Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Charlton Heston, 1923-2008

The signature star actors of the 1950s — Brando, James Dean, Montgomery Clift — played characters who were damaged goods. But the movies still needed heroes, and Heston was the man. His stalwart jaw and statuesque physique, his deep guttural voice issuing proclamations through clenched teeth, made him ideally suited for outsize men of the past (Moses, Michelangelo, Ben Hur, El Cid) and the dystopian future (Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green). Offscreen, Heston was a figure of epic contradictions. In the '60s he marched with Martin Luther King; in the '90s he headed the National Rifle Association. At the end, in his last public role, he was a poignant victim of Alzheimer's: a hero alone with his vague demons.

Richard Corliss

See pictures of Barack Obama's college years.