Monday, January 25, 2010

Charlton Heston Appreciation Day

If Tara can invent holidays, so can I:

Heston and I were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but the man had class. The stage production I saw of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, directed by Heston and in which he gave himself that most unappealing of roles --- Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, USN --- was wonderful.

He had a talent for taking matters seriously without taking himself seriously. I think I'll always love him for taking on the role of an old ape in Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake. The old ape takes it upon himself to explain to his son why humans can never be trusted and must always be subjugated. It's because they are capable of making a weapon so horrific, they cannot be allowed to be free.

And then the NRA President displays ... A GUN. I almost wet myself.

Another classy thing about Heston were the words he wrote when he chose to step back from the limelight as age started to take its toll. Here's his note, verbatim:

My Dear Friends, Colleagues and Fans:

My physicians have recently told me I may have a neurological disorder whose symptoms are consistent with Alzheimer's disease. So...I wanted to prepare a few words for you now, because when the time comes, I may not be able to. I've lived my whole life on the stage and screen before you. I've found purpose and meaning in your response. For an actor there's no greater loss than the loss of his audience. I can part the Red Sea, but I can't part with you, which is why I won't exclude you from this stage in my life.

For now, I'm not changing anything. I'll insist on work when I can; the doctors will insist on rest when I must. If you see a little less spring in my step, if your name fails to leap to my lips, you'll know why. And if I tell you a funny story for the second time, please laugh anyway. I'm neither giving up nor giving in. I believe I'm still the fighter that Dr. King and JFK and Ronald Reagan knew, but it's a fight I must someday call a draw. I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure. Please feel no sympathy for me. I don't. I just may be a little less accessible to you, despite my wishes.

I also want you to know that I'm grateful beyond measure. My life has been blessed with good fortune. I'm grateful that I was born in America, the cradle of freedom and opportunity, where a kid from the Michigan Northwoods can work hard and make something of his life. I'm grateful for the gift of the greatest words ever written, that let me share with you the infinite scope of the human experience. As an actor, I'm thankful that I've lived not one life but many. Above all, I'm proud of my wife Lydia, the queen of my heart, my children, Fraser and Holly, and my beloved grandchildren, Jack, Ridley and Charlie. They're my biggest fans, my toughest critics and my proudest achievement. Through them, I can touch immortality.

Finally, I'm confident about the future of America. I believe in you. I know that the future of our country, our culture and our children is in good hands. I know you will continue to meet adversity with strength and resilience, as our ancestors did, and come though with flying colors - the ones on Old Glory.

William Shakespeare, at the end of his career, wrote his farewell through the words of Prospero, in "The Tempest." it ends like this:

Be Cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Thank you, and God bless you, everyone."
Charlton Heston


sybil law said...

He really is a class act.
He didn't die, did he?
I am so confused!

David in DC said...

@sybil: yup, fraid he's gone:

I had a conversation with a twit today who I felt wasn't making decent allowences for a mutual friend's increasing forgetfulness. It reminded me of Heston's note.

The twit reminds me of Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz, but there's no need to go there.