Unmasking Charlton Heston
He is bored by horse-racing, overly fond of oysters and clams and nurtures an elaborate hatred for so-called Cafe Society.
He owns more than 2,000 pairs of socks knitted for him by young fans.
He cannot remember a time when he didn’t want to act: “At seven I read Ernest Thompson
Seton’s ‘Lives of the Hunted’ about animals, and acted out all the parts myself. I developed a very effective wolf howl, which stood me in good stead the first time I saw Lydia (his wife).”
He is outspoken, extremely articulate and cooks a mean dish of spaghetti.
He was baptized Charlton Carter.
He is an avid reader, often likes literary trash and served during World War II as a radio operator on a B-29 in the Aleutian Islands.
He is six-feet-two-inches tall, and, although he prefers symphonic music, he is a Bing Crosby fan: “Wonderful how he can take an ordinary song and make something special of it.”
He eats four pounds of steak daily, plus two pounds of tomatoes.
His opinion of customary Hollywood previews: “Isn’t it ridiculous that the movies hire all these high-powered brains to make pictures for them, then turn the final decision over to some teenager at a Glendale sneak preview who writes ‘It stinks!’ on a preview card?”
He abhors crowds.
He weighs 190 pounds, detests wise-cracking columnists and his wife says “he falls asleep in ten seconds.”
He shaves with an old-fashioned straight razor and drinks a great deal of coffee, tea and milk—sometimes all three at the same meal.
He is an assiduous follower of comic strips—twenty-two of them.
His private opinion of some Hollywood leading ladies would not bear airing in public print: “Sometimes women are not very professional in their attitude in this town. They don’t know or care very much about what they are doing. They’re too enchanted by the movie-star bit and tend to regard it as a social engagement. The industry has created its own monsters and they’re all feminine.”
He frowns on superstitions.
His friends call him “‘Chuck.”
He spent two years in the preparation and playing of Moses in “The Ten Commandments.”
He was born on October fourth in Evanston, Ill.
He is an expert horseman and knows how to judge their fine points.
His wife pins an Oscar on him on each new anniversary.
Charlton Heston is stimulated by a hard day’s work and carries his job home with him, where he primes and polishes the next day’s schedule: “I don’t see how a perfectionist can automatically shut out his work at a given hour, I’m still at all.” He becomes choleric at affectation.
He has never worn glasses and made his first feature film appearance as Antony in a 16mm. film version of “Julius Caesar,” which cost $20,000.
His eyes are gray-blue.
He does not believe in astrology and thinks Mount Sinai at twilight “the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.”
He is baffled by rock ’n’ roll, but Elvis Presley fascinates him. He is an excellent marksman, gets seven thousand fan letters monthly and hopes some day to essay the role of Cortez in “Conquest of Mexico,” by William Hillings Prescott—to be made below the border.
He is bored by baseball, singing waiters and quiz shows.
His Charlton derives from his mother’s maiden name. He recently vacationed in Puerto Rico because “I’m always looking for a new place to build an outdoor theater.”
He regards cigarettes as “nasty.”
He has blondish brown hair, enjoys prizefights—especially heavyweights, and gets a decided kick out of strolling on New York’s Forty-fourth Street, where he strived for his first acting jobs.
His son, Fraser, was born on Lincoln’s birthday, 1955.
Heston is a skillful fencer and drives a five-year-old convertible, “painted a brash green.”
His favorite color is blue and he is a descendant of Black Douglas, historic Scottish chieftain and warrior.
He married Lydia Clarke, a former fellow student at Northwestern University, on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1944, at Greensboro, N.C. He is adept at cowboy rope tricks and makes it a policy to do one western a year: “It not only helps to preserve the physique, but adds considerably to popularity.”
He is an exceptional correspondent, wrote his wife over 500 letters from the Egyptian location of “Commandments.” He is currently cooking up a theater project with the Baylor University (Waco, Tex.) Shakespeare group.
He cannot abide loud talk, gushing interviewers or fat women in toreador pants.
His hobby is painting in tempera and water color. He played leads in dramatic productions at New Trier High School, Winnetka, Ill., and shies off stories that are overburdened with plot: “Too much plot in a film simply underscores the fact that a plot belongs most properly in a cemetery.”
His acting career began at the age of five in a one-room schoolhouse in St. Helen, Mich., where he delivered a faultless reading of the part of Santa Claus in a Christmas pageant. It consisted of two words: “Merry Christmas.”
He thinks poker “a waste of time.”
His favorite drink is a straight shot of Bell’s twelve-year-old Scotch.
He is ambidextrous, wants very much to have another child and stands to net half a million dollars from “Bail Out at 43,000,” which he made on a participation basis.
Charlton Heston does not believe in the “ivory tower” sort of artist: “All creative people should make themselves part of the world scene. Else how do they know what they’re talking about? Look at Picasso and Pablo Casals—true greatness.”
