Get Your Paws Off Me, You Damn Dirty Reaper

A banner on MSNBC says that Charleton Heston has died. I really enjoyed him as an actor, and those of us of a science fictional bent should remember he was really one of the first true A-list stars who did serious work in the field, not just with one film, but with several, building a niche from Planet of the Apes through Soylent Green as SF’s go-to guy for charismatic dystopia, and in general helping to elevate the genre’s stature in film (also, his cameo in the Planet of the Apes remake was the best thing about that particular film). I’ll miss him.

35 Comments on “Get Your Paws Off Me, You Damn Dirty Reaper”

  1. Good headline. The popular alternative seems to be “who’s going to pry the gun out now?”

    The man had serious range.

  2. Yes, the ironic Dying Ape who Hates Guns in the unbelievably awful Planet of the Apes reimagining by the Vastly Overrated and Buys into His Own Press Tim Burton.

    I am a HUGE POTA fan; I love the TV show and the animated series as well as the original series of films. I am even writing a POTA fan fic based on the TV series. I was sorely disappointed by the Tim Burton version, as well as Heston being in it.

    Bowling for Columbine was the last time I’d seen the man until today.

    Coincidentally, I just watched Tombstone for the first time today (yes, I was late to the party) and saw Heston in it. My thought as soon as I saw him was “He’s probably going to die soon.”

    I should’ve played the Lotto this week.

  3. Another good actor who let his political beliefs stain his body of work.

    Of all the roles he played, probably the most ridiculous was Mike Vargas, a Mexican police officer in Touch of Evil.

    And just remember, Soylent Green is people!

  4. Heston was a great actor and better man. For those who forget, and like to blast his politics and religious beliefs, he was more than just the NRA guy. He was involved in the civil rights movement from early on, before it was the “cool” thing to do.

  5. My father’s all-time favorite actor – and mine as well, by default.

    I believe that we have lost another irreplaceable one now.

    In his filmography here, they mercifully leave out his cameos in that Wayne’s World film as well as the POTA remake…

    Not so with Beneath the Planet of the Apes – his role there was essentially a cameo as well, which certainly elevated the film, but one cannot outright say the same thing about that cameo as the other two there: they were the best thing about the above-mentioned films while Mr. Heston’s cameo in BTPOTA was an extra. James Franciscus starred in it and wasn’t that bad. He was good enough to have a cameo in the POTA remake – but didn’t, somehow…

    Charlton Heston was as generous a “big star” as they come. He helped out so many projects with his mere collaboration to it. And he was one of those “activist-stars” – which is more reason to admire him, if you ask me.

    I hope that, now, up there, my Dad gets to meet his favorite actor – at last.

    Hey, if Moses/Ben Hur doesn’t go straight to Heaven, nobody will henceforth.

  6. As it happens, I just watched “The Omega Man.” Having a conversation with son about it because we had just rented “I am Legend.” Excellent movie.

    As to his politics, I will leave that to another day.

    Rest in peace.

  7. I really liked most of his films, and his portrayal of Michelangelo is one of my favourite roles ever. I will really miss him.
    Another of the great actors goes off camera forever.

  8. He also had a sense of humor. One of the more memorable (to me) Saturday Night Live sketches was one where one an actor playing the preacher Oral Roberts was hiding in his office, afraid that God was going to come and “take him home” for failing to raise enough money for a prayer tower. Suddenly the office door flung open with smoke and dazzling light, and Charleton Heston stepped into the office dressed in a blue suit as Oral Roberts cowered in a corner.

  9. JohnH @#3

    Do you think his political beliefs stained his work? I never really understood the mechanism for this. People do work, it’s good or bad. They have political beliefs you agree with or don’t. That’s the whole story with Heston.

    Somebody like Travolta has let his religious beliefs taint his professional work, (otherwise he wouldn’t have made Battlefield Earth, and THAT is a black-spot on everybody’s CV, I almost feel sorry for Forrest Whitaker, but as far as I know it was voluntary for him too…)

    Some people do let politics into their movies… Michael Moore wouldn’t have movies without his politics… but I do NOT see that in Heston’s work. Somebody shine some light for me.

  10. I think over the balance of his life, Heston’s political life was a force for good in the country, myself, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. I don’t think his politics are hugely relevant in the consideration of him as an actor.

  11. Agreed. There will be time for history to consider the impact of his politics. Today is better spent remembering his performances.

    And I admit that I liked the last minute or so of the remake of Planet of the Apes. For some reason, the landing on the alternate Earth really scared me.

  12. I agree that his politics did not overshadow his work as an actor, which was substantial and noteworthy.

    But I admire him personally for his political work as an actor – his opposition to McCarthyism.

  13. My favorite Heston role was as Richilieu in the Three and Four Musketeers. He radiated an almost genteel menace.

  14. One of my favorite parts of his was as The Player King in Brannagh’s Hamlet.

  15. My favorite Heston role is still Bill Tyler in The Mountain Men with Brian Keith.

    And I agree with Scott@10, Heston never let his political beliefs taint his work – the two were separate things. That was the difference between Heston and other actors who don’t understand the word “professional.”

  16. Yes indeed, The Mountain Men was undoubtedly one of his and Keith’s best and most memorable roles.

    As for his activism and politics…..Who cares, I don’t always agree with John Scalzi but I do love his written work!!!! it is a pretty narrow minded person…IMHO that denies him or herself the enjoyment of certain things just because they don’t agree completely with the person responsible for the work!!

  17. Ben Hur and The Agony and the Ecstasy were staples, growing up. I think I must have seen them about 20 times each, at a guess.

