gentry
• 1952 The Greatest Show on Earth
• 1953 The President's Lady
• 1953 Pony Express
• 1953 Arrowhead
• 1953 Bad for Each Other
• 1954 The Secret of the Incas
• 1954 The Naked Jungle
• 1955 The Private War of Major Benson
• 1955 Lucy Gallant
• 1955 The Far Horizons
• 1956 Three Violent People
• 1956 The Ten Commandments
• 1958 Touch of Evil
• 1958 The Big Country
• 1958 The Buccaneer
• 1959 The Wreck of Mary Deare
• 1959 Ben-Hur
• 1961 El Cid
• 1962 Diamond Head
• 1962 The Pigeon That Took Rome

• 1963 The Five Cities of June
• 1963 55 Days at Peking
• 1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told
• 1965 Major Dundee
• 1965 The Agony and the Ecstasy
• 1965 The War Lord
• 1966 Khartoum
• 1967 While I Run this Race
• 1968 Rowan and Martin at the Movies
• 1968 Elizabeth the Queen (TV)
• 1968 Counterpoint
• 1968 Planet of the Apes
• 1968 Will Penny
• 1969 Number One
• 1970 Julius Caesar
• 1970 The Hawaiians
• 1970 Beneath the Planet of the Apes
• 1971 The Omega Man
• 1972 Skyjacked
• 1972 Call of the Wild
• 1973 Antony and Cleopatra
• 1973 Soylent Green
• 1973 The Three Musketeers
• 1974 Earthquake
• 1974 Airport 1975

• 1974 The Four Musketeers
• 1976 Two Minute Warning
• 1976 Midway
• 1976 America at the Movies
• 1976 The Last Hard Men
• 1978 Crossed Swords
• 1978 Gray Lady Down
• 1980 The Awakening
• 1980 The Mountain Men
• 1982 Mother Lode
• 1984 Nairobi Affair (TV)
• 1985 The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal
• 1986 Directed by William Wyler
• 1987 Proud Men (TV)
• 1988 A Man for All Seasons (TV)
• 1989 Call From Space (voice)
• 1989 Original Sin (TV)
• 1990 Solar Crisis
• 1990 The Little Kidnappers (TV)
• 1990 The Hollywood Road to Oz (TV)
• 1990 Almost an Angel
• 1990 Treasure Island (TV)
• 1991 The Crucifer of Blood (TV)

• 1992 Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 (TV)
• 1993 Wayne's World 2
• 1993 Tombstone
• 1994 Texas (TV)
• 1994 A Century of Cinema
• 1994 True Lies
• 1995 In the Mouth of Madness
• 1995 The Avenging Angel (TV)
• 1996 Lord Protector (voice)
• 1996 Alaska
• 1996 Ben Johnson: Third Cowboy on the Right
• 1996 Hamlet
• 1997 Hercules (voice)
• 1997 Alaska: Spirit of the Wild (voice)
• 1997 I Am Your Child (TV)
• 1997 Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western(TV)
• 1998 Illusion Infinity
• 1998 Gideon's Webb
• 1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (TV)
• 1998 Armageddon (voice)
• 1998 Behind the Planet of the Apes (TV)
• 1999 Toscano
• 1999 Town and Country
• 1999 Any Given Sunday


Presidential Medal of Freedom
• 2003

Academy Awards
• 1987 Won: Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
• 1960 Won: Best Actor in a Leading Role – “Ben-Hur”

US Postal Service Legends of Hollywood Stamp
• 2014

Kennedy Center Honors
• 1997 Lifetime Achievement Award

• 2003 The Charlton Heston Award

Golden Globe
• 1967 Won: Golden Globe: Cecil B DeMille Award • 1963 Nominated: Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical/Comedy: The Pigeon That Took Rome
• 1962 Won: Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite – Male
• 1960 Nominated: Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama: Ben Hur
• 1957 Nominated: Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama: The Ten Commandments

Screen Actors Guild Awards
• 1972 Won: Lifetime Achievement

Primetime Emmy Awards
• 1996 Nominated: Outstanding Informational Special Andersonville Diaries (shared with Amy Walter Richards and Kaye Zusmann
• 1953 Nominated: Best Actor
• 1952 Nominated: Best Actor

Hollywood Walk of Fame
• 1960 Star on the Walk of Fame: Motion Picture on February 8, 1960 at 1628 Hollywood Blvd.

Western Heritage Awards
• 1969 Bronze Wrangler: Theatrical Motion Picture: Will Penny (shared with Tom Gries

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame
• 2010: Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
• 1957 Won: Special Award

Bambi Awards
• 1963 Won: Best Actor – International: The Pigeon That Took Rome
• 1962 3rd Place: Best Actor – International: El Cid
• 1961 3rd Place: Best Actor – International: Ben Hur

David di Donatello Awards
• 1961 Won: David: Best Foreign Actor – International: Ben-Hur

Fotogramas de Plata
• 1960 Won: Best Foreign Performer: The Ten Commandments

Golden Apples Awards
• 1963 Nominated: Golden Apple: Most Cooperative Actor
• 1965 Won: Golden Apple: Most Cooperative Actor

MTV Awards
• 2002 Nominated: Best Cameo: Planet of the Apes

ShowWest Convention, USA
• 1984 Won: Lifetime Achievement