He memorizes easily and he found it rugged going after his discharge from the 11th Air Force. A thirty-dollar-a-month cold water, walk-up apartment was all they could afford, with Lydia helping out with an occasional modeling job.
He cannot stomach promoters, know-it-alls and bigots.
He is a frank admirer of Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck and Burgess Meredith and owns 1,400 acres of timber land at St. Helen, Mich., from which he does a lucrative Christmas tree business.
He is an early riser, occasionally smokes a pipe and had he not succeeded as an actor, he would like to have become a writer.
Marked by a positive domestic streak, he is constantly tinkering and puttering around the house.
His gastronomic taste includes everything except Balinese rice cakes: “Ugh. You can have ’em.” He abhors brown suits.
He tends to be claustrophobic.
He disagrees with Adolph Zukor’s contention that “the public is never wrong.” “The public,” Heston avers, “has liked some lousy plays, a lot of terrible movies and scores of atrocious TV shows.”
His favorite spectator sport is professional tennis, he thinks most people underrate their children, and he deplores his own habit of trying to crowd in too many appointments in too little time.
He speaks French, Italian and pidgin Yiddish.
His usual breakfast consists of eggs, Canadian bacon, whole grapefruit, English muffins and four cups of coffee. He refuses to play bridge.
He credits Worthington Miner, producer of TV’s “Studio One,” with giving his career the impetus that brought him to Hollywood’s attention. He attended the Northwestern University School of Speech, but before he could really get going, the Army snapped him up.
Charlton Heston has written his baby son a letter to be read on his 18th birthday, in which he quotes Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true . . .”
He prefers seasonal changes to perpetual sunshine and has recorded excerpts from The Bible for Dot Records, highlighting the Book of Exodus, planning additional waxing of albums semi-annually.
He leans towards sport clothes but takes care in dressing suitably for each occasion. His favorite actresses are Ingrid Bergman, Judith Anderson, Katherine Cornell, Susan Hayward and Viveca Lindfors: “All thoroughgoing professionals—and no nonsense.”
He thinks betting on horses “childish and for neurotics.”
He believes that heredity and environment have an equal impact on the individual. “The environment of a one-room elementary school provided for me a hard, basic learning. As for whatever flair I have for creativity, I credit my forebears.”
He is keeping an elaborate motion picture record of his son—125 reels to date, plus 3,500 snapshots, and is drawing plans to build a 300-seat repertory theater on his timberland.
He has received more than 120 awards from civic organizations for his portrayal of Moses: “But this is a drop in the bucket compared to the honors heaped upon Cecil de Mille, to whom I give the credit for everything.”
His wife wishes he would exercise less abandon when skiing or tobogganing.
He likes garlic on everything “but ice cream.”
He first appeared on Broadway in 1948 in Katherine Cornell’s production of “Antony and Cleopatra,” and though he is not active in politics, he is meticulous regarding his duties as a citizen—voting and doing his best to keep informed.
He dislikes large parties, prefers entertaining small groups of friends, and has a congenital distrust of flattery.
His Thespic beginnings on Chicago radio included many soap operas and “Terry and the Pirates.” He maintains apartments in New York, Chicago and Hollywood, and a timber lodge at St. Helen.
He cannot stand straight dance orchestras: “I’ll take real jazz, real symphony, real opera.”
He thinks fortunetellers are for frustrated people and thinks Ernest Thompson Seton’s books on nature have been the greatest single influence on his life.
He does not go hunting, due to his aversion to killing.
He collects tropical fish and he is fond of telling how his wife won a national poetry reading contest with a rendition of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” in 1941: “Her ambitions to become a lawyer, however, were sandbagged by Sandburg, who told her that he would rather see her play Portia than be Portia.”
He likes to do about four TV shows a year to diversify his activity, and when he signed his first movie contract he refused to sign an exclusive pact which would not permit outside pictures or work in other dramatic media.
He likes big dogs, big cats and big horses—all of which he has on his Michigan timber land.
The Hestons won the Theatre World Awards of 1951 as “the most promising actor and actress of the year.”
His son, who portrayed the infant Moses, was set for the role by de Mille two weeks before he was born: “He’s America’s youngest retired actor.”
He worked with Orson Welles in “Badge of Evil” and sings his praises at the drop of a hat: “Welles is one of the few authentic talents in the business—and he gets better every year.”
He is the recipient of hundreds of assorted gifts from his fans, including an ancient thirteen-room house full of archaic German furniture, which he turned over to charity.
He is currently formulating a concert hall presentation of “The Trial of Captain Wirz,” the Andersonville jailer, having already appeared in a TV presentation of it, and has a special yen to someday visit the Scandinavian countries.
About stars who want to keep aloof, he says: “The day when an actor ‘vants to be alone’ is over. Fans like to feel they know you personally, and I must confess I get a big kick out of making friends with people I’d never have the opportunity to meet if I shut myself up.
“When the day comes that I’m no longer working at my trade, don’t be surprised to see me try for the diplomatic service or even politics. I like talking to people.”
—BY JOSEPH HENRY STEEL
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1958