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Sunday, April 6, 2008

"It's been quite a ride. I loved every minute of it." - Charlton Heston 1923 - 2008

"It says right here: Thou shall have the right to bare arms"

Academy Award winning Actor (Ben-Hur), Charlton Heston (86), passed away yesterday evening.

Heston acted in many epics during his distinguished career. He played larger than life characters, albeit many were historical figures, they took on enormous proportions when Heston was in the role. This was certainly necessary when anamorphic lenses that led to "Cinamascope" became prevalent.

These pictures would fill up the entire silver screen with indelible images and all-star casts with literally thousands of extras. Only stand out actors like Heston could pull off roles as large as were needed for these expensive productions.

Heston later became known for a string of science fiction films like Soylent Green and The Omega Man and Disaster Films like Skyjacked, Airport 1975 and Earthquake. My personal favorite and certainly one of his most famous roles was that of Taylor in the Planet of the Apes.

"Kiss me, you damned dirty ape"

My parents took me to see The Planet of the Apes when I was 15 months old. It was my first movie. It was at a Cleveland drive-in theater. Needless to say, I don't remember the experience.

Heston also lived his life larger than life standing up for things he believed in like Civil Rights. Heston marched for Civil Rights as early as the 1950's. During this period he also became the President of the Screen Actors Guild and Chairman of American Film Institute.

Later in life, Heston became known as one of the few actors to lead the conservative charge out of Hollywood. In 1998, he was elected President of the National Rifle Association and posed in ads, gun in hand.

Ironically, even though he was a great actor, my favorite lines of Heston were when he told President Clinton, "America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don't trust you with our guns." and "Mr.Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

Heston stepped down as NRA president in April 2003 and later that year, Heston was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

"The largeness of character that comes across the screen has also been seen throughout his life," said President Bush upon awarding Heston with the award.