John Charles Carter

"Charles Heston"

4th October 1923 - 5th April 2008 (85 Years)

“From start to finish, Heston was a grand, ornery anachronism, the sinewy symbol of a time when Hollywood took itself seriously, when heroes came from history books, not comic books.”

Contents

1. Early Life

1.1 Childhood 1.2 University

2. Middle Life

2.1 Marriage 2.1 Marriage

Volunteering

3.2 Teaching 3.2 Sickness

Early Life

John Charles Carter[1] was born on October 4, 1923, in Wilmette, Illinois, to Lilla (née Baines; 1899–1994) and Russell Whitford Carter (1897–1966), a sawmill operator.[7][8] Many sources indicate he was born in Evanston, Illinois.[9][10][11] Heston's autobiography stated otherwise.[12]

Heston said in a 1995 interview that he was not very good at remembering addresses or his early childhood.[13] Heston was partially of Scottish descent, including from the Clan Fraser, but the majority of his ancestry was English. His earliest immigrant ancestors arrived in America from England in the 1600s.[14][15][16][17][18] His maternal great-grandparents and namesakes were Englishman William Charlton from Sunderland and Scotswoman Mary Drysdale Charlton. They emigrated to Canada, where his grandmother, Marian Emily Charlton, was born in 1872.[19]

In his autobiography, Heston refers to his father participating in his family's construction business. When Heston was an infant, his father's work moved the family to St. Helen, Michigan.[20] It was a rural, heavily forested part of the state, and Heston lived an isolated yet idyllic existence, spending much time hunting and fishing in the backwoods of the area.[12]

When Heston was 10 years old, his parents divorced after having three children. Shortly thereafter, his mother remarried and Charlton and his younger sister Lilla and brother Alan moved to Wilmette, Illinois. Heston (his and his siblings' new surname) attended New Trier High School.[21] He recalled living there:
All kids play pretend games, but I did it more than most. Even when we moved to Chicago, I was more or less a loner. We lived in a North Shore suburb, where I was a skinny hick from the woods, and all the other kids seemed to be rich and know about girls.[22]:xii

Contradictions on paper and in an interview surround when "Charlton" became Heston's first name. The 1930 United States Census record for Richfield, Michigan, in Roscommon County, shows his name as being Charlton J. Carter at age six. Later accounts and movie studio biographies say he was born John Charles Carter. When Russell Carter died in 1966, Charlton's brother and sister changed their legal surname to Heston the following year; Charlton did not.[1]

Charlton was his maternal grandmother Marian's maiden name,[19] not his mother Lilla's. This is contrary to how 20th-century references read and what Heston said. When Heston's maternal grandmother and his true maternal grandfather Charles Baines[23] separated or divorced in the early 1900s, Marian (née Charlton) Baines married William Henry Lawton in 1907.[24] Charlton Heston's mother, Lilla, and her sister May were adopted by their grandfather and changed their last name to Charlton in order to distance themselves from their biological father, Mr. Baines, who was an undesirable father figure.[25][26] The Carters divorced in 1933 and Lilla Carter married Chester Heston. The newly married Mrs. Heston preferred her children use the same last name as her.[27] It was thus as Charlton Heston that he appeared in his first film with younger brother Alan Carter (small role), an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1941).[28] His nickname was always Chuck.

Heston was an Episcopalian, and has been described as "a spiritual man" with an "earthy flair", who "respected religious traditions" and "particularly enjoyed the historical aspects of the Christian faith".[29]

Adult Life

Heston frequently recounted that while growing up in northern Michigan in a sparsely populated area, he often wandered in the forest, "acting" out characters from books he had read.[30] Later, in high school, he enrolled in New Trier's drama program, playing the lead role in the amateur silent 16 mm film adaptation of Peer Gynt, from the Ibsen play, by future film activist David Bradley released in 1941.

From the Winnetka Community Theatre (or the Winnetka Dramatist's Guild, as it was then known) in which he was active, he earned a drama scholarship to Northwestern University.[31][32] He attended college from 1941 to 1943 and among his acting teachers was Alvina Krause.[31] Several years later, Heston teamed up with Bradley to produce the first sound version of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which Heston played Mark Antony.[33]

World War II service
In March 1944 Heston married Northwestern University student Lydia Marie Clarke at Grace Methodist Church in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. That same year, he joined the military. Heston enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and served for two years as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands with the 77th Bombardment Squadron of the Eleventh Air Force.[34][35] He reached the rank of staff sergeant.

After his rise to fame, Heston narrated for highly classified military and Department of Energy instructional films, particularly relating to nuclear weapons, and "for six years Heston [held] the nation's highest security clearance" or Q clearance. The Q clearance is similar to a DoD or DIA clearance of top secret.[36]

Late Life

Richard Corliss wrote in Time magazine, "From start to finish, Heston was a grand, ornery anachronism, the sinewy symbol of a time when Hollywood took itself seriously, when heroes came from history books, not comic books. Epics like Ben-Hur or El Cid simply couldn't be made today, in part because popular culture has changed as much as political fashion. But mainly because there's no one remotely like Charlton Heston to infuse the form with his stature, fire, and guts."[101]

In his obituary for the actor, film critic Roger Ebert noted, "Heston made at least three movies that almost everybody eventually sees: Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments and Planet of the Apes."[102]

Heston's cinematic legacy was the subject of Cinematic Atlas: The Triumphs of Charlton Heston, an 11-film retrospective by the Film Society of the Lincoln Center that was shown at the Walter Reade Theatre from August 29 to September 4, 2008.[103]

On April 17, 2010, Heston was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's Hall of Great Western Performers.[104]

In his childhood hometown of St. Helen, Michigan, a charter school, Charlton Heston Academy, opened on September 4, 2012. It is housed in the former St. Helen Elementary School. Enrollment on the first day was 220 students in grades kindergarten through eighth.[105]

Charlton Heston was commemorated on a United States postage stamp issued on April 11, 2014.[106]

Charlton Heston was inducted as a Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State's highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 1977 in the area of Performing Arts.[107]

Epilogue

In 1996, Heston had a hip replacement. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998. Following a course of radiation treatment, the cancer went into remission. In 2000, he publicly disclosed that he had been treated for alcoholism at a Utah clinic in May–June of that year.[88]

Early tributes came in from leading figures; President George W. Bush called Heston "a man of character and integrity, with a big heart ... He served his country during World War II, marched in the civil rights movement, led a labor union and vigorously defended Americans' Second Amendment rights." Former First Lady Nancy Reagan said that she was "heartbroken" over Heston's death and released a statement, reading, "I will never forget Chuck as a hero on the big screen in the roles he played, but more importantly I considered him a hero in life for the many times that he stepped up to support Ronnie in whatever he was doing."[94]

Heston's funeral was held a week later on April 12, 2008, in a ceremony which was attended by 250 people including Nancy Reagan and Hollywood stars such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia de Havilland, Keith Carradine, Pat Boone, Tom Selleck, Oliver Stone (who had cast Heston in his 1999 movie Any Given Sunday), Rob Reiner, and Christian Bale.[95][96][97]

The funeral was held at Episcopal Parish of St. Matthew's Church in Pacific Palisades, the church where Heston had regularly worshipped and attended Sunday services since the early 1980s.[98][99] He was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.[100]

Community Contributions

Community Contributions

Compendium

Born

October 4, 1923 Wilmette, Illinois

Died

April 5, 2008 (aged 85) Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles

Cause of death

Prostate Cancer

Occupation(s)

Actor, Activist

Children

Fraser Clarke Heston

Parents

Lilla Bains, Russell Whitford Carter

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