For most Utahns, he'll forever be Moses. Yes, he did a star turn as Ben Hur, played a hairless ape and even ate other people for lunch. He has even been posterized as the National Rifle Association's "from my cold dead fingers" man.
But just as Yul Bryner will always be the King of Siam and Clark Gable will be Rhett Butler, Charlton Heston is set in stone as the prophet who led his people through the Red Sea.
Now he is gone. He was 84.
Like many Hollywood stars Marlon Brando and Rosie O'Donnell among them Heston's politics often became muddled up in his motion pictures. An artist with a national audience, he couldn't resist using his celebrity as a sounding board for his causes. History will sort out his effectiveness as a political spokesman. But history has already weighed in on his movie roles. Heston had a power and passion that elevated his portrayals to iconic levels. He's remembered not for the subtle shadings he gave his characters, but for the almost animal "yawps" they emitted whether cursing the world for destroying humanity in "Planet of the Apes," screaming his angst at eating people in "Soylent Green" or sparring with the Pope in "The Agony and the Ecstasy." Heston's performances were memorable and definitive which is more than can be said for 90 percent of the motion pictures the Great American Dream Machine has produced in recent years.
As Moses, Heston will forever remain a man for the ages. "The Ten Commandments" looks rather dated now especially in its special effects. But the magnificent image of Heston raising his staff to part the Red Sea will live as long as drama endures. Hollywood does epics better than any other medium. And Heston did epics better than anyone else. It was a perfect match.
He got his Oscar.
He got fame and fortune.
He got his bully pulpit to promote his causes.
He got the fawning admiration of fans from New York to New Zealand.
The life of Charlton Heston was a classic Hollywood "American success story."