    His cameo as God in Almost an Angel was priceless as well, when he calls Paul Hogan a scumbag. Sad to hear he’s gone.

  18. Yeah, my friends’ reactions were pretty much all to say “ooh, we can now take his guns”.


    means though that making jokes on his behalf just got harder with the next generation.


  19. Among Heston’s numerous cameo roles one of the best was Spencer Trilby, the head of Omega in True Lies. You can just about hear James Cameron thinking to himself, “Now who can I get that could credibly intimidate Arnold Schwarzenegger?”

    Top of a damned short list.

    Not a bad epitaph come to think of it.

  20. The Heston hate has been ridiculous, especially since it involves the same joke. I hope there isn’t a generation who knows him more for Michael Moore’s representation than an entire life.

  21. As a kid Charlton Heston was a huge influence, just by starring in Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and of course, The Ten Commandments.

    As a kid, I really enjoyed the sci-fi aspect. What a great sci-fi everyman. Who could protray all of those cool parts on tv/movies?. As an adult, I am appreciating the Ten Commandments part too.

    What a great actor and great man. A commanding performance, for sure. RIP, Charlton Heston.

    He stood by his word. If someone wants to disagree with this, that’s okay. But please agree to disagree and not disparage this man! He was a true original!!

  22. He was a great actor and american. I remember his role as Andrew Jackson and believe that Jackson’s life, in parts, set an example for him. It’s indeed sad to hear people makling jokes after his passing because they diagreed with his politics. He would have probably been one of the first to stand up and defend your right to disagree.

  23. I think my favorite Heston role is “Steve Leach” in THE BIG COUNTRY. Probably has to do with that movie being one of my all-time favorites.

    I remember growing up on SOYLENT GREEN, PLANET OF THE APES, and OMEGA MAN as a pre-teen. For that era, there weren’t many actors considered more “cool” than Heston, at least by 12-year-old boys.

  24. Stevem beat me to it. Heston’s Cardinal Richelieu was pretty nuanced for a guy that was known for being over-the-top acting. Both Musketeers movies were finally packaged in a remastered DVD box that can be gotten for pretty cheap – it’s a must for any serious DVD collection.

  25. For some reason, I always preferred print SF to film, so my favorite Heston role was Judah Ben-Hur. At age 9, it doesn’t get any better than that chariot race.

  26. The obituaries have pointed out that his original name was John Carter.

    I can’t help thinking what he’d have been like starring in an adaption of A Princess of Mars.

  27. Being why we’re all here at this website, it’s not a surprise that I also became a fan from “Planet of the Apes,” “Soylent Green” and “The Omega Man.” I do admit, however, to rooting for the Egyptians in “The Ten Commandments” as a kid. No incipient anti-Semitism or pro-slavery stances, it’s just the Yul Brynner was sooooo cool, and a fifteen foot Anubis is way more interesting than a burning bush.

  28. I saw on CNN this morning that he was also a civil rights activist supporting American legends like MLK and JFK jr.
    I was never really into his advocacy for the NRA but because of his civil rights movement support his cool just went up a notch in my book.

  29. Well, it’s all about civil liberties, really. When you think of it, POTA WAS civil rights activism, back when you still almost couldn’t really put black actors on screen – unless you DID put them in an ape suit.

    Still – it was in all honesty a flawed record. Pointedly holding a 2nd Amendment rally in Colombine, just after the shootings; AMAZINGLY tacky. Didn’t do any favors to the 2nd Amendment, either.

    Basically, I think he kinda fell into the whole culture war paradigm and – like so many apparently once sensible people – essentially flew up his own ass and lost contact with humanity.

    I think I mourn that more than his actual passing, frankly.

  30. The NRA Annual Meeting & Convention is scheduled five years in advance; it is one of the largest national conventions. It attracts, in normal years, around 50,000 adults, who buy their airline tickets, book their hotel rooms, and reserve their rental cars, long before that five day event. The NRA canceled all but one event scheduled for their convention in Denver (it was never to have been held in Columbine) — the gun show, the shooting shows, the classes, the seminars, the awards banquets, the entertainers, the public meetings, the photo-ops with board members, …, all of it, canceled, — EXCEPT the single business meeting required by their corporate by-laws, which lasted about ninety minutes and involved roughly a hundred people (well, probably thousands of reporters, too, who would not have come at all except for the circumstances.)

    Lies are around the world before truth has on her shoes.

  31. #33 htom – Thanks for correcting the record. It always gets me how people want to twist facts (sometimes unintentionally) to suit their agenda.

    Mr. Heston’s support of civil rights in the 50s and 60s continued throughout his life. He, and many others (such as myself), happen to believe that a law abding, adult citizen has a civil and constitutional right to own a weapon. Throughout human history its been one of the distinguishing features between those who have the status of freemen, and those who possessed that the rights of a slave, serf and/or peasant.

    In my opinion, Mr. Heston was remarkably consistent. He believed that Americans were a free people, regardless of skin color, and inherited all the rights (and responsibilities) attendant with being a free people.

    And for those who want to label Heston a gun nut, his personal firearms collection consisted of a couple of antique flintlocks. Even though he personally believed that one had a right to possess a rifle, shotgun or pistol, he personally did not feel either the desire or need to own such weapons himself.

  32. “Of all the roles he played, probably the most ridiculous was Mike Vargas, a Mexican police officer in Touch of Evil.”

    More ridiculous than a spaceman who returns to an Earth ruled by apes? (OMG SPOYLRZ!)

    That’s silly. That also reminds me I need to get a copy of Touch of Evil. It’s one of my favorites. But then, I rather like Orson Welles and Heston.

    (Which will be cheaper, I wonder: LaserDisc or DVD?)