When Charlton Heston was elected president of the National Rifle Association in June of 1998, he posed holding a rifle, and delivered a jab at then-President Clinton, saying, “America doesn’t trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don’t trust you with our guns.”
Bloomberg has a nice tribute:
Heston stood 6-feet-3-inches, and his baritone voice, iron jaw, aquiline nose and rippling muscles lent masculine strength and sex appeal to many of his roles, any number of which he played bare-chested. He gained fame as Moses in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille epic, “The Ten Commandments” and owned the role ever after.
Heston also played Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Thomas More, John the Baptist, Cardinal Richelieu and Mark Anthony among dozens of others on stage, television and the movies. He made more than 70 films.
He was the “actor of choice for historical drama” in the 1950s and ’60s, Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies on cable television and a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, once said of him.
“Charlton Heston looked like he came from another era,” Osborne said in a June 2006 interview. “He looked like he was kind of chiseled out of granite. He looked heroic.” …
..his conversion to conservatism began in 1964, when he saw a billboard for Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. It said: “In your heart, you know he’s right.” Concluded Heston: “He IS right.”
Heston’s career surged in an era when “the difference between good and evil, and the eventual triumph of the good, the reward of the virtuous, of the heroic, was almost always recognized,” he said in a 1995 interview. “Yet, more and more, we see films made that diminish the American experience and example, and sometimes trash it completely.”
Heston saw a cultural war “raging across our land, storming our values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our self confidence,” he said in speeches.
He decried affirmative action and feminism, complained of bloated government. And he changed his mind about gun control, becoming a vehement opponent of it.
Heston became president of the National Rifle Association in 1998, holding the job until 2003 and touring the country protesting efforts to restrict gun ownership. He developed a mantra dear to NRA crowds: Raising a rifle overhead he would shout that the only way gun-control advocates could take it would be to pry it “from my cold, dead hands.”
In defiance of President Bill Clinton’s call for increased gun controls, NRA members sometimes put bumper stickers on their cars that read “Charlton Heston is My President.”
Even the Washington Post printed an admiring tribute:
He was the hawk.
He soared. In fact, everything about him soared. His shoulders soared, his cheekbones soared, his brows soared. Even his hair soared.
And for a good two decades, Charlton Heston, who died Saturday at 84, was the ultimate American movie star. In a time when method actors and ethnic faces were gradually taking over, Heston remained the last of the ramrod straight, flinty, squinty, tough-as-old-hickory movie guys.
He and his producers and directors understood his appeal, and used it for maximum effect on the big technicolor screen. Rarely a doubter, never a coward, inconceivable as a shirker, he played men of granite virtue no matter the epoch. He played commanders, Biblical prophets, Jewish heroes, tough-as-nails cowpokes, calm aviators, last survivors, quarterbacks and a president or two.
Later in his life, he took that stance into politics, becoming president of the National Rifle Association just when anti-gun attitudes were reaching their peak. Pilloried and parodied, lampooned and bullied, he never relented, he never backed down, and in time it came to seem less an old star’s trick of vanity than an act of political heroism. He endured, like Moses. He aged, like Moses. And the stone tablet he carried only had one commandment: Thou shalt be armed. It can even be said that if the Supreme Court in June finds a meaning in the Second Amendment consistent with NRA policy, that he will have died just short of the Promised Land — like Moses.
I’ve had a link to the NRA membership page with a picture of Chuck Heston on it in the right hand column, since I started this blog.